Don't Buy Into Customers' Sob Stories

June 1, 2009
Has this ever happened to you? You show up on a sales or service call, and the customer confronts you at the front door with, We don't want to spend a

Has this ever happened to you? You show up on a sales or service call, and the customer confronts you at the front door with, “We don't want to spend a lot of money here!”

I know that throws off a lot of service and sales professionals. Why are people in our profession put off by people wanting to spend the least amount of money? Who doesn't want to spend the least amount of money possible? Even when you buy something high-end, don't you want it for the lowest amount of money possible?

Many salespeople will respond with something along the lines of, “Do you want it done right, or do you want it done cheap? You can't have them both.”

That makes a good point, but it probably doesn't make a sale. Here's what to do: Let customers know you're totally on their wavelength as soon as possible. When they confront you at the door like that, respond with, “Okay, so you want it done right, but you want to spend the least amount of money possible, correct?”

They'll usually start nodding their head and saying, “Yeah, that's right.”

Then say, “Okay. I'll keep that in mind. Let's take a look.” Then go about your call.

People ARE Spending Money

A friend of mine, who is a maintenance service technician, is currently averaging more than $1,400 per call over his last 60 service calls. He has a total of one “zero” ticket. That's on service and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sales alone. He has also sold more than $20,000 worth of equipment.

Another friend of mine, who happens to be an HVAC salesman, has closed 15 out of 16 “free estimate” calls, and recently had a $100,000+ week.

Here's how they do it: They don't run their calls with a “salesman” attitude. They don't pay much mind to the customer's attitude toward money, or whether or not they seem overly interested in getting something done cheaply.

What they do go in with is the frame of mind of the “certain-kind-of-retentive” professional. They don't start selling at the front door. All they do is look everything over. Then they make a list, in order of priority, of everything that needs to be done to bring the system up to a certain standard. This list isn't overkill, but usually far exceeds the bare minimum.

When they go over this list with the customer, they don't show a lot of emotion. They're very matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Even with today's economic uncertainty, people want things done right, and know that it's going to cost them money. Be calm and upfront with them; they'll take it in stride.

A Case in Point

A friend of mine recently showed up to do some pre-season maintenance at the home of a gentleman who, upon opening the front door, launched into a huge sob story about how he had been laid off six months ago and didn't have any money.

My buddy still did his complete inspection (using my Air Conditioning/Heat Pump Inspection Report). Completely deadpan, he went over the list showing the bare necessities (with a subtotal), what really ought to be done (with another subtotal), and the complete job to do it right (with a final total at the bottom of the page).

He admits he was brief in his explanations because, based on the customer's story, he didn't expect to make any kind of sale at all. Much to his amazement, he walked away with a check for $5,300 for maintenance, IAQ improvement, and improvements to the air distribution system. He also walked away with a very grateful customer.

The customer told him that, since finances were short, he felt the cheapest way to go was to do the job right, and take advantage of the discounts associated with doing the whole thing at once. I couldn't agree more.

The moral of the story: Don't buy into their sob stories.

Contrary to popular opinion, people are spending money on home services right now. Even cheapskates are spending. It's a necessity. They don't have any choice. They just don't want to spend a lot of money. But people have been complaining about having to spend money to maintain their homes since the very first billable service call was ever run. The only difference between now and then is that they've got a built-in negative comment to make about “the economy.”

If they didn't expect to have to spend money, and didn't want it done right, they wouldn't have called you out there in the first place. When you run calls, ignore all their negativity and just do your job like the professional that you are.

Charlie Greer is the Tom McCart HVAC Consultant of the Year and the creator of “Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD,” and the “Slacker's Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD.” To request a copy of Charlie's catalog, or to have Charlie come out to your shop and train your people, visit or call 800/963-HVAC (4822). E-mail Charlie at [email protected].