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Offer More than Equipment Replacement

June 3, 2009
Two camps are forming in our industry. The first camp has contractors that continue to swap boxes, and the second camp has contractors who take responsibility for the performance of the system and add efficiency testing and duct renovations to their equipment replacements.

Two camps are forming in our industry. The first camp has contractors that continue to swap boxes, and the second camp has contractors who take responsibility for the performance of the system and add efficiency testing and duct renovations to their equipment replacements.

The distance between the two camps is widening. The box changers have remained stationary, while those delivering top performing systems and complete solutions are moving forward at an increasing rate. Their progress is measured by delighted customers, an increasingly professional workforce, and swelling balance sheets.

Their maneuvers are quiet, and haven’t been detected by the box changers as sale after sale slips away, closing rates fall, and margins shrink. With the minimum equipment efficiency increase it seems average sales price has increased, giving the appearance that all is well.

As energy costs rise, the box changer’s call to battle is “higher and higher efficiency!” This cry is easily muffled by salespeople that teach and prove installed system efficiency. By testing system performance during each sales call and revealing duct system performance often near 50%, equipment efficiency falls to the rear of the discussion. The idea that 50% of a 16 SEER is better than 50% of a 13 SEER has been dead for years.

Delivered system performance is all that counts to those we serve. What does the equipment BTU capacity or the efficiency it functions at in the laboratory matter if only 50% makes it into the building? When a customer understands this concept, box sellers are often immediately dismissed from the contest.

Define Your Product

The difference between the two camps is the product. The box changers believe the box is the product. System performance contractors understand that while the box is critical to the efficiency, no promises can be made based on equipment efficiency alone. More is required to assure the final product of a well performing system.

Delivering a well performing system includes squarely addressing each element of the system and providing clean and clear solutions that your customer can easily accept to get the results they want.

The problem many of us face is how to completely diagnose each problem a system might have. The next challenge is to present our findings and the solution to our customers so they can understand what needs to be done and be willing to pay for it.

Here’s a short list of what we get to teach, test, diagnose, engineer and sell in a 90 minute sales call:

• Instill a personal trusting relationship
• Extol the virtues and integrity of our company
• Enlighten our customers to the physics governing heating, ventilation and air conditioning system performance
• Test delivered airflow, static pressure, and temperatures
• Calculate delivered BTU and rate the installed system performance
• Diagnose system defects including duct losses, installation and design defects, poor combustion and refrigerant functions
• Engineer duct renovation work needed, building load and equipment sizing
• Verify the customer understands and accepts your evidence of all the above
• Package and price the system renovation in an easy to understand format and agreement
• Arrange financing and schedule the work and then secure the customer’s approval and commitment.

In the end, it’s the combination of many of these features, applied correctly, after each system has been tested and diagnosed, that creates a system that fulfills the promises we make to our customers of comfort, safety and efficiency. Only by collecting and applying the all necessary HVAC solutions required by each individual system can we provide the solutions our customers seek.

A Word of Caution

I learned years ago as I passed through a difficult time in my profession, that our customers call us to improve the HVAC system, so stick to the HVAC system only. Whole house diagnostics is a cute term that has somehow found its way into the HVAC industry, but this type of contracting is outside the expertise and licensing of most HVAC contractors. Attempting to combine the two is confusing to customers and may be life-threatening to the financial future of your company, as it has lead many a poor contractor down a rabbit trail where some have become hopelessly lost.

Do not mix building diagnostics with an HVAC sales opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, the principles of building science are correct, the services are extremely valuable, and it does offer wonderful comfort solutions, but it must be addressed by its own industry.

One tremendous asset to HVAC contractors is the growing pool of Home Energy Rating System (HERS) raters across the country. These men and women are specially trained to test and evaluate a building envelope and many are becoming the finest consultants available to solve building problems today. You can find a reliable HERS raters near you at Make them part of your team and use their expertise to improve building performance.

Results Oriented Proposals

The final step in the selling process is bundling your HVAC products and services so that the customer understands what they need and trusts that you can deliver the solutions they seek. One of the worst things that can happen is to get too technical in your presentation and confuse your customer with endless detailed options that leaves customers confused and bewildered.

If you have done a good job with your teaching and testing, all that remains is to assure your customer your results will meet their expectations. Many proposals are now presented in a summary manner describing the end result more than to offer an endless list of the technical details of the project.

Using a results oriented proposal is a new trend that distinguishes performance-based contractors from the box changers every time. Take an hour to write out a results-based proposal and compare it to the proposals our industry has used for the last 50 years. Read it through the eyes of your customers and you’ll be pleased with the results.

Finally, deliver the results that you promised. Replace the equipment, renovate the duct systems, test and balance the system, adjust combustion and refrigerant charge, and verify the installed performance of the system. Document what you have accomplished and delight your customers with a new product that delivers far more than equipment replacement alone.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in an HVAC Testing and Diagnostic Sales Procedure, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at for free information, technical articles and downloads.