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Two Types of HVAC Sales Calls — Who Wins?

Sept. 15, 2017
Two important questions will alter the future your HVAC business: “Will I offer only high efficiency equipment to customers or, will I offer higher efficiency systems to them?

Here are two key questions you need to answer for yourself that can change everything in the future of your HVAC business: “Will I offer only high efficiency equipment to customers or, will I offer higher efficiency systems to them?

As each year passes, more of your customers become aware that the efficiency of their HVAC system is far more important than the potential equipment efficiency documented in a laboratory. Let’s take a look at how better salespeople measure equipment efficiency deterioration caused by poor installation practices and then use that information to win the job.

System Efficiency Today is Worse than Equipment Efficiency in the 1980’s
Field data continues to confirm that the highest efficiency equipment installed today, on a typical existing duct system, delivers lower efficiency than equipment was designed for in the 1980’s. In fact, the data shows that both residential and commercial HVAC systems typically deliver less than 55% of the equipment’s rated capacity into the building.

How would you respond if your customer asked about the resulting system efficiency based on your proposal to simply replace their equipment with a 20 SEER air conditioner and 95% AFUE furnace?

National Data or Personal Facts
Let’s face it -- commercial and residential customers care more about the personal facts surrounding the performance of their own systems than they do about generic national data or laboratory efficiency ratings. A salesperson equipped to provide personal HVAC system information finds great favor with customers which really leads to building lasting relationships.

It doesn’t take long for a customer to figure out that 45 cents of each dollar they pay to their utility company is wasted. Their disgust is not driven by an efficiency issue, but by the waste of money. This is much more emotional to customers buying comfort, than equipment efficiency ratings that are just a few percent higher than what they currently have.

How This Plays Out During a Sale  
A typical salesperson, following industry traditions, inspects the system, collects model numbers, and perhaps completes a heat load calculation. They then deliver a proposal featuring only high efficiency equipment.

The proposal is usually supported by a claim that energy savings will pay for the increased cost of the equipment. This claim falsely insinuates the system will operate at the laboratory-rated efficiency published by the manufacturer. Unsatisfied with that option, the customer replies, “We have invited other companies to discuss our project. Can we get back with you?”

Enter the Competition
A performance-based contractor who spends the time and effort to measure system performance and scores its installed performance. This is an educational approach where the customer learns about their upcoming purchase and participates in testing and diagnostics.

Supply airflow is measured at each supply register. Average supply and return temperatures are measured at the grilles. Using this limited data, the system is quickly scored. By participating in the data collection with the salesperson, the customer learns first-hand why their system performs less than 50% of its rated capacity. The salesperson grins as the customer figures out the 20 SEER system will operate at 10 SEER on their duct system.

The sales person spends five more minutes measuring four static pressures at the equipment. Once again, the customer participates in a few calculations. The wise salesperson resists the temptation to diagnose the system and grants the time and effort to coach their customer into discovering for themselves why the comfort is so poor and utility bills are so high. 

Together the salesperson and customer decide on a scope of work that satisfies them. The salesperson then offers a simple proposal to the customer. In addition to the needed duct, filter, and grille renovations, a promise of a minimum system efficiency is included. Equipment capacity and efficiency is barely mentioned as it is considered another component of the system.

So, Who Wins?
Not the high efficiency equipment salesperson.

What happened? The knowledge gained by the customer with the performance-based salesperson basically dismissed the high efficiency equipment proposal and salesperson. The customer realized that they were only told half of the story, which was not the truth they needed to make a good decision. As soon as the customer figures out the new equipment would perform at less than half the published efficiency, it was over. The sad part is the high-performance equipment salesperson may never know why they lost the sale.

The performance-based proposal concludes in a guarantee that the system will be tested at the completion and assures it will perform at or better than the agreed system efficiency. The proposal is approved by a fully-informed customer. The salesperson expresses appreciation to the customer for helping in the testing and diagnostics and looks forward to testing the outcome together at the completion of the project.

Questions for Salespeople and Company Leaders
The scenario presented in this article is repeated across the industry many times every day. Of course, there is more information that can be considered. But the fact is consumers WANT to be empowered to understand the decisions they make about their HVAC system.

So, now you are more equipped to answer those two questions at the beginning of this article:

1. In the future, will you offer only high efficiency equipment to your customers?

2. Or, will you offer higher efficiency systems to them?

The choice is yours. The world is made up of dying businesses that failed to recognize changes technology brings. Their customers are slipping away one by one, as they embrace better opportunities.

Here are a few additional thoughts for you to consider: If you had a high-efficiency-equipment-only salesperson into your home or business to offer a solution, would that be enough for you? What if a second salesperson educated you about your purchase through testing and diagnosing, then provided you with the information necessary for you to make a system efficiency decision? Who would you buy from?

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a free test procedure describing simple testing you can do on a sales visit, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at for free information, articles, and downloads.

About the Author

Rob 'Doc' Falke | President

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician  interested in a building pressure measurement procedure, contact Doc at [email protected]  or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at for free information, articles and downloads.