Lessons From One of Our Industry's Sales Stars

This week I spent time with one of our industry’s greatest salespeople. When he signed up for one of NCI’s PerforMaxx University training classes, we didn’t know he was a sales star. I don’t think this fellow has ever won an award, entered a sales competition, or been publicly recognized for his sales excellence. In fact, he’s so low-key about his abilities, it made me wonder how many other unsung sales heroes are quietly plying their trades in our industry, and what we can learn from them.

The best part is that despite his success, he’s still humble, teachable, and eager to serve his customers. As we trained throughout the week, it wasn’t long before the entire class would turn and look at him when it came time to discuss a sales idea or solution. His answers were simple and uncomplicated, but each came from years and years of creating an extraordinary HVAC sales career.

Each of his ideas excluded hype and excessive polish. But they contained simple and practical ideas that each of us can apply to air conditioning and heating sales. Here’s a summary of what we learned from him as he participated in the seminar.

1) Pre-qualify your customers.
He taught us that he doesn’t run out and chase down every low-bid customer that can fog a mirror. Each of us has the right to qualify those we chose to meet with to determine whether or not our time will be well spent. These questions can be bold and direct. Basically, if customers are scanning through the Yellow Pages and refuse a discussion about airflow testing, it may be best to leave them for the vultures.

2) Be on time.
Arrive in the area early and will wait around the corner until you can be on the doorstep at the exact moment you promised to be there. He apologizes for being even one minute late. This one effort sets him apart from 90% of the industry and customers appreciate and do business with salespeople who value their time.

3) Take your shoes off.
Everyone wears booties. It’s cleaner and less high-tech to wear slip-on shoes and take them off at the front door, especially if you’re a sales guy who doesn’t have holes in your socks. Socks are where it’s at. It immediately sets a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in a home.

4) Test.
At the beginning of the sales call, he asks one or two comfort questions. The moment a comfort problem is identified, he asks permission to go out to his truck and bring in what he calls his “oversized pizza delivery box” (an air balancing hood). Then he enlists his customers to test airflow, static pressure, and temperature.
Testing focuses the discussion on the customer, toward their home and their comfort and the system he’s about to create for them. All testing is documented on a customer- friendly system performance report.

Over the last three years, this sales champion has sold duct renovations to almost every system that needed it. HVAC system diagnostic testing allows a salesperson to add duct repairs to nearly every changeout. The price of the jobs increase, gross margins go up handsomely, system performance is documented, and real efficiency can be guaranteed.

5) Teach.
We learned from this master that teaching in the spirit of humility is the key to his unusually high closing rates. Don’t waste time by playing with your computer, pounding out load calculations, or extolling the virtues of your favorite equipment manufacturer. You can take care of those details back at the office.

Discuss with customers the system you will build for them. This salesman’s systems bear the name of his company. He and his staff are the designers, fabricators, creators and verifiers of their systems. The system is not named after the manufacturer of one of its components. “Who ever sold the industry on the idea of naming our systems after the manufacturer?” he chuckles.

Teach homeowners how badly their system is currently functioning, and then show them how you can make the entire system operate at maximum capacity.


Finally portray how well the system will operate after you’ve replaced the equipment; renovated the system; tested, balanced and adjusted it; and verified the final level of performance of the system. System performance is what customers buy from this contractor, not just boxes. Sell your systems, not somebody else’s equipment. In this arena, there is little or no competition.

6) Take it personally.
Everyone tells us this is business, so don’t take it personally when you lose a sale. This fellow takes everything personally when it comes to sales.

On the rare occasion that he loses a sale, he takes it personally and searches until he understands why he lost the sale, and then vows to never make that mistake again. It takes a ton of confidence to believe it was your fault that you lost a sale. How else do you maintain a 95% plus closing rate for the last three years?

7) Live your goals.
Begin by determining your annual sales goals and establishing sales dollars and margins month by month. Then stand accountable to them every working day of the year. For example, this champ had set a modest sales goal of $72,000 for January. It’s the slowest month of the year and he knew he’d be gone one week of the month for training. On the last day of the month he quietly, but confidently declared. “I exceeded my sale goal for this month by $42,320.”

He also knew just how many dollars in sales he had booked for the February. His recordkeeping is extremely low tech, as well. He writes each sale on his calendar and keeps a running tab.

8) Have confidence.

He started by sheepishly admitting everything he does to ensure his success is pretty trivial. He doesn’t wear a suit or tie, nor will he expose a customer to a cold computer. He’s never the lowest price, rarely depends on manufacturer literature, and nearly always uses a two-visit sales process. He violates many of “the rules” most sales trainers promote today.

But he has confidence. He knows he’s always his customer’s best choice, and that he really does deliver the best product in his market. He knows he’s good, but he’s not cocky or demanding. He’s there to serve and is grateful that his customers almost always chose him over his competitors. On the other hand, he believes there are few, if any contractors out there who can deliver systems as good as his. He personally “owns” every system he addresses the moment he arrives at the job.

As you can see, I really admire this guy. And as it turns out, I’ve known him since the day he was born. He’s my younger brother, Brad Falke of Saunders Air Conditioning and Heating in Turlock, CA. This week he attended a training event I taught. It’s a little hard to admit, but this week, it took me seeing him through the eyes of the others in the seminar to see who he really was. As you can tell, I am thoroughly impressed with who he has become and must admit, I’m proud to share his family history — and his sales secrets.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a no cost Air Diagnostic Sales Procedure, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800/633-7058. NCI’s website is found at www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com.

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