In this episode, Ari Greenbaum interviews Stephen Petrie of Craftsmen Contractors, as they talk about the value of having a consistent process to contact new prospective clients.
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Ari: Welcome to The X Factor, a home pro sales podcast about all things sales to help Home Improvement pros generate high-quality leads and close more deals. I’m your host, Ari Greenbaum, and in this podcast, we’ll talk about different tactics, tips, and resources to help you grow your business while interviewing sales experts in the industry. Before we get into today’s episode, just a little housekeeping. If you could rate us on Apple Podcasts, that purple icon, give us a five-star rating, leave a review, let us know you’re enjoying the show.
Today, we’re going to be talking about the aspect of prospecting. Not necessarily prospecting, in the sense from a cold prospecting, but once a lead is into a system from whatever source, how to cultivate that client, prospect that client, and bring them to a potential deal. I am privileged to have a guest today. And I shared this with my guest a few moments ago that Stephen Petrie is from Craftsmen Contractors and he was one of the conXpros original veteran clients when we first launched, so I have a fond place in my heart for him. I know that he is exceptional at what he does and has found success not just with us, but with many lead services, really maximizing his results in this business. I don’t want to steal any thunder, so I’m turning it over to Stephen. Introduce yourself; let people know who you are and know a little bit of your background and you know, take it from there.
Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I definitely appreciate you having me on man, it’s a pleasure have been been a joy working with you over these past many years. It’s been seven now something like that.
Ari: Not that long, but it feels that long.
Stephen: So just a little bit about my background. So I got into the home improvement industry, and on the insurance restoration side of things 10-12 years ago, literally just knocking doors and trying to get contingencies. And then went through college and then got into call centers for medical device sales, weirdly. And then at the end of it kind of combined those two interests. And now I keep my sales guys very busy.
Ari: You know, you’re with craftsmen, contractors, you’re out of Kentucky, I know, but a couple of different locations. Just to give people a reference on who you are. And obviously, it expands on your operations. Awesome. Stephen’s a little bit more humble, but he is what I would consider a sales expert. Anyone that converts leads like he does, I would absolutely put into that kind of a category.
Stephen, like, as I mentioned, obviously, we’re going to be talking about a critical piece of the puzzle. You know, I personally love just the term process. You know, I live by the philosophy process everything. So when it comes to processes, I mean, I’m really tuned in to these kinds of conversations, I love hearing the feedback of what kind of stuff are you doing? You know, as far as you know, when you first get a lead, when you get a prospect into your pipeline? You know, what do you do? And, you know, why do you feel like that process is a critical piece of that selling process to get them to a contract?
Stephen: Yeah, for sure. Well, a lot of it has to do, obviously, the first and most important thing is simply contacting any prospect that comes in. So I mean, we have automated, we have a combination of automated and in-person communication, using, you know, email, texting, and obviously voice calls. If you’re not using all three of those things, you probably should. But the emails are the ones that are easiest to automate. We do some automated texting. But to be honest, one of the things that we found to be a little bit more successful is linking phone calls and texting. So it’s literally in the same app, copy and paste the verbiage of the text with the homeowner’s name while you’re leaving a voicemail. And that urgency of communication tends to lead to higher contact, you know, you get more people to call you back, pick up text back email back.
Ari: Absolutely. So, you know, again, you mentioned multiple avenues of outreach, so to speak. Do you find that one is more effective? And you know, again, I’m old school myself. So I know the phone used to be here, that’s where it is people answer their phone. But I didn’t know if you were experiencing that and feeling that there might be other things taking the lead. You know, when it comes to the primary means of communication.
Stephen: Yeah, texting has definitely become the main, the main means that we establish communication. Now whether you get a text back from that, or a phone call back from that honestly doesn’t matter. As soon as you get a response to maintain that act of communication, preferably with a human, not a system, just because people honestly we’ve gotten pretty savvy to everything being automated. So once you get that bite, if it’s a human dealing with it, it tends to be better.
Ari: So that seems like an essential piece of your processes. It’s driven to get them in communication, not to get the deal done together, to get them to add them to an appointment completely, you know, offline, so to speak.
Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s all also, you know, I think a lot of times, some contractors will fall into a trap of perfecting systems without having trained people. And that’s where you can have good response rates. But still, you’re not converting at the highest rate, because at the end of the day, people need to be convinced that they’re dealing with someone who is knowledgeable, and can actually help them with whatever their problem happens to be.
Ari: It’s amazing how many people forget about the human side of the business like you’re saying with automations and technology. But at the end of the day, these are people and it is their home. So it is something they do care a great deal about. You know, obviously, you’re not always reaching people right away. I mean, that’s the name of the game. I mean, as much as we all want every prospect to answer on the first attempt to respond on the first text. It’s not the reality. I know you have a robust process, but can you share what some of those like next steps are, you know, how long do you wait for that next touchpoint? And how aggressive are you in the sequence?
Stephen: So I mean, a little couple quick points on the first point of contact when we are, you know, aside from the automated emails, but I mean, you know, our people have lives too. So if we get a lead at nine o’clock at night, they’re not getting a phone call at nine o’clock. There are people that will do that. It’s not a good work-life balance in short, but on the first attempted phone call, one of the things that we do that has a surprising success rate is I call it a ‘double-tap’, where you call before leaving a voicemail, hang up and call immediately. Again, don’t do that every time because that just takes people off. But on the first point of contact, I find about one out of every five calls that screened you on the first call will pick up the second call.
Ari: That’s so interesting,
Stephen: It’s weird. And you know, the data is from one company. So it’s anecdotal in that respect.
Ari: How did you come to this? So was this something that you stumbled upon by accident? Did someone actually double dial people, and then you found it, or did someone already have a process they put into place and it’s working?
Stephen: That was actually a hangover from my days doing medical device sales on the phones, where if you had to contact someone, you would just blow them up. And I just instinctively felt like, you know, these people actually pick up on the second call.
Ari: I love it. That’s a fantastic tool. If you get one out of five that don’t answer on the first call, to actually pick up. Yeah, we’re already 20% better than we were before. That’s fantastic.
Stephen: Texting as well, while you’re leaving the voicemail. Again, this is where like, automating that system, you can do it. But it actually doesn’t save any time. As long as your people are well trained, you can send a text message or leave a voicemail. Yeah, and you have that immediacy. And if you get a text back, you got the guy staring at the account right there. You know?
Ari: Absolutely. So that’s how quickly does that happen? You know, again, I know you guys call off the game at night, the next day, but otherwise, you’re calling immediately when you aren’t reaching them with this kind of a process. They’re not responding to you with the second or the ‘double-tap’, as you called it. When is the next step, you know, is that something that you were super aggressive with? Different things work for different folks. And they all find success in different ways. But what works for you?
Stephen: I, actually, I cater that to the lead source. So one thing that I found is that with exclusive lead sources,
there’s not a huge benefit to calling like an hour after the lead comes in, for instance, I mean, obviously, you call immediately, but then about an hour doesn’t help nearly as much. However, with lead sources where you know, you have competition, it actually can help to call back again in about 5-10 minutes, let that first wave of calls fade down. Because if you’re dealing with any sort of competent competition, they’re getting called by two, three, sometimes more…
Ari: *laughs* that’s a different conversation.
Stephen: Yes. Let that wave subside, and then try again. But generally speaking on the first day, you want to try to call them at least twice, email and text. And then what our system is they get two points of contact, essentially every day, for the first week, five business days. On the third day, we always text again and email again. It’s giving a little bit of a gap for the homeowner because you don’t actually want them to flag you as spam even in their minds.
Ari: Maybe it’s coming across over-aggressive or desperate to a degree.
Stephen: Yeah, well, and also people get so many robocalls, that in their mind, they think that either your phone calls or their or your text messages are automated. The interest in responding just plummets way off.
Ari: Makes sense. Yeah, especially the world we live in. That’s what the reality is. So it does make a lot of sense. Gotta make sure we’re not grouping ourselves in with that. So be aggressive but not overly aggressive. And from what it sounds like you, As far as the texting, it’s more of that on the first call, as you’re leaving that message, you do your second text on day three. So that way, it’s not overdoing it in their face, but calls you’re making each day for the first five days, from what it sounds like, which is a pretty lengthy process, I mean, how many calls, you end up making it a five-day process, typically?
Stephen: Usually, it’s 10 to 12, in the five-day process, then we do have a more spread out process, you know, where we’ll kick it out for four business days, and then a week after that, which you still it takes so little time, and you still do end up getting people that pick it up, you know, a week and a half after lead was sent over, it does happen, sometimes pretty unusual.
Ari: It’s you find like even longer-term that you’ll still do more nurture with people you’ve never reached from leads. So just to see if we can ever reach this person, you do it even longer pass like a couple of weeks out.
Stephen: We do email after that because that’s easy to automate. And one of the things honestly, we did a whole thing where we had this whole category called inactives, which are people that we had never been able to contact. And, you know, having our call center people go back through and just call those and you can get something out of it. But it’s just a morale killer for the people.
Ari: That just might not be worth the squeeze so to speak. Yeah. So I was gonna ask you, you know, like, when do you stop a process from a sales like, it never really stops it just, you know, trims down over time, which is, if I’m putting a timeframe on it about five days to a week is really where that coming at them hot and heavy, so to speak. And then after that, okay, we’ve reached a point, if we’re not in contact with them by this point. Yeah, it’s less likely this is going to materialize into something and start spinning energies elsewhere.
Stephen: Yeah, and it is, it’s pretty intense for a week from the time we get the lead, basically. But yeah, another thing that has been pretty effective in terms of getting people to respond is actually on day three, we try to give them I call it an off-ramp, where in a text message, you just say, hey, I really don’t need to keep calling if you don’t need anything. And it’s surprising how many people will then respond back to you realizing that it’s a real human-like, “I am so sorry, I keep meaning to get back to you.” And because it’s you know, that’s not the type of thing that a computer texts.
Ari: It humanizes you. I’m picking that up from you as well, like the human factor in the prospecting, you know, when you speak to the people, but also not just when you speak to them, but in the process itself is remembering who’s on the other line receiving these things?
Stephen: Yeah, which is why I do advocate this sort of hybrid process. You do want some automation, for sure. Just cuz it makes it very, very efficient. You know, obviously, lead porting if you can’t automate that, do it. Because that’s, that’s a waste of human energy. But, but, you know, so many of these automated systems are geared around trying to make it seem that they are not automated. And the easiest way to do that as just have well-trained people and not automate everything, because then you’re not making it seem like anything.
Ari: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So it’s, uh, you know, again, humanization is an important piece. I mean, again, I’m a firm believer that in general, in a world that is becoming super automated, so it’s definitely speaking, you know, my language 100%. Sounds like, for you, it speaks the client’s language, because it’s relating to success. So what would you I mean, obviously, you as I shared you, you are very successful in converting leads, and you use leads from not just us, many, many sources, and, you know, have a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak. So, I mean, you, you know, tailor the approach you mentioned based on the lead source, but you tailor your approach to the lead, as far as, you know, how quick I mean, shared versus exclusive, but even the source of the lead if it’s coming from Google or your own stuff, or is this coming from, you know, Lead Provider A or B, does that dictate also your sequences and processes?
Stephen: It definitely does. Specifically, if we’re getting website leads, or people that seek us out directly or message us on Facebook or on Google My Business, you deal with those just a little bit differently, but they oftentimes come with more information as well. But I mean, aside from that, I mean, I try to approach every lead as just a blank slate because oftentimes, you don’t have any information aside from the product of interest. So and I’ve seen people that try to develop very advanced metrics to you know, predict which specific lead source responds best to which specific process and in the absence of information, you know, it’s what’s that old line says “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Ari: So it’s a take the bias out of it is what I’m hearing, you know, like, don’t be biased. Go into with a clean slate, fresh mindset, you know, maybe a lead source, underperforms, others you don’t want to go in thinking what’s probably not going to be as good because of the history or the reverse, be overly slights because a lead came from a source that is normally a slam dunk. It’s that consistency in the process is what I’m hearing from you. Yeah, that you can apply case to case to case.
Stephen: Absolutely, yeah. And again, you do and should be able to change the process with new information. Like if you get a text back from somebody who says, hey, you know, I just got out of the hospital, you take them out of your standard protocol, like, and that type of thing. And it’s not, it’s not just that, but that type of thing happens all the time, when you get good response rates, you have to be flexible enough to adapt your methods of communication to the situation because, again, you’re not dealing, I mean, you’re dealing with the lead, but fundamentally, you’re dealing with a person.
Ari: Absolutely. I know on a personal level when I get messages that are clearly not to me or having anything to do with what it is I message or responded to? It’s a clear message, you know, do you really understand or do you really care? And neither are good things, if you’re looking to get inside someone’s home and potentially help them, you know, improve at home? Or better in any way? So, yeah, again, anything else that you would add to this, you know, again, I’m just always looking to help people succeed more. What you shared already is fantastic. I mean, there are some real nuggets here that are truly valuable. But anything else, you just recommend the folks that are getting into this, and maybe don’t have a system built out as you do, I mean, having the call center and having all these pieces in place, even a single owner-operator, that if he’s getting started, what are the essentials, if you’re doing this, you will find success? Obviously, you can always improve upon it with all these other aspects. But where do you get started?
Stephen: I mean, one of the big things, honestly, and this is I’m not not going to plug any specific CRMs because there are a whole bunch out there that work. But having software that helps you manage lead flow is essential, even for people who are extremely well organized, and the only reason that I’m well organized is that I am like, personally very poorly organized. So I rely entirely on systems. You know, which functionally means that I’m one of the most organized people in the company, you know, you know, everything happens at the time that it was slotted to or else nothing happens. So I would say honestly if you want to deal with any kind of lead source if you don’t have a CRM, or the ability to develop a system, it’s probably not going to be successful, you know, just flat out.
Ari: So no matter what level of experience someone has, or you know, how many years in business or whatever it is, at the end of the day, it’s having systems, it’s having processes, not to automate things just to make life simpler, so you can track things and actually make the adjustments necessary. So you can succeed because I know from what you shared already, and from my own experiences, a lot of things are trial and error. I mean, you got to figure out what’s working. And, you know, whether it’s two calls on day one, or whether it’s three, or you know, whether it’s only one, you know, these are all things without the trial and error A B testing, so to speak, how do you really know? and with a CRM that provides a data resource, you can actually see the metrics and move on these. So it makes a lot of sense. I know. You said you don’t want to plug any. But I mean, are there any ones that you do recommend to contractors? Obviously, I’m not here to promote you know, all these, but I’m happy to, you know, share, to give people ideas of where to go.
Stephen: Yeah, we use, we use Market Sharp for all the stuff that we’re talking about here. And it is from a CRM functionality standpoint, call center functionality, it’s fantastic. And their metrics are also really, really good. Because another thing if you if contractors are using lead sources, you got to figure out what metric is important. And that’s not going to be the same for every company. We use net marketing as like, the end-all, you know, what is our net marketing cost? And if it goes beyond tolerances, sorry.
Ari: It is what it is.
Stephen: Yep. No hard feelings. But so yeah, you have to have metrics and markup does have excellent, excellent metrics.
Ari: Yeah, I know, a lot of clients that use it, and here we are integrated in. So I do know, it is a common one out there that people have a lot of success with. Awesome, so hey, I know there’s a lot out there. And, you know, again, it’s always nice to know what people’s working for folks as well. So,
Stephen: Yeah, I have friends that are using other ones that are very, very happy with them as well. So it’s not, I mean, I would certainly recommend Market Sharp.
Ari: as long as the features are there, and the budgeting, you know, fits, you know, the individual clients budget, then obviously, that’s what really gonna matter the most. But the key from what I’m hearing from you is to use one. It’s not which one, but make sure you have something there. So you have this process, and you can be consistent with it. And yeah, maximize your results. So, yeah, that’s again, I’m putting a summary on all of this. So besides just the beautiful nuggets, as I said before, it’s that process of being consistent with it. That’s replicating rinse repeat, so to speak.
Stephen: Yeah. The other small thing that I would say that I did a lot of other people in The industry don’t do very well is don’t give up on a lead that’s communicating. I probably get on average about 1.5 sales per week from leads that are more than a year old.
Ari: These are people that are communicating with you over the course of a year plus, intermittently? Wow.
Stephen: Yep. Yeah. And it’s, and it’s always, you know, the, our call center just says, Hey, so I’m going to set a follow up here, what’s a good timeframe? Would it be, you know, six months, a year, two years, and sometimes they’ll say, call me back in two years. And you do that in? Like, honestly, that’s, that’s a warmer lead than something that you’ll get from some other lead sources not talking about you guys.
Ari: I’m sure they’re shocked as well, that far down the road that someone is following up from two years previous. That’s fantastic.
Stephen: But it’s very, if you have a CRM, it’s no effort, right?
Ari: It makes a lot of sense. But that’s yes, a long way out. But at the end of the day, leads all have value, whether it’s an immediate value or potential future value.
Stephen: That is why they’re communicating, man, as long as they’re communicating. That’s the key.
Ari: So if they’re in the mix, keep communicating, treat him like a human, and be consistent with that. And whether today, tomorrow, or maybe even two years down the road, when they are ready, who they can hire the guy to stay in touch with them and has been super friendly and helpful along the way or the person that ignored them for two years. Makes a lot of sense. Like, I really appreciate you sharing all this stuff and coming on here to share with others because that’s really what this is about is getting some of these tools out there to folks that may not be as skilled or just looking to elevate their game and bring it to another level and find other ideas. You know, again, the feedback you have is fantastic and much, much appreciated. I really appreciate obviously you taking the time to do that. Let’s get one do I also thank you know all of our listeners for listening to the X-Factor, you know, a home so Homepro sales podcast, I do hope that it brings you to value and helps you take your sales game to the next level.
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