What all HVAC salespeople really want is no competition, no shopping for lowest price, and for customers to see them as the only solution for home comfort and efficiency.
“Yeah, sure Doc, and when does that ever happen?” you say. Let’s take a look at how delivering customized HVAC solutions can disqualify your competition.
Success Through Engagement and Discovery
What if your sales approach included engaging your customers in a discovery process. And what if that uncovered results only you and your customer could identify? Imagine if your customer’s knowledge about their HVAC system solutions exceeded the knowledge of your competitor. How much credibility would that salesperson have?
You can’t eliminate your competition by bad mouthing or trying to discredit them. Doing so makes you the bad guy and your credibility is shot.
Your job becomes educating the customer to find what they really want to buy, then delivering that customized product. And once you’ve done that, you should verify you gave them what they wanted.
HVAC customers are far more interested in solutions specific to their own system. Their home and system are much more relevant than government data, equipment brand benefits claims, and utility programs that promise efficiency.
Success comes from using a sales consultation approach that engages your customers. The most successful consultation requires a fact-finding process that helps customers discover the solutions they really want.
When you master this approach, you may hear your customers mutter phrases like “All the other guys just tried to sell us a new box! Only you took the time to help us discover what we really needed and wanted. Thanks.” And, “The others were just looking for the fast equipment sale, they’re so lazy.”
This is what Drew Cameron, president of HVAC Sellutions, calls “a real game changer.”
A Different Approach from the Start
Often, the opportunity for an HVAC system upgrade is launched when the service department reports the need for equipment replacement. When a Customer Service Representative sets the time for the salesperson, he or she lays the foundation for a sales consultation without competition. Here are a few differentiating statements that may be discussed with the customer by the CSR:
“You may find our consultation in your home different from the others. We’d like you participate with us as together we learn a few things about your system.”
- “Our goal is for you to be able to make an informed decision from what you learn for yourself.”
- “We invite you to participate in some simple system testing so we both can understand how well it is or isn’t performing.”
Right off the bat, your company has set itself apart from the others. You have invited customers to participate, promised to educate them about their purchase, and empowered them to make their best decision.
Compare Diagnostics to a Doctor’s Visit
When you enter the home, explain that, like a doctor’s visit, testing and diagnostics will assure you both that you’re making the correct diagnosis before prescribing a solution.
At the doctor’s, a nurse begins with a few general health questions. Likewise, you need to ask questions to help you and your customer discover what’s causing their comfort, efficiency, or other problems, and determine how they can be fixed.
There are some basic comfort questions that indicate general issues, but the secret is to drill deeper until it’s obvious a complete answer requires testing. As you’re beginning to see, your success using this type of sales consultation depends on your ability to think and react to each customer and the unique needs of their HVAC system.
Good discussion leads to a point where testing is the next obvious step. Explain, just like a doctor would, that more information is needed to identify the exact cause of the problem. At the doctor’s office, this usually leads to blood pressure and temperature tests.
An HVAC system’s “blood pressure” has standards comparable to human blood pressure. The standard for normal human blood pressure is 120 over 80. If it is much higher or lower than that standard, additional diagnostics are needed to pinpoint the problem. High static pressure like high blood pressure is not good for your system.
A forced air HVAC system uses the maximum rated fan static pressure as its standard. If the fan is rated at .80” of pressure, the measured system pressure can be diagnosed just like blood pressure. If it’s much higher or lower than the standard set for your system, a problem waits to be discovered and resolved.
Remember, test instruments, your ability to use them, and explain the test results so your customer understands them, sets you far above your competition. Test instruments establish professionalism as they enable you and your customer to discover hidden problems.
Typical pressure solutions -- Solutions to high static pressure include increasing the airflow capacity of the duct system. This usually includes adding additional or larger ducts. Other fixes include removing duct blockages, replacing restrictive fittings, or maybe opening a closed damper. Often the airflow resistance through the coil and filter may cause high pressures.
Remember, your customers are buying solutions to their problem. Going back to the medical comparison: once the problem is identified, do you negotiate price with the doctor? No. But just like you trust your health care providers professionalism, your customers will trust yours. How many of your competitors know how to measure and solve static pressure issues?
Our body temperature should run around 98.6F. Your system has similar heating and cooling temperature standards that can easily be explained to customers. Then, when you compare their system measurements to the standard, they begin to understand the causes of their comfort or efficiency problem. If a cooling system is expected to have a 20F temperature change and it only measures 10F, you and your customer have a solution to find and discuss.
Typical temperature solutions -- If your temperature change is low over the equipment, solutions may include fixing defects in the refrigerant or combustion circuits. Airflow through the equipment may be high or low. If the duct air temperature is 10 degrees cooler in heating mode than when it leaves the equipment, adding duct insulation to reduce duct temperature loss through the unconditioned attic is needed
Airflow can be compared to human respiratory health problems. An adult at rest breathes 12 to 20 times per minute. More or less breaths per minute indicate an irregular condition that requires a solution. As with the tests described above, measuring airflow into an uncomfortable room can be done in a few minutes.
Before measuring system airflow, you need to establish an airflow standard for each room using some simple diagnostic methods your customer can help with. Once the room airflow need is established, use an air balance hood to measure room airflow. Compare measured room airflow to the estimated room airflow. For example, you measure 40 cfm actual airflow in a room estimated to need 120 cfm. The room only has 33 percent of the required airflow.
Typical airflow solutions — Remove and replace undersized or damaged ducts serving the most uncomfortable room. In addition, reattach any disconnected ducts you find, repair major duct leaks, and/or adjust dampers or registers. Once completed with the work, retest the room airflow with your customer to prove you delivered the promised results.
Selling without competition is possible. The fact is that many contractors already enjoy this position in the HVAC industry. Yes, it takes training, a little creativity, thought, and effort. But reports come in to us weekly of salespeople who are doubling their closing rates and doubling net profits using testing and diagnostics to sell without competition.
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 method to estimate needed room airflow, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.