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Performance-Based HVAC Sales: The Future is Now!

There's an emerging trend in HVAC sales that is significantly different than the traditional methods most contractors have used for decades.

There’s an emerging trend in HVAC sales that is significantly different than the traditional methods most contractors have used for decades. Performance-Based selling is a trust-based, pull-through way to help customers make educated decisions about their home comfort systems. If you do it right, you’re not selling, you’re helping your customer buy.

Most contractors still focus on selling replacement equipment and accessories to enhance comfort and indoor air quality; some even perform load calculations. While there’s nothing wrong with these solutions, they leave a giant gap from what homeowners need to live in safer, healthier, more comfortable, and energy efficient homes.

It’s estimated that less than 5 percent of our industry determines customers’ true needs, then delivers provable solutions. This is great news for contractors who really want to differentiate themselves from their competition.

What’s so different about the Performance-Based selling approach? It starts with the initial contact with your customer. This typically happens with your customer service representative (CSR). By asking the right questions, your CSR can determine if your customer falls into one of three categories:

1. Planned Replacement
2. Emergency Replacement
3. Customers with Problems Seeking Solutions.

How your salesperson, or “comfort advisor” approaches the customer depends highly on why that customer contacted you.

Another critical source of Performance-Based leads is your service technician. Your techs can generate some of your most powerful leads for three reasons:

  • They are already face-to-face with your customer, and hopefully have built trust
  • They can visually assess the age and condition of existing equipment and delivery system
  • They know how to perform initial testing to help uncover poor system performance that can cause safety, health, comfort or energy efficiency issues.

Once your comfort advisor receives this lead generated by a well-informed CSR or service technician, he or she can customize their approach to the call.

For example, if the visit results from a customer with a comfort or energy efficiency problem, you can come in heavy with a comprehensive “testing” approach using airflow tools, instruments, and software that verifies your findings. This customer welcomes someone who can diagnose their problems and offer solutions. They are more likely to become engaged in the process and are open to being educated about their system’s deficiencies and what can be done to improve it.

More often than not, the improvements involve a combination of fixing long-standing air distribution issues along with installing new energy-efficient equipment. On the other hand, if your customer called for a planned equipment replacement, you would take a lighter-touch approach, spending more time up-front to first address their immediate needs and concerns, then explore how improvements can be made to address other issues with their home and HVAC system. In this instance, you would still do some basic testing, but you ease into it so as not to overwhelm your customer or make them feel like you are setting them up to buy something they don’t need.

Ethics is by far the most critical factor in Performance-Based selling. You NEVER sell anything the customer doesn’t need or want. For example, if your customer doesn’t need a system renovation, don’t push unneeded work on them. And if after being educated on what you can do for them they still don’t want it, don’t try to talk them into it.

While there’s not enough room in this article to cover every situation, there is one common thread that ties all situations together: Your technicians, salespeople, installers, and CSRs must all be trained to do their part correctly. Your field people need to learn how to test and interpret results to properly diagnose and offer solutions that can be verified once the work is complete.

Seek the right knowledge, invest in good training and tools, and you’ll be on the path to becoming a Performance-Based contractor. With the underpinnings of measuring and delivering high performance, the next step is to overhaul your sales approach to give your customers the solutions they need and deserve. This differentiates your company, and allows you to charge what you’re worth and make the profit margins your company needs to stay strong and sustainable.

Dominick Guarino is CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI), one of the nation’s premier Performance-BasedTM training, certification, and membership organization, focused on helping contractors grow and become more profitable. His e-mail is [email protected] For more info on Performance-Based Contracting™ go to or call NCI at 800/633-7058.

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