Maintenance agreements are a great source of income for the off-peak season. They get your technicians into your customers' homes twice a year for a pre-season tune-up, which brings in income for the service itself as well as any upgrades (a programmable thermostat, anyone?).

But your best chance to sign customers up is going to be during the very busy times. After all, that's when they'll be calling you for their heating emergencies, and that's the entry point into their homes before the maintenance agreement is established.

When you're in a rush, it's human nature to say, "I can't do that right now. I've got all the business I can take care of as it is." But think of it this way: what you do on the busiest day of the year can have an impact on whether you're taking a call on the slowest day of the year.

The process works like this:

You're called into the home for service or a repair. The first thing you do is address exactly what the customer has called you out to do.

Just as you complete the job, and before you shove an invoice in their general direction, you show the customer:

  1. What you did (either on the invoice or maintenance agreement form
  2. What you found
  3. What this service can help prevent
  4. How they can be better at preventive maintenance (filtration, etc.)
  5. The price for today's service

Next — after they agree and understand the value — you utter the following question which will change your conversion rate dramatically: "Would you mind if I showed you a way to save $10 in 10 seconds?"

You will almost certainly get a "yes" (or they didn't hear the question!). At this point, you begin discussing your maintenance agreement.

The message you're trying to convey is that you're not trying to sell them anything; you're trying to give them a discount. That's something you can believe in, and soon your customer will too.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for many free marketing articles and reports.