How a contractor can sell more now

Feb. 10, 2014
Actions you can take to sell more now! Raise service prices. Increase your response charge. Sell water alarms. Prevent Legionella, scalding. Recommend braided steel washing machine hoses.

Want to raise your revenue right now, this instant? You can do it. You can do it without hiring another person, without spending more on advertising or direct mail, without adding a truck or tools, and without doing a thing, except for one or more of nine simple actions.

Raise service prices: The easiest and most obvious way to increase revenue is to increase your service pricing.  Clearly, when you charge more your revenue increases for the same amount of work.

A price increase may be called for. If your costs have increased since your last price change, you’re due for a price increase. If your pricing doesn’t cover your overhead, future investments in your business, and a fair return to you as business owner, you’re due for a price increase.

If you worry that you cannot pass the price increase along, you’re probably still charging time and materials. Join the rest of the plumbing industry and switch to flat rate, which enables you to charge what you need to earn what you should.

Increase your response charge: Your response charge is the flat fee associated with getting a truck to the door of your customer.  Some plumbers call it a trip charge. Some call it a truck charge. Others use service charge. Some bill for a diagnostic. Regardless, if you have correctly allocated your overhead against your standard service hours (i.e., divide overhead evenly across your projected service hours), your response charge is pure profit. 

To continue the discussion about how you as a contractor can sell more, go to our new Plumbing Talk forum.

You can use your response charge for marketing or sales purposes (e.g., mail out coupons equal to your response charge, credit the response charge towards a repair, use a low response charge to give CSRs a competitive price to quote, etc.). You can also bump it a few dollars to drive revenue and profit.

Sell water alarms: Battery powered water alarms are inexpensive add-ons that require virtually no labor. You can easily sell these with a 60% margin. Carry them on your trucks and offer them on every repair.  Homeowners should have one by each sink and water heater. For the homeowner, the water alarms are cheap insurance.

Prevent Legionella, scalding: No one is in a better position to help homeowners simultaneously minimize the risk of both Legionella and scalding. To prevent Legionella, storage water temperature should be maintained at 140°F. To minimize the risk of scalding, water temperature should be lowered to 120°F.  Homeowners should not have to trade off health for safety. With tankless water heaters and mixing values, there is no trade off. 

With a tankless water heater, the storage tank and risk of Legionella disappear. Alternatively, installing a mixing valve at the water heater allows water supplied at the taps to be limited to 120°F, while maintaining a storage temperature of 140°F. Either solution is optimum for health and safety. Give people a choice of the more elegant solution (i.e., tankless water heaters) or the more affordable one (i.e., mixing valves). 

Recommend braided steel washing machine hoses: Make a quick visual inspection of the washing machine hoses on every service call. If the home lacks braided steel washing machine hoses offer a burst proof hose with an auto-shut off connector. Many washing machine hoses are in pretty poor condition, making this an easy add-on sale.

Grab bars on every truck: An aging population means there is significant opportunity for plumbers to retrofit kitchens and baths to accommodate seniors. The first step is the simple grab bar. Discussing it opens up the conversation for walk-in baths, elevated toilets, and other products to allow seniors to remain in their homes a few years longer.

Product portfolio book: Brass and porcelain is décor. Upgrading a kitchen faucet and installing a new sink may be all that’s necessary to revitalize an aging kitchen. Help homeowners see what’s possible by creating portfolio books of high-end kitchen and bath products to show homeowners. At the very least, use quality manufacturer literature that presents the products well.

Add-on enzyme drain cleaners: The enzyme drain cleaners are exclusive to the trade and superior to over the counter products found in the DIY stores, but homeowners may have to see it to believe it. Show videos from the manufacturers. Give samples if necessary, but try to sell tubs or bottles on every call.  Remember, besides keeping drains clear, these can help disposal odors, litter box smells, etc.

Offer service agreements: Few plumbers offer plumbing service agreements. These should either offer real value (e.g., flush the water heater, dye test toilets, clean out faucet aerators, test and record water pressure and gas pressure, extended repair warranties, include a courtesy tub of enzyme drain cleaner, etc.) or be little more than a very low cost savings club where the homeowner receives discounts and special offers. 

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. Check out the free downloads at For more information, call  877.262.3341 and ask for a Success Consultant. Also, for more plumbing marketing ideas, download the FREE Plumbing Marketing Toolkit from iTunes or the Android marketplace. 

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization.

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