Seeing Is Believing

Aug. 1, 2009
It's hard to believe, that after all these years and scores of filled seminar rooms, some/most sales people are still winging it. Now, more than ever,

It's hard to believe, that after all these years and scores of filled seminar rooms, some/most sales people are still “winging it.” Now, more than ever, prospective customers must be shown a better way when deciding to change their maintenance procedures.

We must captivate their interest early on in the selling process to even have a selling process. A salesperson making calls with nothing more than a brochure (advertisement) and business card is handicapped from the beginning.

I build a “sales kit” mostly contained in a three-inch binder. It accompanies me on every call. Here is a sampling of how I construct mine.

Third Party Resources

It's always effective to show what other industry experts proclaim. I use an excerpt from the ASHRAE Systems Handbook entitled, Life Cycle Costing. This segment clearly states the expected useful life of mechanical equipment. How many times have you heard, “my system is eight years old — it's almost new”? ASHRAE shows that unitary equipment has a useful life of 15 median years — eight years old isn't exactly new, now is it?

A major HVAC manufacturer publishes a chart showing the comparison between dirty condenser coils and those that are cleaned regularly. Broken down by tonnage, KWH usage for dirty and clean coils, and the annual savings per unit, this builds a strong case for justifying better maintenance through energy savings.

Even the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a report showing energy waste due to a lack of proper, recurring maintenance. Everything from dirty coils, filters, control calibration, burner adjustment, and balancing is covered. It's old, but still applicable.


A picture is still worth a thousand words. At the beginning of the selling cycle I use my generic pictures of faulty equipment captured on previous surveys. Showing the results of plugged condensate drains, filthy coils, and jumped out wiring brings interest to the sales call. One in particular has been extremely effective. I show a picture of a contactor with badly pitted and worn points, explaining how this $75 item, if gone unnoticed, can result in a $5,000 compressor failure.

After I complete a survey of the prospect's systems (and take photos of what I see), the picture gallery moves to their own horror stories.

Testimonial Letters

This is still a proven selling tool. Most satisfied customers won't take the time to write a letter unless provoked. I routinely call these customers and ask for a letter. The testimonial letter section of your sales kit should continually grow until you have enough to categorize. I put letters in sections: educational, building type, energy savings, etc. When a potential customer asks to talk to a few of your existing customers, simply pull out the letter file. Otherwise it becomes a stall that prolongs the selling cycle and ultimately loses the sale.

Charts and Graphs

Similar to the pictures, charts and graphs are readily understood with the least amount of words. The age-old pie chart shows that the true cost of ownership is far greater than simple, routine inspections and filter changes. When calculating lost energy, lost production, in-house staffing, major equipment failures, and administrative costs, the discussion of a more comprehensive program gains momentum.

Preventive Maintenance Check List

I provide the prospect with a lengthy task list for each component in their system. This not only opens up the magnitude of comprehensive maintenance, but allows you to move the prospect in the direction you want them to go. I simply ask if they know how many of these tasks are presently being done and at what intervals. The response is usually, “I don't know”, or “I assume that most are.” This allows the lead in, “With this huge investment responsibility, wouldn't it be important to know for sure?” Next step is agreement to the survey.

I carry much more than the aforementioned. Much like a technician with a truck full of tools that don't get used on every job site visit, I'm prepared for all eventualities.

An old sales rule tells us that customers retain 15% of what they hear; 20% of what they see; and 55% of what the see and hear. Show and Tell is simply “Sales 101.”

Earl King is vice president of Houston-based Way Service Ltd., a 91-year-old Design/Build mechanical contracting firm located in four cities and serving the entire state of Texas. Learn more by visiting King is also the founder of King Productions International. Questions or comments can be directed to: [email protected] or call 515/321-2426.

About the Author

Earl King | Consultant

Earl King is the founder of King Productions International, a commercial HVAC contracting sales consulting firm based in Texas. He speaks to associations and HVAC trade groups, and consults with commercial contractors across the country. E-mail Earl at: [email protected] or call him at 515/321-2426.