Transforming your trades business


Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 45 we spoke to the inspiring Adrian Fadini, the Founder and Head Coach at TradesFormation, the training and coaching organisation helping tradies to learn today and earn tomorrow.

Adrian is passionate about helping tradies build business strategies and processes to grow and become more profitable. With his extensive experience in the trades industry, combined with the skills in training and coaching that he has honed over many years, Adrian has developed a comprehensive sales and business education program that can transform your small to medium maintenance trades business.

In this chat we spoke about the need to change your perceptions about sales, the seven steps to a profitable sale and how to work out your break-even. 

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Adrian Fadini on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Adrian Fadini, the founder and head coach at TradesFormation

Most tradespeople I have encountered have experienced more or less the same scenarios growing up. They weren’t amazing in school and by the end of it, people are telling them they might as well become a tradie. This happened to me too. Straight away we feel like we’ve already failed before we’ve even started.  

To some degree, we’ve been conditioned that we’re not good at schoolwork or computers and it sets us up to avoid professional environments and say, “I’m just a tradie”. I hate that phrase. It minimises us and the work we do. The fact is, many tradespeople are capable of many things, but fear that if they go into sales or managerial roles, they’re going to fail. That all comes down to self-worth and that’s what we try to change with TradesFormation.  

Becoming a professional tradesperson means managing not only the work but also the sales aspects too. Sales is not just for salespeople and is all about the gift of the gab. I’m here to show you how tradespeople can conquer the sales side of their business and the steps it takes to secure profitable sales in the trades industry.  

Changing perceptions of sales
One thing I hammer hard into my clients’ minds is everything in business should be honest, ethical, and moral. That’s hard because when people think of sales, they think it’s dirty business. However, sales can be done in a professional, ethical manner. 

I previously collaborated on a study on salespeople where we took the stigma on sales and listed all the negative traits society has of a salesperson; that they’re dodgy, slimy, and scamming, and unpacked why that was. A survey by RAIN Group found around 83% of sales organisations don’t have effective sales training for driving growth. As such, when they go into survival mode to get a quote or close a deal, they resort to those tactics that make them look dodgy and slimy. 

Then we looked at tradespeople and their traits, which were honesty, punctuality and problem solving. We found they’re already displaying the good behaviours, so what would happen if we applied them to the sales aspect of their careers? You’re two hours into your sales career while having 10 years in your plumbing career. So, let’s get you to at least 12 months of training and see how you sell. You’ll sell honestly and ethically while being a problem solver and supporting customers. Sales becomes easy because you have the training required and don’t have to resort to dodgy tactics.  

The majority of my time spent training professional tradespeople is not learning to actually sell, but learning to offer permanent solutions and be someone the customer can trust. 

The seven steps to a profitable sale
I’ll give a brief rundown of our seven steps to a profitable sale. The first step is to make the right first impression. If you show up to a job late, looking unkempt and leaving a mess, they’re going to say your price is too high. So, the first priority is how you present yourself. It’s part of the art of ‘pre-suasion’ – when you make sure your customer service is great even before you do the job. 

The second step is to gather information. The longer you spend on this step, the easier the other steps will be. Spend time building rapport, finding out your customers’ buying needs and wants, and listening to them. When you connect heart to heart rather than head to wallet, closing the sale becomes effortless. 

The third is to provide options. How can you find other issues the customer wants done associated with that initial problem? Offering multiple options increases your average ticket sale. I like to say that tradies should keep in mind “good, better, best”, but also, “repair, replace, upgrade”.  

The fourth step is presenting these options to customers and step five is understanding their objections. You’re not trying to overcome or handle the objections because anything you resist will persist. You are instead trying to understand what your customer is objecting to and how you can diffuse the situation, rather than manipulate it.  

After the sixth step of closing the sale comes the final step of getting reviews. The main reason tradies tend to not get reviews is that they don’t know how to go about it. When you’re answering the call about doing a job, part of your spiel should include how you want to give them a five-star experience and how at the end of the job, you’ll ask for a review. Then, once you start looking at the job onsite and explaining what you’ll be doing, once again, include how you will ask for a review at the end.  

When asking for a review, personalise it. Don’t ask for reviews of the company, ask for reviews of yourself. Do this 20 minutes before the job is done, rather than at the very end. This is because when a job is done and the customer knows it, they’re already thinking about their next task for the day. They’ll agree to give a review but will more than likely forget to do it. 

Twenty minutes before the task is done, ask your customer if they liked anything specific about today and if they could leave a five-star review on that. When you become specific about what they should say and how many stars to give, it becomes easy for them incentivising them to do it. 

Work out your break-even
There is a small percentage of tradespeople who have actually sat down and calculated what their labour rate should be. The biggest problem with Australian trades today is undervaluing the work. They would rather just ask around, “What are you charging, mate?” and pluck a number out of the sky. I did the same when I started my own business. I based my worth on emotion rather than science, which is what many of us do. 

Customers will sometimes ask us to drop the price and because we don’t know our break-even, we’ll drop it, and drop it by unnecessary numbers. Why? Because in our past, we were probably taught that money doesn’t grow on trees and that expensive things are bad. So now as an adult, when we charge a high price and someone reacts negatively, that messaging when we were younger kicks in and we give in to them.   

Tradies who use our labour rate calculator may see their prices go up dramatically but participating in things like Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET) can help them be confident in those prices. NET is a scientifically backed treatment helping overcome past traumas and is based on the premise that certain emotions are connected to certain organs.  

For example, for some of my clients who are fearful of charging their new rates, we remove those self-limiting doubts by targeting the muscles associated with them. We get them to say phrases like “I’m okay charging this much an hour for my trade” while carrying out arm exercises. This clears out that past trauma and helps us to respond as we are now. As a result, we feel fewer nerves and more confidence. It’s a game changer for people wanting to take control of sales and business. The logical brain can do anything it wants, but it will be stressed out. This gets rid of the stress and self-doubt and makes us more confident in asking for higher prices.

Stay on top of your prices and stick to them. Imagine you were playing a footy game with no scoreboard or no time limit – it would be pointless. However, that’s what many business owners do; work, work, work. We forget the kick-off for the game of business is 1 July and the final whistle is 30 June. We have to play those quarters with the cost of running the business in mind. We play as hard as we can for three months, take maybe one week to back off a bit and reflect on results, and then get back into it based on those results.  

Plus, if you know your costs and hourly rates, it becomes easier to quote jobs quickly and efficiently which is highly recommended in the trades industry. Leaving the job to quote means losing that face-to-face emotional and human touch. There’s a high chance your customer will say no without it, especially if it comes days later when they don’t feel that connected to the issue anymore.

As tradies, we often lack confidence in the sales side of the business. What many don’t realise is sales is less about doing the selling and more about knowing your rates and conducting business in an honest, ethical, and moral manner. With these strategies in mind, it will become easier to sell and those limiting self-doubts will be a thing of the past.