Let’s face it. The HVAC industry is male-dominated. While many women may be involved in the ownership and management of HVAC companies, most sales calls are made by men.
This single fact – faced squarely with the following three paragraphs – may have hindered your sales ability beyond your wildest comprehension.
Most men underestimate the buying power of women. Women make or influence 87% of purchases in the United States. And we’re not just talking about small-ticket items. They buy 57% of all cars and 36% of all trucks.
As consultant Kerry Johnson points out, in some states, women are more likely than men to be the head of the household. And even in two-parent households, they’re involved in 95% of the financial decisions that were traditionally thought to be made by the husband alone.
They’ll also answer about 89% of the doors your techs and salespeople knock upon. So the question is:
What Do Women Want?
The question is as old as the ages. But the answer isn’t complicated at all:
- Being understood – Women want to know you understand what the problem is that prompted them to call you to their home.
- A feeling of connection – Are you someone they actually want in their home? Do they feel like you’re on their side and will try to help them?
- Peace of mind – What assurances can you provide that they’re making the right decision about their equipment purchase? How will this help them rest easier?
- Trust – What do you do to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy? Do you listen when they speak? Do you provide solutions that are based on the needs they’ve expressed?
- Long-term relationships – Will you (or your company) be there if they have a problem with their equipment? Will they feel confident calling you again? Do they feel enough confidence in you that they would trust you to help their friends and other family members?
Now, for the other side of the question:
What Turns Women Off?
The biggest trouble with this question is that it isn’t asked often enough. Keep these turn-offs in mind before you make your call:
- Being treated disrespectfully – With women representing a large part of the American workforce and bearing significant (if not all) responsibility for family income, there’s no reason for them to be treated disrespectfully.
- Hard-sell tactics – If you were working from the list of “what women want,” you wouldn’t even try hard-sell tactics. They bypass the relationship aspects of selling to women. And it’s important to remember, even if you do pressure a woman into making a purchase before she’s comfortable, you won’t get another sale from her, and no referrals will follow.
Women are a force to be reckoned with. In fact, many are gladly known for their ability to shop ‘til they drop. They know how to buy, bargain, and negotiate… yet not necessarily with your product. You must explain things thoroughly, but don’t underestimate their ability to beat you on the negotiating front.
Unless you want to get into a match of price comparison, you’d best be able to strongly present your value proposition fairly and effectively.
How to Fix the Problem and the Customer
Technicians know they can “do the repair.” The trouble is, they don’t always understand the need to help female customers feel “comfortable.”
Ruth King in Contractor Cents offers some tips that a technician or installer can follow to make a woman feel more comfortable with him in her home or office.
- Dress neatly. Shirttails should be tucked in, and hands and uniforms should be clean. Beards and mustaches should be neatly trimmed.
- Park courteously. For residential customers, the technician should park his truck where the customer can see the lettering on the truck when she peers through the window or door. For commercial customers, do not park in customer parking spots. On a first visit, once you’ve walked into the building, you can ask the person you’re meeting where you should park your truck.
- When you enter the house, give the woman a business card. Now, she knows the name of the person in her home.
- Restate the problem. Say, “The office said that you were having a problem with _________. Is that correct?” It makes her more comfortable to hear you state why you’re there. She may launch into a five-minute explanation of the problem or she may simply say, “That's right.” In that case, ask questions so that you can gauge what is really happening from her perspective: When did this problem start? Has it gotten worse? When do you notice it happening?
- Make eye contact. When she asks you the questions, look her in the eye when you answer them. You don’t have to stare. Just make sure that you communicate through your eyes that you are listening and understanding what she is saying.
- Solve the problem. Show the woman the service ticket and explain what’s on it. Ask how she prefers to pay (cash, check, or credit card), or ask for payment using the information that the dispatch told you. For instance, you can say, “The office said that you would be paying by (cash, check, or credit card).”
- Get down the road. When you leave the home, put your tools away and get into the truck. Don’t sit in front of the house waiting for your next call. Pull out of the driveway (or away from the house on the street). Park where she cannot see you and call in for your next service call. If you stay in the driveway for any length of time, she gets uncomfortable thinking that you haven’t fixed everything or there is a problem. (Or that you’re weird. None of these are good!)
In the next issue, we’ll talk about how to better understand different communication styles.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter and a free 16-page report called “Get More Leads in Less Time” by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115 or emailing to [email protected] You can also call Hudson, Ink at 1-800-489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.