It is not uncommon for consumers who are having problems with their comfort systems and utility bills to call me for advice. When they do, I refer them to one of the many HVAC contractors I know and have trained. Oftentimes those consumers call me back either to gripe about how poorly the contractor handled selling their job, or to rave about what a great job they did. Let's take a look at what has caused some salespeople to hit home runs while others are striking out.
Show Up on Time
A qualified customer’s time is valuable. When you show up late or even too early, you are basically showing disregard for that customer. Strike one. As we all know, three strikes and you're out.
Recently, Daryl Works of Florida hit a home run. Here’s the back-story: A country club owner read an article I wrote that described a kitchen exhaust issue that was similar to one they were living with, so they called me. The country club was in Florida so I called Daryl to see if he could help. He happened to be just around the corner. So Daryl called the customer and was standing in their kitchen within 15 minutes.
He tested in, diagnosed the problem, prescribed the solution, and the customer bought in. The job was completed on time the next week and the relationship continues to flourish as Daryl moves throughout the building solving one comfort and efficiency problem after another throughout their facility. Now that's how it’s supposed to work. He showed up on time and has been repeatedly rewarded for performing as he should.
Should a real emergency cause you to be more than five minutes late, a quick call on your cell phone will put your customer at ease and show that you respect them and their time. But understand, even five minutes late with a phone call can still be strike one with many customers.
Deliver Your Solution on Time
As you continue to move into and through the job, timeliness will continue to remain important to building a relationship with your customer.
Good business also requires a time commitment from you concerning how long you will be at the home or their company. If you tell the customer you'll need an hour and a half to assess their needs and determine a scope of work, you need to be done in an hour and a half.
If you showed up late and took longer than you said to assess the job, you could be at strike two before you ever get around to writing a proposal. Your odds aren't looking so good with this customer. What's more important is that a little planning and execution on your part could have easily avoided both of these strikes.
If your practice is to return for a second visit to present your solutions and pricing, set a firm appointment to return and show up on time and stay only as long as you arranged for. If your presentation is running longer than you scheduled, ask permission to use more of their time.
Should you be late or postpone the appointment, you may be walking in with three strikes and you won't even know it.
If you have any experience at all, you'll remember those calls where you couldn't connect with the customer no matter what you did. All you're doing is delivering a price that confirms the customer's decision to buy their system upgrade from one of your competitors. You started at home plate with three strikes and were already out. Yeah, I've been there.
There are times when a sale cannot be closed on the first visit and a follow-up appointment is needed.
I referred a job to a contractor for a close friend of mine. The contractor didn't call me back, my friend did - twice. The contractor did a great job with the initial visit. He tested and diagnosed the system and proposed a complete solution including air balancing the new system. My friend called me delighted and motivated, to buy. But the contractor's work load was heavy, and he failed to finalize the sale.
Five weeks later, my friend called me back -- a little embarrassed. He asked me if I had someone else who could balance his new system. There had been no follow-up by the contractor I had referred, so my friend called someone else and gave the job to another company.
The call I had to make to the initial contractor that I had referred was very difficult for both of us.
When to Follow-Up
Follow up should be soon and often. Should this not result in a sale, your best course of action is to ask when and how your customer would like your next follow-up call or meeting.
Usually there is a reason the customer decided not to buy when you first met. Identify that reason and then plan the next follow-up around it.
If your customer is going on vacation, schedule a follow-up call the day they return and be prompt. Should the sale be dependent on another event, identify the event and make the sales agreement contingent upon that event occurring and make the sale anyway. From that point on you can focus your follow-up on the contingency event, because the sale is already made.
If the delay is due to your installation schedule, or equipment delivery, make the sale anyway and keep in regular contact with your customer every few days to report on progress.
All too often the real problem is that you run from customer to customer throwing out proposals to see what sticks. Then you fail to provide immediate and timely follow-up. It may be really hot or really cold outside and your crews are running themselves ragged, but that is your problem, not the customer's problem.
Unfortunately, many of contractors spring into follow-up mode the moment they discover an installation crew has no jobs scheduled the next day! Is that when you begin to follow up? If it is, that is a major problem.
What if the thermostats your company installed called for heating or cooling and the burners ignited an hour late or the compressor sometimes decided it had to reschedule cooling?
Years ago, I was honored to wind a 700-year-old clock in an ancient cathedral in England. When that clock was built, being somewhere on time was a new concept to people. Unless you are aware and respect today's culture of time, your chances of success are quite low and you may find yourself living as they did - in the dark ages.
From a modern perspective, we accomplish a thousand times more in our lifespan than people in that day. Much of what others allow us to accomplish depends on how well we respect their time.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute -- an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. You can contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.