SGI recently launched our own Podcast: The Successful Contractor. It is available to both members and the podcast-listening world through every major player, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and Pandora.
We have new episodes dropping every week! You can listen to our podcast with Phil Golding of ARC Contracting in Neenah, WI or check it out in written format below. This podcast is created for residential contractors across HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, and Roofing.
- How long have you been with SGI? And what’s your experience been like?
We’ve been a part of SGI probably three and a half years now. Took us a while to get implemented and we’ve really been working with Jared [Dean, RSI Coach] closely probably six to eight months now. So, it took us a while to get wrapped in and really start using it.
- How have the Neenah and Green Bay communities been affected by COVID-19?
About two weeks ago yesterday they announced they were closing schools. And that was really when we were like, “Oh, man, what’s happening?” This is really going to affect our business. We just honestly have worked a lot of 12- to 18-hour days since that day. And then about a week later, they put our state on—I think they call it—“Safer at Home,” where everybody had to stay home, nonessential businesses closed. We’re trying to make business decisions and everything’s a big question mark—so very difficult.
- How did you kind of calm the fears of your team?
Right away, we had a team meeting. This was just before they said not to have more than 10 people in a room at one time—we have 38 strong at the moment. After that, everybody started going home, and right now, we have about six people in the office, so it’s quite quiet. And we had our call center go home kind of before they announced it, just to kind of practice for a couple days before it actually went into effect. I’m speaking super honest. We’ve been in “fake-it-until-you make-it mode.” Everything is changing pretty much every day.
- We’re speaking because you’ve had some recent remarkable success. If I read correctly on the RSI Facebook™ page, you’ve had $522,000 in sales in just the last two weeks. How are you communicating with homeowners without being face-to-face?
We’re trying to do anything. The first couple of days, we sold nothing. And we’ve noticed it tied to the news, so if there’s a big announcement coming out on the news, we literally have seen our phones go to silence. But when they don’t, we’re just preparing for that to capitalize on any moment that the phones are going to ring. Obviously, we can’t make that happen without anything, but just being ready when it does. And we’re marketing to that. For instance, if we know there’s news coming, we’ll turn all of our Google™ ads off because we understand that the phone is not going to ring. Everybody’s watching the news. They don’t care about roofing that day.
Just being flexible, that’s really what we’ve been telling our team and our sales guys. Definitely had some guys a little concerned. Our guys are commission-based salespeople—so that can be a little scary for them at first. And the last pretty much two weeks we’ve had some really good success using FaceTime™, doing Facebook™ videos for people that don’t have iPhones.
- So, you’re going to the houses, but you’re not going inside them?
Correct, yep. So, when we take the call, we’re asking them what they prefer. Like is anybody sick? Our script changes almost every day, just based on what they’re hearing and we’re adjusting to that. So, what would you prefer, are you okay if we come in your house or not? Would you like us to wear a mask? Would you like us to wear gloves? And really catering to their feelings and their preferences, that’s really what we’re doing.
- How do you handle going over the sales presentation and presenting options? Is it all digital?
Currently, we’re doing everything there and we’re still using paper. We used to be more digital and then we went back to the RSI Roofing Solutions book. And we’ve noticed people really like to see the printed pricing. So that does create a little bit of a challenge not being digital there. But what the guys are doing, the most success we’ve had, is FaceTime™. So, most iPhone users are good with using FaceTime™—they’re used to it. If they have an Android, that’s where we did run into a problem. Android users actually didn’t even want to download a different app. We looked at using Zoom™, even a WhatsApp™, all the free video/face video things outside of FaceTime™.
So, we actually created a Facebook™ account for each salesperson, using their email, that has their picture and our logo on it, so they didn’t have to use their personal accounts. And if the customer has an Android, we’re switching over to the Facebook™ video feature.
- How are you managing training with your sales team, so you can talk about what’s working in the field, and what’s not?
Well we do have a unique situation. Our sales manager actually has recovered from some pretty serious cancer about six years ago, so he has a compromised immune system. We literally asked him, “Do you want to stay home?” And he said, “Yeah, I should.” So, he’s actually doing everything from his house, which is absolutely amazing because you wouldn’t think the sales manager could do a lot not seeing the guys, right?
At first, I thought we’d have some issues. He’s an amazing servant leader, and he’s just calling the guys three, four, five times a day—before and after each appointment. They are doing Zoom™ meetings, I believe every day—every morning, where everybody’s on video. Then he’s gathering that information and sharing it with the next guy.
- You mentioned that calls obviously dip when we know news is going to break. How’s your call count been otherwise?
I’m just going to pull this up here. We have an inside sales manager that runs our call center, and so for Friday, which was yesterday, our call volume was actually up 15 percent. So, we’re tracking it daily, week over week, and then we’re going back before the Coronavirus so we can kind of understand how things are affecting it. We have made some cuts in marketing just because we weren’t sure what was going to happen. So, for instance, last week Friday we only booked five appointments. But then with 15 percent increase in volume, yesterday we actually booked 14 appointments.
What we are seeing is a trend of the people calling are much more serious. We’re not taking as many tire-kicker calls. If they’re willing to call during the Coronavirus, they’re probably willing to buy or to be more interested in your presentation.
- Are your guys doing much outbound calling?
We are. So, our call center is actually all remote right now. Our inside-sales manager runs that and so she’s a rock star. She’s meeting with them via Zoom™ multiple times per day, I believe it’s three times a day, so they can share what they’re hearing. Because whatever is on the news changes everybody’s thoughts, right? I wish everybody would turn it off, to be honest. For instance, this last Wednesday, we actually sold $102,000, I believe. And our call volume was actually down 23 percent. But we set more appointments. Which is, again, it doesn’t make sense, to be honest. We’re just feeling really blessed. I think 75 percent of the calls that day—the appointments that we sold—were actually outbound appointments set. So, they were definitely rocking it.
- Who are you outbound calling?
These are all just cold calls with leads that we’ve gathered from marketing over the last year. We started using inspection forms, so those have been very, very helpful. So, we’ve been gathering them from our salespeople, and now we know, okay, this person did say that they would do a siding project in the future, and their siding is 20 years old. So, we’ve been analyzing that data with our CRM and that’s what they’re calling out of.
- Do you think your salespeople are really focusing on delivering an even better presentation because of the uncertainty each day brings?
I think so. I don’t know if they’d admit it. To be honest, I think the urgency for them, knowing that they’re 100 percent commission, I do believe they’re taking more time on each appointment. But I also believe the sales manager calling them before and after each appointment is very helpful. When we’re busy, we don’t do that every time.
- Why else do you think your sales team has been more effective lately?
One of the big things that we are doing differently is financing. Right when this came out, we kind of came up with a process—working with Jared and Ryan, our sales manager—to figure out how we were going to position ourselves after the interest rates dropped. Everybody now thinks they should get a better deal, right? You can’t offer 9.9 percent financing because it’s on the news that they plummeted. Everybody thinks they’re getting money for free.
[In response,] we have absorbed some more expensive financing options that we hadn’t normally used before. So, we tell people—we’ve never been able to offer this plan, because it’s true. We previously didn’t want to offer it. We use Service Finance™, GreenSky™, Aqua™, a couple different finance partners, and we’re just leveraging that a little bit more. So, we’re paying a little bit more dealer fees, but to be honest, when this whole thing started, if we take three to six percent off of a job that we’re usually not taking right now, we’re just glad that we’re doing them.
- You mentioned you’re talking to Jared. Are you talking to any other members or contractors to see what’s working, or have you been too busy?
Yeah, a little bit of both—been too busy, I’ve neglected my family. A couple midnight, one o’clock mornings for sure. But really, I’ve reached out to Jonathan over at Five Guys, I mean he’s an awesome guy. I asked Jared for a couple names. And what that does is it gives you a perspective of what’s going on in the country.
Unfortunately, right now, we’re making daily decisions because of the changes in the news. So, it’s been challenging. I mean I’ll be very honest, we’ve made some choices and decisions, but we’re pretty blessed to have happening what’s happened in the last two weeks.
- How have you kept a positive mindset? You mentioned that you wish everyone stopped watching the news? Do you just try and enjoy some quiet when driving in your truck?
I’ll be honest, the only quiet time I have is in the bathroom these days—if I decide to leave my phone on my desk. But, yeah, I mean in the morning, I’ve a pretty strong faith, and there’s a couple of Christian songs I listen to. I max the volume and I’m trying to worship the Lord without taking my hands off the wheel. This is beyond us, I mean I can’t predict anything, and I just try to get my mindset right. It’s really hard to portray that over video because you only see six people in the office.
So unfortunately, I’ve had to watch more news in the last two weeks than I have in like five years. I’m not a news believer, so I don’t normally watch it. But I do have to keep our people updated with how we’re handling that as a company. So, I have to be informed. I have to turn the news on. But there’s no silver bullet. You have to just center yourself.
You really have to get over the fear. I think that’s the big thing. Because the first couple days, if I’m honest, I was fearful. I mean like, what are we going to do? We just came out of winter, there was still snow on the ground when this COVID thing came out, and we’re like, okay, our call volume is just supposed to be increasing, is the phone actually going to ring tomorrow? I mean, that was a question we were asking ourselves. Like what do we do if it doesn’t ring? And to be honest, I was afraid. So, yeah, I think it’s just trust [in the Lord has made all the difference].
- Are you doing anything to prepare for, what hopefully will be, pent-up demand once this ends—or are you just focused on surviving the day to day?
A little bit of both. I think everybody’s business has changed immediately. And our plan that we had for the fourth quarter this year, we pretty much threw in the garbage because we have no idea what’s happening. So, we’re making daily plans, weekly plans, 30-day, 60-day—six months is kind of how we’re thinking. So, you obviously can’t run a business on a daily plan. That doesn’t make sense. But you have to be analyzing that data. If you don’t, you’re really running in the dark. And so, we sat down with our sales manager and asked him, “How do we try to make a budget for April?” And we’re both looking at each other like, that’s really impossible. What if the phone doesn’t ring? We will continue to leverage those outbound calls. We have to.
We also made—if you want to check out our Facebook™ page—a couple videos specifically detailing what we’re doing differently to keep people safe. We have a few of us sanitizing our office. And I think Stacy Feller also made one. I think Five Guys recently made one. Videos and imagery are huge right now. You have to be showing people what you’re doing differently. We’re addressing it upfront so right when they call, we’re asking them, we’re talking about it. We want to know if they’re uncomfortable, because we don’t want to send our sales guys there, they get there, and the customer is like, well we just want to wait until after this whole thing blows over. But we don’t want to burn that opportunity up now. So, yeah, we’re doing both—short-term and long-term planning.
We’re trying not to lose any people because of this, because we are a little bit slower than we would have been. We were staffed for our budget of $12 million this year. So, we have had a couple people take half days, trying to manage by the numbers, so it’s definitely hard. It’s a question mark.
We’ll see what next week brings. We have no idea, but we’re going to adapt and change. And the message I keep telling the team is, we just need everybody to be flexible. What yesterday was is not tomorrow.