residential boiler room iStock/Thinkstock
Heating system in the house basement, a plumber is installing and checking the boiler.

How to Increase Sales of Replacement Residential Heating Systems

Deliver an exceptional experience.

By Drew Cameron

In my travels I often hear many tales of woe when it comes to sales and profits companies have been generating, or more realistically — have not been generating.

The owners and sales managers are quick to blame the salespeople.

The salespeople I talk to are quick to blame the weather, the economy, government, low-priced competitors, or any other convenient scapegoat that shirks them from taking ultimate and complete responsibility for their mess or success.

If you are looking outside yourself and your company for reasons and answers, that thought is the problem. Your focus is looking in the wrong direction. Look inward.

You can point the finger of fault, but there are three fingers pointing directly back at you indicating to explain, complain and blame is lame and leaves you full of shame.  The ability and responsibility to change mediocre results for excellence and success lies squarely on the shoulders of all parties (excluding the customer).  The answer for your turnaround is looking back at you in the mirror and rests solely within each of you. 

There isn’t anyone coming to your rescue. I can promise you that the little pity party you throw for yourself will be sparsely attended, except for those other weak-minded individuals foolish enough to believe that external factors determine success or failure who also choose not to take responsibility. Let’s face it, if you can cast blame elsewhere then you have your excuse for failing and do not have to do anything since you are powerless to make a difference.

Sure, external factors may have some influence on your level of success, but they are not directly responsible for it. The quicker you realize this fact of life, the quicker you can take control, change course and drive your performance considering those external factors as influences, and adjust accordingly.

As Zig Ziglar, world-renowned motivational speaker, said, “You need a check-up from the neck up”, or as I like to say it's time to “take out the head trash.”

I perform training seminars, conduct many ride-along coaching sessions across the entire country, and complete hundreds of video and phone coaching conference calls each year, and one of the most frequently asked questions from owners, managers, salespeople and technicians is, “How can we convince customers to upgrade or replace their heating equipment now?”

“When you try to convince someone of something you are exerting a certain amount of force to prove your point no matter how gentle your demeanor may be.”

The answer is quite simple: stop trying to convince people to replace or upgrade their equipment, and instead simply create an exceptional experience by providing good information, while guiding the buyer to make the best choices for their family, their comfort, their home and their bank account for the next 20 years of their lives (or however long they remain in the home).

We all learned Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law, The Law of Motion, at some point in our lives either through education or everyday living, even if you were unaware as to whom to credit with the discovery. To paraphrase The Law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This law can be applied to sales. When you try to convince someone of something, you are exerting a certain amount of force to prove your point no matter how gentle your demeanor may be. The force you exert will be met with resistance and/or apprehension from your customer and yield low or no sales.

To reverse this disastrous effect, stop telling your customers they should replace their equipment and start asking them a series of questions that lead them to determine for themselves that it might make sense to consider replacing their equipment now and use your services to do so.

Most salespeople feel compelled to tell potential customers everything they know about their products and services and why they should buy from their company. Customers tend to have their guard up when dealing with anyone trying to sell them anything and doubt a fair percentage of what salespeople say. 

The larger the expense, the more guarded the customer and more skeptical of the information provided. This is the reason most homeowners say they’re getting multiple bids.

"You cannot teach people anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves." ~ Galileo Galilei

You can't teach homeowners anything, but you can help to point them in directions where they might learn, consider, and make choices.

Differentiate

To differentiate yourself, begin with trying to learn and understand who the customer is and what’s important to them. Seek first to listen and hear before seeking to be heard. Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.  

Change your mission on a sales call to seek the truth rather to close the sale. When you seek the truth about what the customer really wants — desired outcome, experience, lifestyle, change in comfort, health, energy management, safety, and peace of mind; what’s important to them in a solution and installation and service company; what they’d feel comfortable investing to address their concerns; how they plan to pay for it; when they want the work done and when they hope to make a decision — you will find that the customer is more open and honest with you.

“When you seek the truth about what the customer really wants, you’ll find that them more open and honest with you.” ~ Drew Cameron

Inquire about what the customer likes and dislikes about their current system; if they could improve something what would it be; are they happy with the comfort level; is the system noisy; are they satisfied with the energy bills; and many other questions that will help you better understand how your customer interfaces with their system and how they like to live in their home. The answers you gain are exactly what the customer wants and is willing to pay for if it all makes sense.

After you have the answers, tell the customer that you don’t yet know if it would make sense or not to consider replacing their system, but that they may want to at least get some information so that they can make an informed and intelligent choice for them, their family, their home and their bank account as to whether to maintain, repair or replace their existing system. You want them to rest assured that no matter what choice they make that they do so knowing all the facts. Assure them you are okay if they decide to do nothing at this time (if the equipment is still operational and safe) in order to prove your internet.

Let the customer know that you are not there to sell them anything they don’t want, don’t need, can’t afford or doesn’t make sense to them. Once the customer is assured you are there simply to inform, help, serve, and offer solutions with their best interest in mind, gain their permission to share information with them as it relates to their concerns.

If that means doing nothing at all or doing business with someone else, assure the customer that you are okay with either scenario as long as they are willing to live with the long-term impact of their choice (and hopefully not later regret it). This level of honesty, trust and respect are paramount and more important than any level of rapport, technical expertise, or sales skills.

Let the customer know you’ll be happy if they are happy with their choices. Explain that you don’t want to earn their business today only to lose them as a customer tomorrow when what they buy doesn’t meet expectations.

The reasons why a customer may choose to replace their equipment are as many and varied as the snowflakes you may see this winter. The critical point is to strike an emotional chord with the reasons they may want to consider buying before trying to justify the purchase. 

Balance Emotion and Logic

A buying process that focuses on emotion only or mostly will get a customer enthusiastic and probably yield a sale that cancels the next day when the customer has a chance to think about it and realizes there are no logical reasons to justify their investment. A buying process that focuses exclusively or mostly on logic and lacks an emotional hook for the customer rarely yields a sale (more often it yields an educated consumer that purchases from your competition using your knowledge to get what they perceive to be a comparable solution for less money — a solution that was not even offered by anyone other than you).

The key to achieving a balance of emotion and logic during the buying process starts by discovering an emotional hook, then provides an adequate amount of logic, so that the customer has enough information to justify their investment.

Your questions yield the emotional hooks and allow your customers to tell you what they want and why they want it. It’s much easier and enjoyable to allow someone to choose to buy something for their reasons, than to sell them on your reasons as to why they should buy.  Customers love to buy and own things, but they hate to be sold. 

Your job is to share appropriate information with the customer as to why it may make sense to consider a system replacement, and allow them to discover for themselves the reasons to make specific choices.

“It’s much easier and enjoyable for all parties to allow someone to choose to buy something for their reasons rather than sell them on your reasons as to why they should buy.”

Rarely does the appropriate information need to include equipment brochures and technical details. Instead, include information that addresses the concerns the customer shares freely and divulges in response to your questions. The answers need not be technical, rather they should convey your solution will put their concerns to rest once and for all and deliver the desired experience.

Establish, Maintain Your Positive of Trust

Consumers buy from people they trust and respect, not necessarily like. If you educate people on the buying process they should go through and the process all good contractors should execute, you can easily differentiate yourself as a credible advisor. Simply let the customer know that you don’t care what they do as long as they do it knowingly. This proves your intent to serve, and not sell, and establishes your position of trust. 

These two criteria are critical in establishing a relationship with the customer. Customers more often buy from the person with whom they have a relationship.

To this end, share good information in a helpful manner and guide them on how to make an informed decision considering all the required variables. Help the customer feel you understand them and are capable of addressing their wants, wishes, problems, and desires with their best interest in mind. 

Company licenses, certifications, certificates of insurance, pictures of your company and co-workers, before and after pictures of past jobs, testimonial letters, reviews and surveys from other customers, references for customers to speak with, stories of how others have handled similar situations, written warranties and guarantees, an upfront straightforward investment guide with printed prices showing solution options varied by features, benefits and pricing are just a few of the things you can share with a customer.

After you’ve taken the time to actually get to know the customer and what’s important to them, and they determine they want what you have to offer, they’ll want to ensure it makes sense to them financially. To help the customer with this justification, share pricing information in a user-friendly manner. 

Most consumers make large purchases with monthly payments, deferred payments and/or in-store financing (e.g. cars, appliances, furniture, electronics, etc.) because either they don’t have the money or it simply makes sense. 

When quoting the investment for a new heating system, illustrate the monthly investment with a unsecured low fixed-rate fixed-term investment plan for up to 10 years; the monthly investment with an unsecured revolving payment plan (no-interest plans are available); the monthly investment with a secured low-interest tax deductible refinance or home improvement loan from 10 to 30 years (secure loans take longer to process); the payment and benefits of using a credit card; and the total investment at the bottom of the page if they choose to pay by check.

Tell a customer that you don’t need their money to finance the purchase. Share how most of your customers use other people’s money to leverage the fact that the energy and repair cost savings alone can pay for or greatly offset their investment (it always covers any interest making it an interest-free loan), but that it’s their choice based on what makes sense and feels right.

Sharing a variety of investment options with all customers, allows more customers to get their brains around a large investment even if they choose to write a check upon completion.

As needed, use cost of operation tools to show homeowners how much they are currently overpaying to heat their home. Don’t talk in terms of savings first as there are no savings until the customer replaces their equipment, plus people don’t typically save money, they spend it.  Instead, talk in terms of needlessly overpaying on energy when they can heat their house for less and turn the current overpayment into a tax-free savings that can work for them and pay for a new system.

Be sure to also show them a comparison between operating costs of a new system vs. their current system over the anticipated life for the system or expected continued life of the existing system. Include current and potential repair costs as well as maintenance costs that must be paid for out of pocket if the customer keeps their old inefficient existing system versus the operating cost for new high-efficiency equipment that includes several years of parts and labor warranties and maintenance; enhances comfort; improves healthy air; safe operation; a money back guarantee to remove and reverse the risk along with other guarantees to protect their investment and offer other peace of mind.

Use the current monthly energy overpayment (i.e. energy savings) and subtract it from the quoted monthly investment to show a customer the net out-of-pocket investment to own their new system. Show the customer 15-20 years of projected savings with an annual adjustment for inflation (conservatively at least 3 percent to 5 percent annually) to show a customer the economic impact a system upgrade can yield.

Choices Instead of Decisions

A customer who emotionally wants to improve the comfort of their home and solve other problems will see that it makes sense economically to do so now versus waiting, repairing their existing system and paying more for a new system later along with the higher energy and repair costs in the interim. Instead of being manipulative and trying to force a sale, you allow the customer to discover for themselves and make an informed choice.   

The resistance you may experience on service and sales calls goes away when you communicate effectively with your customers and let them make choices instead of making decisions. Choices usually result in one of several options, whereas decisions usually yield a buy or don’t buy outcome and paints the customer in a corner with an all or nothing proposition. Most people fearing risk or loss will decide not to purchase.

“You don’t have to and should not try to sell or convince customers to buy a new system.”

You don’t have to, and should not try to, sell or convince customers to buy a new system. When you lead from a perspective of serving, not selling, doing what’s in the customer’s best interest and sharing the appropriate information in a user-friendly manner, customers will choose to do business with you versus deciding not to. Be a servant leader, not a salesperson.

Drew Cameron is one of the EGIA Contractor University faculty members. EGIA Contractor University has assembled the most experienced and dynamic faculty ever put together. Faculty members have personally built some of the most successful contracting companies in America. Learn more about EGIA Contractor University and EGIA membership, offering contractors all the tools they need to run and grow a successful contracting business, while freeing up time and money.

Drew Cameron, America’s Most Sought After Sales & Marketing Strategy and Success Adviser to Home Services Contractors, is president of HVAC Sellutions & Energy Design Systems, Inc.; the premier alliance providing industry-leading marketing planning, budgeting, content and support; sales recruiting, education, coaching, consulting and performance enhancement for Home Services Contractors; and design and economic analysis sales software for HVAC and Home Performance companies. Cameron’s 40 years of experience in all facets of running a residential contracting business helps contractors implement effective lead development strategies and build multi-million-dollar profit-generating home services companies. He is a renowned author, educator, coach, consultant, inspirational/educational/”irritational” speaker, software developer, industry philanthropist, a Board member, a Foundation Board Trustee, and a Contractor University Founder & Faculty member for Electric & Gas industries Association (EGIA); a Service Roundtable Consult & Coach Partner & Preferred Vendor; and an Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) member, as well as and a Tom McCart International Consultant Award Winner. Contact him at 888-621-7888 or [email protected] or visit www.hvacsellutions.com.

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