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That's Your Problem!

May 1, 2007
If you're delivering good service, that's your problem! If you actually know anything about HVAC, that's your second problem!

If you're delivering good service, that's your problem! If you actually know anything about HVAC, that's your second problem!

HVAC salespeople constantly complain about how hard it is to overcome the "price objection." They complain about it at seminars, they complain about it in online discussion boards, and they complain about it to me on the telephone. They lament, "People want quality but don't want to pay for it. They just want the lowest price!"

If it's not your job as a salesperson to build value in the presentation, justify your "outrageously high" price, and provide the prospect with enough reasons to want to buy from you, then whose job is it? If the prospect doesn't see the value in choosing you, is that their fault?

When all your prospective customers see is price, that's your fault.

If you don't like reading this, I understand. I remember going to a live seminar to see legendary sales trainer Tom Hopkins about 20 years ago. He stood on the stage and said, "If you want to know who's standing in the way of your making more sales, go home and look in the mirror!"

I'd carpooled to the seminar and bad-mouthed him about that remark the entire way home. Once I was left alone with nothing but silence to keep me company, I admitted to myself that the reason it got under my skin was because I knew it to be true.

Delivering Good Service a Problem? The problem with working for an upscale company and delivering good service consistently over an extended period of time is that you and your co-workers take on the mindset of your customers. That is, you take your level of service for granted. You begin to see it as the norm.

I worked side-by-side with service techs and salespeople in companies of all sizes, in cities and towns of all sizes, all across North America an average of 30 weeks per year during a 15-year period.

It brings me no pleasure to say that, based on my observations, quality service and installation is not necessarily the norm.

Who cares about the "norm" across North America? What counts is what's happening in your market. You don't need to travel the country to know the truth about the quality of service and installations in your area. All you have to do is follow up on your sales calls in person.

Occasionally, when I'd knock on the door of someone who'd told me they were going to think it over and get back with me, they'd apologetically tell me they'd gone with one of my lower-priced competitors.

I'd say, "That's okay. Do you want to show it to me?" More often than not, they'd show me work that would have gotten one of our installers fired and horror stories of lies, breakdowns in communication, theft, and worse.

Until I saw my competitions' work up close and personal, and heard the stories with my own two ears, I had taken everything management had told me about how great we were with a grain of salt. After all, you're supposed to brag about your company, aren't you?

While losing those sales was a bummer, the "in person" impromptu follow-ups made me a much better salesman than I had been. As a result of them, I no longer needed to take anyone's word for it; I now knew we were different. What's more, I knew we were better. I also knew why we were better. I had specific things I could mention and true stories I could share with my prospective customers.

I also had an arsenal of photographs of my competitions' work, which wasn't too pretty, but very useful.

Knowledge a Problem?
I'm not one of these people who says all you need to know is salesmanship and you don't need to know anything about HVAC to make it in HVAC sales.

Knowing your product and excellence in salesmanship is a winning combination.

Yes, I made my first solo sales call after only four days of training and closed it. However, my closing ratio went up proportionately to my technical knowledge.

The good news is that the majority of the people you're competing against are either "newbies" or have no more knowledge than a newbie.

I just completed one of my Four-Day Sales Survival Schools for 13 HVAC salespeople. There were attendees who'd never run a call, others who'd been in the business for more than 30 years, and others who fell somewhere between the two. They all looked good and seemed well intentioned. To my complete shock, not a one of them knew how to do a Manual J load calculation! How can you call yourself a HVAC professional when you don't even know how to do a load calc?

I feel the word "professional" has been so overused, it has become clichéd and lost all meaning.

What I'm getting at is, if you're the rare person who actually does know what you're talking about, don't take it as the norm. It's not.

A Moral Obligation
I realized that a prospect not buying from me, as a result of my deficiencies in salesmanship, was the equivalent of "throwing them to the wolves."

I began to feel almost a moral obligation to become a better closer.

If quality could sell itself, why would we even need salespeople? Why would we need to study salesmanship? Why couldn't we just show the prospect the facts and let the facts close the sale?

If you do good work and you actually know what you're doing, but aren't making good money and acquiring wealth, then it's time to take a personal inventory of your inadequacies.

All the technical skills and good intentions won't do you a bit of good if you haven't got the skills to go out there and make sales. You want just about everyone you see to buy from you. That's not unreasonable.

You wouldn't step into the ring against a professional fighter without some professional fight training, would you? Isn't going out day after day and struggling to make sales without professional sales training roughly the equivalent?

A False Sense of Ego
A lot of people have a false sense of ego about their salesmanship. They don't take sales training because they can't see how anyone could teach them how to sell any better, or be a better communicator, than they already are. How do you know whether or not you'll benefit by sales training unless you try it?

I personally know of no top salespeople who have taken no sales training. I'll go so far as to say that most, if not all, the top salespeople I've ever met were just this side of sales training junkies.

I'm a huge proponent of listening to instructional tapes and CDs between calls. Listening to sales instruction between calls is a big thing among top salespeople.

By the way, you can buy a lot of CDs and cassettes for pennies by buying them used on eBay. Don't let not having a CD player in your truck stand the way of your success. Do what I did. I purchased a used cassette player for $4 from Goodwill and played cassettes on it while it sat on the passenger seat.

Every now and then, one of my former students calls to complain they're in a slump. I always ask, "What are you listening to between calls?"

I'll then get another phone call a couple of weeks later telling me they're out of their slump and thanking me for the reminder to keep studying sales.

Five Tips
It's your responsibility to communicate to your prospective customers the value of choosing you. Just remember:

  • Don't take your level of service for granted
  • Make some impromptu, in-person follow-up calls on people you've quoted, but who haven't gotten back with you. Either close the sale or check out the competitions' work
  • Assuming you already have the technical skills and provide good service, the only way to increase your income from that point is to increase your sales skills
  • Don't knock sales training until you've tried it
  • You can improve your sales skills while driving between calls instead of wasting time listening to the radio or talking on your cell phone.

Charlie Greer is an HVAC service tech, salesman, sales trainer and the creator of "Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD." For a catalog, more info on Charlie's products, or to check out his speaking schedule, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or go to For a list of recommended cassettes or CDs, e-mail Charlie at [email protected].