The Trap of Clean Firetrucks

Issue #230 | September 20, 2023 | Ethan Young


Last month, I shared four writers/leaders/speakers and my favorite pieces of wisdom from each. This month, I want to reference a post from one of those four, Seth Godin. 

The blog in question is from 2005, but bear with me. It still holds a great lesson for today, especially regarding the sales climate after COVID. It’s no secret that leads were plentiful and practically fell in our laps for months as homeowners stayed home and invested in upgrades. We could afford to sit back and take calls; a passive approach was effective enough. 

However, according to Seth, we’re focusing too much on ‘clean firetrucks.’ He tells the story of a local volunteer fire station where all the firetrucks are shiny and pristine. The firefighters clean the trucks during downtime because if there isn’t a fire, they should still be productive, right? 

This is just like waiting by the phone instead of seeking out leads. It feels good and can work to a limited degree, but it won’t get you the business you need. When leads are hard to come by, don’t sit by and ‘clean firetrucks’; instead, get out there and actively search for your next customer. 

Seth says, “Most organizations are staffed with people waiting for the alarm to ring. Instead of going out to the community and working to prevent new fires, the mindset is that firemen are working to put out the fires that have started.” 

So, if a passive approach isn’t getting you the leads you need, an active one can help you reach new customers and achieve your sales goals. One of the best avenues to get leads is referrals. When the pandemic started, Todd Miller wrote about this in Issue 156. His advice entails leveraging the great work of your installation team after finishing a project into a testimonial from the satisfied customers. 

Testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing are powerful tools and work wonders in sending interested homeowners your way. Leads may be down right now, but it isn’t a time to ‘clean firetrucks.’ Use the excellent work you’ve already done to discover prospects. Take an active role in finding new leads, especially when leads aren’t coming to you.

has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.

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