Steve Maxwell, editor of Professional Painter Magazine, interviews Brandon Lewis about recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining high quality painting business employees.
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Steve Maxwell: This is Steve Maxwell here, editor of Pro Painter magazine, and I’m having a conversation with Brandon Lewis. He’s the founder of the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors. We’re talking about some questions, talking shop here, and I just thought you might like to eavesdrop on our conversation, so that’s what we’ll do right now. Welcome, Brandon. Thanks for joining me.
Brandon Lewis: Well, I’m glad to be here, bud. Excited to get through some of these topics about hiring painters. I know it’s a big pain of many owners existence, and then how do you keep the good ones and a few other things that we have in store.
Steve Maxwell: Okay, perfect. What do you figure the best way is to staff a painting company with the reliable and profitable painters that an owner would need?
Brandon Lewis: I would say the first thing is you have to get your mind right about recruitment, and recruitment is really a marketing functioning. Hiring is a sales function. We typically don’t think about that but we’re going after a certain market of people to generate a list of prospective employees and then we’re trying to sell them on the merits of coming to work for us while we also evaluate whether or not they’re a good fit for us.
If you want to get right at the heart of the matter, Steve, the first thing I always ask people, “Well, I know you say that it’s impossible to find good painters. Tell me about how much time and money you have spent over the last 30 days trying to solve this problem.” Typically the answer I get is, “Well, I’ve asked my guys if they know of anybody and I posted an ad on Craigslist,” and so, okay, you’ve spent about 20 bucks and about three minutes in the last 30 days to solve this problem. I said, “What if you spend 30 bucks and three minutes on your last painting project, how much would you have gotten done?” Not much.
The first thing I always ask people, “You’re probably spending a lot of time trying to generate demand for your painting business but very few people spend any time trying to generate capacity, and if your demand’s off kilter from your capcaity, it doesn’t work out.” There are really four little points I just want to share quickly. One is you need to think of yourself as like a recruiter. Maybe a military recruiter or a staffing recruiter and publisher of a magazine, which you can relate to. You really want to build the biggest list of professionally employed painters in your area regardless of whether you want to hire them. I mean, you want to have a huge database of people that you can evaluate.
Most people start out the process with two or three painters and that’s it if they ever get to two or three and then they hire out of desperation. Instead, they think of themselves as the great and powerful Oz and that everybody else is just lucky that they’re offering them a job, and that’s not what it takes to get the best talent. The first part is the market. Who are you going after? Well, most painters are professionally employed and working. Instead we spend all of our time in online job boards where people are unemployed.
Well, occasionally decent people cycle through the unemployed ranks, but more often than not, they’re working for another company, so one thing you have to keep on the table is that you have to be willing to recruit people away from other painters. They go, “Well, Brandon, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” I say, “Well, you’re already recruiting their customers away, and so if you really have an issue without, then I would never bid on another painting project, if you want your conscience to be clean.”
Then market, which market are you gonna go after? The message. A lot of people say things like, “We’re hiring. Come grow with us. Experienced painters wanted,” which is terrible, especially for people who already have a job, but headlines instead like, “For painters whose bosses don’t appreciate them,” which is where a lot of painters would probably identify. Most people don’t quit their companies, they quit their bosses. When you write good, strong copy like that and you follow it up with the problems that most painters experience, agitate those problems and solve them by letting them know that you’re different, it works.
Finally, you have to throw a lot of different mediums at this. Once you get good messaging in place and once you go after the market, you’ve got to make sure that you’re online, that you have signage leading in and out of paint stores, signage in the paint store’s referral programs for the paint stores where people are. You’ve got to put places up all over town or put messages up all over town, both online and offline, and you have to be willing to engage with painters personally everywhere you meet them in order to get their phone number and their name. This makes a lot of other people uncomfortable, and sit down with them and have a conversation about their career.
If you do this, Steve, really aggressively for about a week or two, really aggressively, you can build a list of 10 to 20 names. If you will do that and consistently restock all of your marketing systems for recruiting painters, you won’t have an issue with finding good, qualified painters, but very few people ever put any kind of effort that’s comprehensive together for recruitment.
Steve Maxwell: Now that you describe it this way, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a painting company owner do this, and yet it seems so obvious. I mean, you stock up with brushes and rollers and drop cloths … You’re constantly stocking up on things, but who stocks up on painters? I’ve never seen it before.
Brandon Lewis: No, it’s rare. Other industries do it. I mean, you would think, “Oh, well this is something that only white collar businesses do.” Well, drive down the road, Steve. On the back of every 18 wheeler, what do you see?
Steve Maxwell: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a recruitment message, isn’t it?
Brandon Lewis: I’d say cover the whole thing with recruitment messages. I mean, there’s as much recruitment marketing on an 18 wheeler as there is recruitment of customers, but for some reason in our industry, we teach our guys also for painters who want a better career, please call our 24 hour recorded hotline on the back of their vans. It makes no sense to have a hundred percent of your marketing just for capacity, or just for demand rather, but zero for capacity. That’s how you get out of kilter.
Steve Maxwell: Right. Well, you know, I’ve picked up on something here that I think is worth emphasizing. You’re not just talking about filling all the slots that you have in a company for painters that you can keep employed, but it seems to me you want people in the batter’s box. People that you know and have a relationship with but don’t necessarily have on the payroll just yet. Is that right?
Brandon Lewis: Well, you’re right, and when we get further on in this interview, we’re gonna talk about … You asked me to think about some of the mistakes people make and alien is this whole concept of recruitment is marketing to the professional painter market, building a list with messages that identify with currently employed players through lots of mediums all year round. While that is an alien concept, keeping a list of prospects warm is an alien concept to most people as well. It’s really not. I mean, it’s just the painting industry, but we’ll get into that as we go, because that’s one of the big mistakes people make.
Steve Maxwell: Sure, sure. One of the challenges I hear from painters has to do with the whole idea of training. What are your feelings on how a painting company owner should handle the issue of training painters? I mean, I’m not just necessarily talking about people who don’t know how to paint at all, but even experienced painters are going to need training from time to time to meet safety regulations and maybe learn to use new kinds of products, especially if you’re in the commercial realm. What’s your thought on the whole overall issue of training, and is there a place in a painting business for regularly taking in people who don’t necessarily know how to paint or maybe not paint proficiently yet, but express a willingness to learn?
Brandon Lewis: I’ll kind of give you an example in a microcosm that I think we could apply largely. I will often tell people on the technical aspects of painting, I’m not enthusiastic or qualified. However, on the process of training, I’m very enthusiastic and qualified. I started my painting business and built it up to over about 20 people and a million dollars in sales. I sold it for 440,000 dollars. I started it in the recession in 2008, sold it in 2013 before launching the Painter’s Academy, and of course I spent my entire career in marketing and sales and politics. I just happened to run a painting business for one short period of my life.
Safety was something that we always trained our guys on and safety changes all the time. Whenever you have a process where everyone has to know something and when everyone has to be reminded of something, because all training goes through extinction at some point, you know, but the basics, just simple, of safety training, is number one, you’ve got to have a manual. I dare say most people listening to this call, 80 some percent of them don’t have a manual that they distribute to their painters so that they can keep them in the car.
There’s all kinds of reasons to do this, not only so that they are safer but so that you protect yourself against frivolous lawsuits, overzealous governmental agencies, all kinds of things. You need to have some kind of little orientation video. If you’ve taught your guy the same thing over and over and over and over again, goodness, why do it 40 times from scratch? Just record it one time and you’ll probably do it better.
Again, going back to safety, there are free training resources. If you rent a lift from a lift company, you could trot 20 of your guys out there and they will give all of them lift safety training cards. Also you can usually approach your painting vendors and they have ladder representatives, which is where our probably biggest risk in the painting industry is in falls, and they’ll come out and do a free ladder certification for all of your guys. You can put that in everybody’s company file.
Then toolbox talks. Once you’ve got your handbook so to speak, your manual, your orientation video, they’ve been through some simple training. You need to be having a weekly company meeting. I mean, I don’t see how people run their business without it. They think they’re taking a shortcut by not spending an hour with their guys, or 30 minutes. They’re really just taking a long cut. It is terrible practice.
At the end of every meeting, you pick a page of the safety manual, you read it, you talk about it, you ask questions, everybody signs off on a group documentation that they’ve been through this. After you’ve done 52 of these, if there’s ever an incident, if anything ever happens, it’s all documented from their orientation sign-off sheet to the manual that’s in their car that they have read, to the video they went through, to the free resources you put them through and then maybe some paid resources with local home building associations or industry organizations, and then you continually and constantly do that.
Yeah, it might take you half of a Saturday to set all this stuff up, but man, once you get it in place, it becomes second nature and it protects you, so going back to anything, if you’re gonna train somebody on something, it needs to be many, it needs to be one to many and reproducible. If at all possible you need to look for free and paid resources and then it needs to be reinforced consistently and it needs to be documented. If it’s not documented rarely, there’s a take and then the last thing with things about safety is you also have to have disciplinary action.
If people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to out in the field, and we’ll talk about the profitability side later, but just sticking with this safety example, if they’re caught doing something that’s putting them at risk and the company at risk, you’ve got to stop them, talk to them about it, document it, write it down and have a personal meeting about it so they feel like it’s official and it’s not just the boss’s casual remarks one Friday morning soon to be forgotten. The more formal it is, the more likely it is to change their behavior.
Steve Maxwell: Right, right. Well, it makes a lot of sense, especially the whole practice of not reinventing the wheel all the time. Build your system and then work the system.
Brandon Lewis: Exactly. I mean, that’s the problem. Everybody stops what they’re doing, which is typically making money, to constantly handle the exact same problem they handled three weeks ago, and they do that about 15 times a year, but there’s about 15 of those types of problems, and so their business life is just one continual disorganized and ill-prepared catastrophe. Somehow there’s supposed to be some money left at the end of the year. It’s just tough if you do it that way.
Steve Maxwell: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s one thing to find good painters and it’s another thing to build your system so that safety is taught and monitored and documented and there’s disciplinary measures, but a big part of all this would be retaining the reliable, profitable painters that you have found and trained and groomed and who’ve come to know your system. What ideas can you offer in the whole realm of retaining the good people that you’ve worked so hard to get?
Brandon Lewis: You have to build, Steve, a culture around performance, and you have to reward it. So many owners kind of just have a casual conversation with somebody on the back of a tailgate and then, “Well, show up and meet me at Mrs. Johnson’s house, we’ll see how you do.” We don’t ever tell them what they’re supposed to do. We don’t ever write it down. We don’t ever measure it. We expect them to be the quality of an owner. Well, if they were the quality of an owner, they would be owning a painting business. They wouldn’t be working for us in most cases, so you’ve got to have clear, written goals and processes and you have to have paperwork and procedures and tools to sustain whatever it is you want them to do, because people who are really good at performing, that are worth retaining like structure and they like clear directions.
I think once you provide that structure and clear direction, it sounds crazy, but a lot of people just want to work in a very comfortable and reliable and non-changing environment where the expectations are clear and the tools are provided. Most people think that’s like the bottom of the barrel. Well, it is in most industries, but for us it puts you in the middle of the pack.
Once you’ve got all that basic stuff that most people leave out of their businesses in place, you need to give folks monetary incentives for making you money. If they save labor hours on a project, which means you have to actually estimate based on labor hours, a lot of people don’t, and don’t use production rates, but let’s say that you do, giving people 50 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent of all the saved labor on a project motivates them to get it done, as long as you tie in customer satisfaction surveys and a duel column checklist so that the quality control is there and they collect the check, which forces the customer to basically look at everything and make sure it’s correct, you can reward people for coming in on budget on each and every project.
You need to do personal recognition from the boss. Not everybody is motivated by money, and it took me a long time to realize this. I got in a habit on at least a monthly basis of putting a handwritten note in each and every paycheck talking about something good they’d done or I just appreciated them being around, and I’d find those notes in cars. I would find them in people’s houses. I would find them all over the place. Tacked up on refrigerators of people’s homes. People don’t get a kind word and they especially don’t get it in writing. We put that in writing, it makes a big difference.
In addition to that personal recognition, you need corporate recognition in front of their peers at company meetings. You need to have an agenda for your company meeting that typically includes whatever your mission statement or guiding principles are, almost recited like a boy scout oath. I don’t know if they recite oaths anymore. It’s kind of hard to say, probably don’t do that anymore, but an organization that would recite an oath and believe it and stick with it, or think about the pledge of allegiance or anything at the beginning of the meeting.
Then you go through each and every one of the projects that you’ve been through where it came in on budget and how the customer ranked their experience. When people do well, you reward them and you give them their monetary rewards right there in front of everybody and you say great things. When projects go over budget, that’s got to be discussed soon. Bonuses can’t be paid out, and teams get really used to doing that. I also believe in monthly contests. Some people are motivated by being number one and you may only have one or two crew leaders in your whole organization or one or two painters that are like that, but they will fight each other to be at number one so often that they will save you tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just for the trophy, just for the picture of who won in the month of June and saved the most labor, and then there’s also people that come in second and third and there’s some people that could care less about it.
Quarterly bonding events. I mean, show up once a quarter and cook out for everybody. Go to a park and invite everybody’s families. Do what every … Rent out a little tiny water park or museum or something or buy a little box at a cheap baseball game for all the families to come and feed them. That kind of stuff’s important.
Finally, you have to have disciplinary action for non-performance, because performers don’t like to work around non-performers and they don’t like pulling their weight forever. That needs to be public and by that, when budgets aren’t met, “Hey, Steve, we just did the Johnson job here. It was 10 hours over budget. Man, how did that happen? Bob, Earl, you work with Steve. He just said it was this. Is this what you think it is? Guys, these are pretty simple jobs. We’ve got to make sure that this happens.”
Privately, if something gets consistent, you’ve got to take them aside and fill out that disciplinary report and the paperwork and then finally it sounds crazy to think that retaining people could be related to firing people but when you fire someone who is not pulling their weight or who is disrespecting other people or has done something unethical, in your company meetings, you need to say, “Guys, you may notice that John’s not here today. Here’s why. We’ve only got three rules here, that we’ll make the customer happy, that we’ll come in on budget, that we’ll follow the company rule book, and that we will not lie, cheat or steal the company or each other. Somebody was caught not doing one of these and we just can’t have people in our culture like this because you all are following the rules.” That’s one good way.
All those things together help retain profitable painters and you put “profitable” in there. People think there’s just a one size fits all for this and any time you talk to somebody who’s really good at something, they never tell you the one thing they did to get there. They’ve always got, “How long do you have?” It takes a lot to get to where you want to get. Just like you. I know that you’ve got an amazing enthusiasm for living independently and for being out in the great outdoors and you’ve got a vast store of knowledge.
If somebody asked you how to do any one thing, you could probably talk for 20 minutes about it because you’re good at it. Well, if owners have to realize that if you want to be good at something, you’ve got to become a serious student of it and you’ve got to figure out not just the one way to get there but the 10 ways that really get you where you want to get.
Steve Maxwell: Yeah, life’s not as simple as a one stop to success. You’re absolutely right, it’s a layered approach.
Brandon Lewis: Very much so.
Steve Maxwell: I’d like to learn more, as specific as you can get, about the best ways to measure the profitability of individual painters you hire, because, as you said, no business owner hires someone out of the goodness of their heart. I mean, not if they’re looking to make some sort of a profit. They’re providing work for people so that they can support themselves and their families, but of course the owner needs some measure of minimum productivity in order for them to make money. Technically, what’s the best way to measure the productivity and profitability of the painters that you’ve got in your employ?
Brandon Lewis: I think, again, a lot of this always goes back to someone’s preconceived notion that is incorrect, and fixing that goes a long way. If somebody was in the business of buying candy wholesale and then selling it retail, they would know the cost of everything they bought, meaning if they bought a pack of gum for 10 cents and they sold it for 20 cents, they would know what the fair rate was for those materials, especially if they sold something that was uniform. You bought bowling balls wholesale and you sold them retail somewhere. Everybody in their right mind would understand it’s really important to keep track of that stuff and to know what I’m paying and what I’m getting.
People in the painting business are very confused about the fact that they are buying labor wholesale and that they are selling it retail. You are a buyer and seller of labor hours, but when you look at how people estimate, not sale, okay? Not how you persuade people or sell. That’s a whole other item. Estimating is a lot easier than being persuasive. Most people leave all the persuasiveness out of their sales process. They email it in like it’s a pair of shoes off Amazon even though it’s 6,000 to 10,000 dollars, in league with what a cosmetic surgeon or an attorney or doctor would sell and their closing rates are terrible and they get beat by low price competitors and they can’t figure out why.
They [inaudible 00:23:52] ask themselves, “How do I even get a job occasionally?” Should be the miraculous thing they come to. Same thing here. When you estimate, if you’re buying and selling labor hours, you need to know what a labor hour can do, how far it goes and what you paid for it and what you have to charge for it. Typically that means you’ve got to be using production rates. If you get into even your own Facebook page where people start talking about production rates, they get confused. They think that production rates are what you charge the customer. No, that’s pricing. Production rate is how long does it take your painter to paint any given surface?
Production rate might be 100 square feet of wall brushed and cut in in an hour, or 15 linear feet of trim. Whatever it is, or 45 minutes per door. Whatever those things are. It’s usually number of, square footage of and linear feet of. Well, once you get clear on that and you go out and you estimate not based on a guess and you can’t guess … I’ve tested owners over and over again. They can’t guess. You put them in the same room, they’re shaped different with the same surface area, they give you two different guesses. They come back to it the second day. It’s a different guess than it was the first day. People can’t guess. A man can’t even take a 10 foot board into his back yard and cut it exactly six feet without a measuring tape but he thinks he can estimate a whole house because he’s smart. It makes no sense. It’s illogical.
The first thing is you gotta know how long does it take in labor hours and then you’ve got to communicate how many labor hours there are in any given project to your own, to your painters. Most people don’t do that, Steve. They don’t even tell them, “Hey, you’ve got 118 labor hours.” They just set them on the job and hope everything comes out alright, and then they’re mad at the painters when they don’t communicate even when they’re supposed to be finished. It’s crazy. The lack of communication, written especially with people, and then on every project, it’s very simple. How you know if they’re productive or not.
If you’ve got good, established, field-tested production rates, then you just measure how many hours did they use. If they came in under budget, they’re really productive. If they come in over budget, they’re not productive. At least not as productive as you would like. Now, sometimes you have to look at three or four projects in a sequence, and you do the same thing with materials to make sure people aren’t robbing you blind. You just do a post mortem report. It’s simple. It’s like seven or eight little numbers that go into an excel sheet. You could even do it manually on a piece of paper. You don’t have to get real technical.
You have bought from Jimmy 40 labor hours. You hoped that he would be able to paint 40 labor hours worth of things on a job. Well, basically you’ve sold 40 of Jimmy’s labor hours to Mrs. Johnson, but you actually paid Jimmy for 50 of them. Well, that’s not good.
Steve Maxwell: No.
Brandon Lewis: The easy way is, number one, understand the currency in which you trade. Number two, estimate that way. Number three, report it to the guys and let them track it on a daily basis and you check in on it and emphasize it, and then, third, monitor it as quickly as you can and as soon as the job is done, so that we can go back to that whole segment of questions previously, which is how do you retain and motivate profitable painters? All the things we’d mentioned with the monitory compensation, personal recognition, contests, corporate recognition, bonding, disciplinary action, et cetera.
The question is, people act like it’s a mystery. How do you know if they’re profitable? Well, you measure it. It’s real simple. It’s like, how do you know what your gas mileage is with your car? Well, you put some gas in it. When it runs out, that’s how far it goes. You kind of know how far the car goes. That’s really it. You measure it once, you document it, report it, incentivize it and there should be no question. Every owner who is in business should be able to know who is profitable and who isn’t, and if they’re not tracking it, they deserve whatever financial catastrophe comes their way.
Steve Maxwell: Sure. Can you point to some industry numbers? Documents or reference manuals or anything like that that outlines, and of course, this is in a general term, but outlines the kind of productivity that painters should be achieving? Or does it all have to …
Brandon Lewis: This is all over the place. Of course, the PDCA publishes something. I got my hands on it a long time ago and I think it’s good and it’s a good starting point. It seemed to be geared, at the time … Now, it’s been a while since I revisited this, toward commercial, kind of wide open, empty areas. Residential’s a little bit slower. You’ve gotta move stuff. More important for you not to mess anything up than for you to get done real fast, and people are willing to pay a premium, especially for sales process supports premium pricing along with your percentage of repeat and referral business being up in the 50s and 60s, although most people are only around the 10 or the 15s.
That’s number one. Number two, I just recommend, so that people feel really confident in their productivity numbers, all you have to do is measure it. You take a little production diary with you. A Word document. I mean, you could do it with a piece of legal paper, and it has what you’re painting, how many square feet of it you’re painting, when you started and when you started, or how many linear feet or how many number of, and you just paint it, at not a break neck pace and not a slow pace, and you just see how long it takes you. After you get about three data points, you’ve got a pretty good guess. It’s not hard.
It kills me. I’ve watched these forums and chat rooms and it makes me want to pull my hair out. “How much would you change to paint this?” They show a picture of a house. I’m like, “Good God.” I mean, one time in your life, why don’t you just figure out how long it takes you to paint something, figure out what you pay somebody, figure out what you charge them, and then you would not be in the dark for 30 years, but instead, people are so lazy. They won’t take two weeks of their life to be in the know for eternity.
Steve Maxwell: That’s quite surprising and really quite simple.
Brandon Lewis: That’s easy. You basically said, “Okay, well, we’re in a bedroom here. It’s 10 by 10 and it’s 8 foot ceilings, so that means there’s 80 square feet of it per wall. We’ve got four of them, so that’s 360 square feet. It’s 1:30. I’m gonna write that down on my calendar here along with the square footage and I’m just gonna start painting and then I’m gonna put my stop time in. Then I’m gonna go to the next room, I’m gonna do the same thing and then the third room. Then I’ll come back and do the trim and I’ll measure that too. Then you are done. Okay, let’s paint five doors. How long did it take me? This is what I charge.
Easy. It blows my mind. I bet a good 10 percent of all painting related chatrooms are people showing pictures of things and asking how much they should and it’s just insane.
Steve Maxwell: Interesting. Brandon, I just have one more question for you. Tell us about the one or two or three things you wish you had known when you started your painting business, if we haven’t covered them now. I’m sure some of what we’ve talked about have fit into that category, but is there anything that you wish you had known that you know now?
Brandon Lewis: There’s some things I knew that I did not know to the extent that I know them. The first one is the remarkable and amazing purchasing power of your past customer list. Most people … The reason I know it is because I, and I didn’t even grasp it as thoroughly as I did when I got out. I came from a nonprofit and a fundraising background, so we didn’t even have a tangible service to sell. You gave us big piles of money, we made you feel a certain way. [inaudible 00:32:32] A feeling. We sold a feeling.
The way we communicated consistently with that list of donors made all the difference in the world. Most people do not realize that they’ve got organic spending in their customer list of about 1,000 dollars per year, which means if you’ve got a thousand clients, you’ve got a million dollar painting business, and that doesn’t even count the referral value if you just capture it. Most donors don’t even have their customers in an Excel list. The few that do don’t communicate with them. The few that do communicate only send a Christmas card.
We teach our guys to remain in monthly communication through a mailed and emailed newsletter and to also do three reactivation campaigns per year in the early spring, peak of summer and leading into the winter and the fall. Occasionally we move those around based on the need of the company, if there’s a backlog and there’s no need. Sometimes we do it and sometimes we don’t, but people just vastly underestimate how frequently they purchase and how often they purchase and if you don’t keep and retain your clients, and most painters don’t, you get the privilege of starting over every three years after about year three … Get the privilege of starting over every year after about year three.
It would be like being up in Canada right now. You could have the best heating and the best insulation in the world in your cabin but if you open the doors and windows, it ain’t gonna stay warm, is it?
Steve Maxwell: No, absolutely not.
Brandon Lewis: No, so that’s what happens. They just open up the front door, let them out the back door. They never contact them, never speak with them again and then nobody can remember anybody. That’s why there really isn’t a dominant player in any given market, is because everyone is just continually and constantly swapping clients. No one retains anybody, and the numbers prove that out after doing 600 plus assessments. That’s the cause.
That’s number one, and just one other that I would probably point out … There’s tons, obviously, but the transformative power of a persuasive sales process. Most people show up, if they even answer their phone, and 60 percent of calls are abandoned, abandoned, abandoned in the service industry when it goes to voicemail.
People often ask, “What’s the number one thing I could do to increase my sales?” I said, “The easiest thing you could do is just get an answering service.” They don’t want to hear that. They want something fancy like 15,000 ways to close or whatever, but get the phone answered, and then teach our guys to pre-position to present, to post-position and followup with powerful proof. Lots of social proof, video testimonials, warrantees, guarantees to put messaging together that targets the actual client’s worries and fears about having folks in their home or their business that they don’t know around the people they love and the things they love.
The terrible reputation of our painting industry and how we can leverage that instead of run away from it. Followup that actually mirrors the buying cycle. The typical major purchase in the United States at least by synchronicity and geo-capital is 500 dollars for a major household purchase. It takes people 68 days to pull the trigger on it. 40 percent of people go to the store three times, but the typical painting contractor writes an estimate for on average 3,000 dollars, might call them two times in a two week period and they abandon the sale. Well, the followup doesn’t match the sale cycle. It’d be like pulling up a tomato plant if it didn’t have a tomato on it after two weeks. That’s not how tomato plants work.
There’s just aligning your sales process with the messaging and the proof and the timing of how the climate actually buys fruit to be a white collar selling service or black collar selling service persuasive process similar to what you would experience if you went to the top cosmetic surgeon in your area or if you went to see a high end divorce attorney or if you went to try to get a realtor to list a million dollar home, what would that process look like? Because often when we’re charging 7 to 10 to 15 to 20,000, even 3 or 4,000 dollars, we’re charging the same service or rather charging the same aggregate price as our white collar, sophisticated counterparts, but our sales processes do not look anything like theirs, and that’s why we constantly lose on price, because the client can’t differentiate between an unlicensed and an illegal painter versus a professional one, because the process and the proof looks identical.
The two things is just the power, both of referral and repeat business out of your customer list. I wish I had done a better job of that, and I wish I had beefed up my sales process like we do now for our members. Those two things alone typically, the typical painting business, if everything else stays the same, Steve, if they will just fix their neglect of their past clients and improve their sales process, they can usually double their income. It’s not real hard.
Steve Maxwell: Wow, this has been great, Brandon. I really do appreciate the time you’ve spent and just about every word you’ve said has rung true with some real world wisdom, so thank you again. Once again this is Steve Maxwell. I’m the editor of Pro Painter Magazine and I’ve been speaking with Brandon Lewis, the founder of the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors. He’s been kind enough to share some wisdom with us, so thank you very much, Brandon.
Brandon Lewis: Thank you.
Steve Maxwell: Okay, bye for now, everyone.