Photo by iStock

'Let Me Rephrase That' — Words & Phrases to Avoid in HVAC Sales

March 26, 2015
A professional sales person earns their income through communication, primarily verbal.  Avoid using certain words, terms and phrases that have negative connotations.

A professional sales person earns their income through communication, primarily verbal. There are certain words, terms and phrases that come with a negative slant. What might seem petty and nit picking, truly has an impact with the delivery of a sales presentation whether it be on a first call or final. One or maybe two slip ups is not so bad but when compounded these words and phrases add together to send a somewhat subliminal negative delivery.

One of the first phrases to avoid is, “sign the contract”. This is a very common error that most are guilty of. Within this simple phrase resides two very negative words that have an alarming effect on prospective customers.  When the action verb “sign” is used, prospects tend to feel tension. The term, “contract” is even worse. Contracts are thought to be binding and constrictive. We should also recognize that there is more tension at the time of asking for the order than any other time in the selling cycle. When the two words are used in tandem, as they usually are, the negative effect multiplies. A much better approach would be to have a customer “approve the agreement”. 

Many union shops utilize pipe fitters as technicians. Some prospects will associate the term pipe fitter with costly labor.  Others might view labor unions as a negative thing. Even though it is an unwarranted assumption, and typically a source of very skilled technicians, a small amount of prospects will harbor these feelings. It is better to use “highly trained technicians”

A seemingly harmless word, “cost” can make some prospects take a step backward. Phrases like, “your monthly cost will be…” or “this will cost you…” are very poor choices. Nobody associates “cost” in a positive vein. Conversely, when presenting the prospect with their present costs for maintenance and repairs, I do use the word cost. After all, we want their present costs to be viewed as negative.  Even when a prospect asks, “What is this going to cost me?”, you simply spin it to, “your monthly investment will be $XXX.” My entire final presentation is built around replacing present costs by investing in comprehensive preventive and predictive maintenance.

Countless times I have heard a salesperson use the phrase, “the price may seem to be high,” immediately after exposing the annual agreement price. This is purely a defensive statement that wreaks of negativity. The prospect, heretofore, may have been thinking your price was very reasonable. The tension I mentioned earlier in the article applies to the prospect. The greatest moment of  tension for the salesperson is when divulging the price. A seasoned salesperson will make the comparison of their present “COST” and replacing with investing in a recurring maintenance program.

Another ugly word is “insurance”. This word surfaces often when selling a full-coverage agreement. I frequently hear the salesperson make the dubious comparison of a full coverage service agreement and an insurance policy. First, I have yet to meet a person that enjoys paying insurance premiums.  An insurance policy is a necessary evil in most of our lives.  Unlike a full-coverage maintenance agreement, an insurance policy doesn’t do anything actively to offer protection. Life insurance companies don’t do anything to prolong their customers lives.  Automobile insurance doesn’t prevent accidents. The very nature of the full coverage agreement reduces the risk of failures and prolongs the useful life of mechanical systems.  Many times the prospect will make the analogy, “This seems like an insurance program.  I’m already insurance poor”.  I address this by saying, "no, actually it is an assurance program. We strive to give you the peace of mind that we are finding small problems and eliminating most major break downs”

Sometimes it would appear that professional sales people are, in part, word merchants.  Indeed we truly have to select the positive route whenever possible.  Negative, doesn’t sell.

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.