By Dennis Klager

Service industries are all about relationships. We focus a lot of time on establishing good relationships with our customers through marketing and followups — and we should— but there are other relationships out there that can be cultivated to help grow our businesses. What follows are a few suggestions that could add income to your cleaning and restoration business.

Realtors

Property managers can be a good source of income. This will take some time to discover. I dealt with several realtors who not only sold houses but had 30 or 40 clients who owned rental houses that they managed. I was their go-to carpet cleaner and flood restorer.

Drive through the neighborhoods you work in and see whose names are on the realtor signs of homes for sale. Go to their offices, ask for them, introduce yourself, and leave information. If they are not there, leave the printed material. Keep going back till you meet them! Leave a cake (or something) for the office with your business cards. You most likely won’t be able to go to their lunch room, but often the receptionist will gladly put it there for you.

Have flyers made up and leave one for each realtor in the office. Asking, “Could you put these in everyone’s mailbox?” is usually not a problem.

When you finally get a job out of it, wait long enough for them to see the great job you did, and then hand deliver the bill, asking for referrals from their realtor friends or clients. If they are not there, find out when they will show up and go back, or if you have work to do, leave the bill and call them later.

Find out when a target office holds its meetings and arrange to make a little presentation. Also, there is usually a city-wide realtor association. They have meetings where you can make a presentation. Don’t forget to mingle — it’s more important than the presentation. Don’t worry about eating; mingle!

Keep going back. The more visible you are, the more work you get. I remember getting work once because someone saw me in the office and called out, “Don’t leave I have a job for you!”

Come up with reasons to be in their faces. The more face time, the better.

You can end up “owning” the carpet cleaning and repair business for the realtors in your neighborhood.

Put in the effort the other guys won’t.

Carpet retailers

Visit carpet retailers. Much of what applies to realtors applies here. If it’s a large store, make a presentation at their sales meeting. Buy them breakfast if there’s enough potential business to be had. Offer discounts, which the store can present to their customers when they make the carpet sale. Become their go-to company for spots and overall cleaning issues.

Drop in and just say hello once in awhile. Once again, get in face time.

There is less carpet being sold now for new construction. Learn how to deal with all that hard surface you’ll be seeing. There are classes for this. 

Insurance agents

Even with the hundreds of numbers that insurance companies have and the national accounts, insurance agents can be a great source of income for mom-and-pop organizations.

In the beginning, the agents will tell you they can’t give referrals. Quite often they actually will give referrals — once they get to know you. Get acquainted with the people who answer the phone. They get the flood calls. In my experience, they would generally pass along my number and say, “Call Dennis.” Each excellent performance gets you more calls.

Be sure to go to their office and thank them for the job. Maybe give the person who referred you a little something like a spotting kit. Sometimes, even with that small gift, they would respond like I had just given them a car.

Another idea to consider is to call the agent after the initial flood visit to let them know what happened and that you are taking care of everything. Some will appreciate it. Their customer, the one you are working for, is their bread and butter.

Just as when dealing with others, be sure to show up once in a while for a quick hello. But don’t push it unless they want to talk.

Remember, you are representing your referral source. They went out on a limb to recommend you. Homeowners sometimes will hold against the insurance agent problems that the restorer or building contractor created. Obviously, that’s not a good thing.

Don’t ever make the referral source look bad. Do whatever it takes to smooth out potential issues immediately. Sometimes the way you handle a problem makes you look better than if the problem never happened. You want your referral source to look like a genius for referring you. This leads to more work as they gain confidence in your abilities.

Ask for business from your cleaning jobs

When you are done with a cleaning job and the homeowner is handing you the check, ask “Will you tell your friends about us?” If you did the job right, they will usually say yes. Sometimes they feel obliged to speak to one of their friends because they said they would.

Add-on sales

Your customers often schedule less work than they need done. It’s up to you to point out the things that should be done. If this is your second, or higher, visit to a particular customer, it means they trust you. Talk to them. Discuss their needs.

Never sell a customer something they don’t need. Also, don’t push the sales part as much as the fact that you are “helping” them. Remember the old saying, “People love to buy, but they hate to be sold.”

If you do all the work that your customer should do (including the things that they don’t schedule), you can add huge dollars to your income with no advertising money spent.

If add on selling is new to you, you’ll hear a lot of no’s in the beginning. After awhile, as you get better, you’ll hear fewer no’s and more yes’s.

You will always hear no. Three, four, five no’s in a row is not a reason to stop trying. That’s sales! The yes’s will come. Hearing no simply means you are selling!

Keep thinking and reading.

Talk to people in the business (like your suppliers). Go to classes and conventions. Get online. You can learn a lot from other people in your business.

Join a service club

Join organizations like Shriners, Kiwanis, Sunshine Kids, etc. Do it to help, not get business, but know that the networking made available by these service clubs is invaluable. The more people you know and who know you, the more successful you will be. Most of the promotional help you will get in business comes from acquaintances. People you have met somewhere. Meet as many people as possible.

Feel out what is good for you. You’ll come up with things. Keep searching. Not everything has to be your own idea. Sam Walton, the creator of Walmart, said that many of his best ideas came from other people. It sometimes can take as much or more effort to get the work as it does to do it.

There is no single big answer to all your promotional needs, but a little here and there, and before you know it, you’re making money.

Go do it.


Dennis Klager has been in the cleaning and restoration industry since 1984, including as a partner at Clean As A Whistle in Houston. He’s been an instructor for 12 years, teaching hundreds of classes throughout the country. He currently focuses on Aramsco/Interlink workshops. Klager can be reached at dennisklager@gmail.com.