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Proper Use of the 'Optional Close'

People want options, and one of a salesman's best closing tools is the "optional close." The optional close is one in which instead of asking prospects whether they want to buy something or not, you ask which option they want to buy (see However, to use the optional close properly, you must be aware that there are good options and there are bad options.

Bad options are options that cause potential customers to tell you they need to think about their decision. In fact, the response, "I need to think it over" is usually a result of too many options, too many decisions, too much information, and/or too much talking by the salesman.

Examples of bad options are:

  • "Do you want the 14 SEER or the 18 SEER?"
  • "Do you want the single-speed or the variable-speed?"
  • "Do you want the 80% or the 90% furnace?"
  • "Do you want the heat pump or the straight-cool?"

Before quoting prices and making your initial close, "land" potential customers on the one system they'd want if money was not an object, then try to close them on that system.

It's All In The Name
Referring to the equipment by its efficiency rating (calling it the "13 SEER system") equalizes all makes and models having the same rating and makes the efficiency rating the most important feature of the system. Actually, the efficiency rating is one of the least important features of any system. People will save money by upgrading from any old, low-efficiency system to any high-efficiency system, but the systems with the higher efficiency ratings tend to have enhancements that provide additional benefits of ownership, such as:

  • Improved airflow
  • More even temperatures
  • Cleaner indoor air
  • Quieter operation
  • Longer warranty.

Give each model a descriptive name that piques your prospects' interest. For instance, you can call your top-of the-line equipment your "ultimate comfort" model, and other equipment your "standard," "builder's grade," "economy," or "primary" line.

Whatever you call the equipment, give it a name that will make people feel good about buying it.

In view of the fact that people are copycats and like to do what everybody else is doing, it also helps to refer to whatever you're recommending as your "top seller."

Often, when I ask, "Did you want to go ahead and get the high-efficiency, high-capacity air cleaner along with the furnace, so you can have cleaner, healthier air, save money on equipment maintenance, and make it last longer?" prospects will respond with, "Well, I want to be like everyone else, so yes, I guess I'll take it, too."

I am not above selling the "builder's grade" model. You can make about as much money on the cheap equipment as you can on the high-end equipment when you price it correctly. If someone doesn't buy anything from you, you don't make any money. Therefore, I really don't care what someone buys, as long as they buy it from me. I don't want to force the issue of high-end equipment and lose the sale, only to have the prospect buy low-end equipment from someone else. If they're going to buy the low-end equipment from someone, we're both better off when they buy it from me.

There are plenty of reasons for people to buy the low-end equipment. For instance, when they’re installing equipment on a structure they've bought just to fix up and sell; when they're never going to be the end-user.

Good Options
Here are some examples of good options:

1. The "System Discount" option. "Sooner or later, you're going to have to change out the furnace, so do you want to take advantage of the 'system discount' and change it out while we'’re changing the air conditioner?"

2. The "Indoor Air Quality Package" option. "Do you want to go ahead and get the 'indoor air quality package' along with your new air conditioner?"

3. The "Duct Renovation" option. "Do you want to go ahead and take advantage of all the benefits of cleaning and renovating your duct system while we're changing out your equipment?"

4. The "Payment Plan" option. "Which payment plan seems most affordable to you?"

Make It Easy On Them
The purpose of the optional close is to make the decision easier. The problem with many optional closes is that they actually make the decision harder to make. Providing two very attractive options that both make sense makes the decision difficult. One way to make a prospect's decision easier is to set up your options so that one of them makes sense and the other one doesn't.

For instance, when one option is significantly better than another, price them very close together.

Emergency Procedure
Occasionally, you may fail to maintain control of a conversation and will be unable to narrow the choice down to one ideal system prior to your initial closing attempt. In these situations, you are forced into quoting two systems as an optional close. That's when prospects tell you, "We're 90% certain we're going to buy from you. We just need to decide which system we want to buy."

When you ask them how long before they make up their minds, they'll usually say just a few days. That's when you very nonchalantly say, "Okay. We can't install it for a few days anyway. I'll just write it up here for the lower-priced system, and I'll make a special note over here on the side that states that, up until the actual installation, you have the option of upgrading to the better system for $X. That way we can get you on the schedule and get this all taken care of for you in a timely manner."

At this point, you may or may not be able to close them, but you'll get the truth out of them as to the true objection.

Charlie Greer is the creator of the audio series "Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales," "Quantifying Quality: How to Beat Low-Bidders," and "Over the Top HVAC Sales." For more information on Charlie's products and services, visit or call 800/963-HVAC (4822). Email Charlie at [email protected].

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