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Be as Sexy and Savvy as Tesla to Grow and to Change Your Cash Flow Model

Billy Marshall
April 27, 2016

How great would it be if you could have customers pay you now for services you plan to deliver in the future because you gave them an online presentation promising great outcomes? Show them photos and specs for the equipment you will be maintaining and indicate how your services will keep assets in top working order, and then ask them to fork over the dough. Share data and references to support claims of longer equipment life, lower utility costs, and limited downtime or outages, then cash their check. Then go spend that money to make certain you live up to their expectations.

Tesla Model 3

Elon Musk at Tesla just had a group of prospective customers do exactly that. He raised nearly $400 million in an interest-free loan from about 400,000 customers placing a downpayment on a car they hope to receive in the next 18 – 36 months. He showed them some digital pics of how he is going to make it happen, and he laid out the specifications with credible evidence encouraging them to believe in this amazing future.

Do you suppose he could have pulled off this feat by giving them a handwritten invoice on yellow triplicate paper with some cryptic accounting codes on it displaying how he planned to fix something that was broken? And then asking them to write a check and mail it back? Doubtful. Tesla has built a direct connection to a base of buyers by presenting them with a rich online record of what they can expect from the new Tesla Model 3. These buyers then plunked down $1,000 to get in line for the privilege to spend another $34,000 to $60,000 in the future to take delivery of their Model 3. Neat trick, huh? When you are going to start adopting these practices in your service business?

I know several ServiceTrade customers that already sell to their customers in a similar manner. They begin the engagement with the customer by doing a detailed inventory of all of the equipment they will maintain (or inspect in the case of compliance-oriented businesses). This information is documented and organized in ServiceTrade. These customers likewise document the recommended maintenance intervals and parts along with any repairs necessary to bring the equipment into a maintainable state or configuration. They demonstrate their processes and their tech savviness by giving the customer an interactive presentation using the ServiceTrade interface of what the customer will experience throughout the service cycle. They then ask the customer to pay them upfront to enter into the maintenance program. And then the customer pays.

My point with this post is that you can ask the customer to trust you and demand a payment IF you can demonstrate to them that you are modern, technically savvy, and organized about your business WAY beyond the capability of your competition. Customers want to buy from the sexiest and savviest suppliers because they want to be part of the thoughtful crowd. And they hate the hassle and aggravation of dealing with the morons that still run their business like it is 1955. The customers that buy into this technology-enabled, data-driven, outcome-based service program are the high-value customers that will pay you a premium. They are the ones that are going to grow and help you grow your business. By contrast, any customer that does not have email or request electronic records is probably a customer you should be looking to replace anyway. I bet they are the ones that drag their feet on payment. Am I right?

If you do not already have a packaged maintenance or compliance program for your customers to purchase with upfront payments, why not? If you are tired of managing ballooning AR balances and acting as the bank for many customers, maybe it is time to turn the tables. Go after the sexy customers with the sexy services and ask for payment up front to guarantee outcomes in the future. Elon Musk is no idiot. Take his proven performance and make it work for your business. Become the tech-savvy competitor that all the other players envy and all the best customers want to embrace.


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