Running Service Step Five: The Paper Towel Close

Editor's Note: Charlie Greer is in the midst of a year-long primer designed to teach you what to do when running service calls, and how to maximize each call in an honest and professional manner. “I'll tell you everything I do; from the moment the call is dispatched, to the greeting at the front door, to closing and handling objections, down to what I do to prevent ‘buyer's remorse,’” Charlie says. Here is installment number 5.

After I've completed my inspection, I usually go out to the truck to figure my prices and write everything up.

I don't quote the prices on the company's beautifully designed, pre-printed work order. I write out everything that needs to be done, item-by-item, on a plain sheet of lined 8½-in. x 11-in. paper. No company logo, no nothing. The first time I used this close, I was looking for a visual way to make a lot of money seem like a little money, so I wrote it on a used paper towel the customer had laying on a kitchen counter. That's why I call it the “Paper Towel Close.”

Being able to show a savings by buying now establishes a sense of urgency. Therefore, I show the cost of getting everything done as a non-service agreement customer on separate trips in one column, labeled “Separate,” and the price of getting everything done today, as a service agreement customer, in another column labeled “Today.”

Show the standard rates for cleaning both the furnace and the air conditioner. Also show the price of the maintenance agreement added in to the “Today” column.

If you have to charge an additional trip charge on return trips, you can still show a discount on additional tasks.

This provides a visual representation of the discounts (savings) of the “additional” or “secondary” tasks. You can often show that the total amount of their discounts will be equal to or greater than the amount of one of the tasks they were only marginally interested in. That makes the task essentially “free,” so they often decide to go with everything.

All the savings I'm giving to customers tends to make them appreciate my going to the extra effort to write things up this way. Instead of begrudging me for all the money I'm “taking” from them, they end up thanking me for giving them all the discounts.

Incorporating the Service Agreement

It's impossible for the total amount at the bottom of the “Today” column to be a higher number than that of the “Separate” column. This technique proves to the customer that they're not “paying extra” for a service agreement, they're saving money by purchasing one. This ensures a service agreement sale.

Don't present the cleaning as “optional.” It's not. Dirty equipment causes failures, shortens the equipment life, decreases comfort, increases operating costs, and wastes natural resources.

Using Subtotals

Using little subtotals at logical points as you proceed down the “paper towel close” helps to make the decision easier.

Put the repairs that are mandatory, cleaning the system, and the service agreement in the first subtotal.

After these two subtotals, list everything you're certain will break down and cause unnecessary expense and inconvenience over the next year or two and show another subtotal.

List another product or two that may not be absolutely mandatory (perhaps some indoor air quality products), and do a final total. This gives customers a very clear idea of their cost of ownership over the next few years.

They may have a heart attack when they see their total cost of ownership, but they also tend to appreciate being educated on what to expect in the near future. It also prevents us from getting into trouble with the customer who opts for the minimum when it breaks down again. They can't say they weren't warned!

The Finer Points

Skip a line between each repair to make it easier to read.

Put two or three “bullet points” under each task (space permitting). Bullet points build value.

Don't use “dollar signs” ($) unless you're showing the “savings”; they make the numbers look bigger. I'll also mention that I prefer to use “whole dollars.” There's a strategy behind your prices including “cents,” but cents make the numbers larger and unnecessarily complicate the math.

This format is called “Charlie Greer's Paper Towel Close,” and it's my signature move. There are people that say it's the most important thing I teach. It's improved the sales of countless technicians across the country. Just about all the top selling technicians I know use this technique.

Next month, I'll cover a repair vs. replace scenario.

For an extended version of this article and to see a full-size example of a Paper Towel Close, go to

Charlie Greer is the instructor of “Charlie Greer's 4-Day Sales Survival School.” The spring 2010 sessions are March 30-April 2 for HVAC Service Techs, and April 6-9 for HVAC Salespeople. For more information, go to or call 800/963-HVAC (4822). E-mail Charlie at [email protected].

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