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HVAC Techncian Selling Ethics Is it Right or Wrong


July 29, 2014
What is a Selling Technician? Stated simply, selling technicians are service technicians with permission to sell system replacements.  They can make repairs, but they can also run load calculations, assemble on-the-spot proposals, arrange for financing, and close a change out sale.

The Ethics of Allowing Technicians to Sell

What are the Ethics Behind Techncian Selling? Obviously there are several viewpoints on this.

Some HVACR contractors think it’s unethical or deceptive to allow a technician to sell. And yet, many of these same contractors (or their fathers) sold as technicians when they started their companies. How is that different? 

It’s not.

Detractors of technician sales also claim that technicians will be so romanced by commissions that they will try to replace repairable equipment. So what? If a tech honestly persuades a consumer to replace when a repair would suffice, that’s hardly a sin. Unless the customer is of unsound mind, he or she can always say no. As long as the technician doesn’t lie or withhold information, it’s the homeowner’s choice.

The notion that commissions create corruption is equally inane. You cannot claim commissions are bad if spiffs are okay. You cannot claim commissions are bad for technicians, but okay for salespeople and owners (and every company owner works on commission whether he realizes it or not).

The Real Ethical Lapse

Do selling technicians create an ethical lapse in your business?

Frankly, withholding the replacement option is the ethical lapse. Far too often, technicians decide that homeowners cannot afford to replace or should not replace. Talk about presumptuous.

We cannot know our customers’ circumstances. The guy in the big house with the luxury automobile might be overextended and living paycheck to paycheck. Repairing a 20-year-old system operating at reduced capacity might be all he can afford. Or, he might be planning on putting the house on the market next month. Conversely, the guy in the trailer park might earn little, spend less, and save the difference amassing a sizable nest egg.

Nothing is Wrong With Early Replacements

Is it wrong to recommend a replacement system before the old system dies?

Equipment doesn't need to be practically unrepairable to be replaceable. Consumers have all kinds of reasons for replacing early. They might want greater efficiency. They might consider their current system to be a lemon that they're sick of dealing with. We accept early replacement of cars. Why not air conditioners?

Everybody Sells

Ladies and gentlemen: Everybody Sells. All the Time.

Disdain over selling is ludicrous. Sales is the lifeblood of any business. It’s the lifeblood of the entire economy. Everyone sells. Any guy who successfully asked a girl out on a date, closed a sale.

The HVAC industry has got to stop looking at sales as something we do “to” people. It’s something we do “for” people. People who sell help people acquire the products and services they want.

Money on the Table

Don't Leave Money on the Table. Technician selling is a service to your customers.

Some contractors believe technicians shouldn't sell because they leave money on the table. They say techs tend to sell on price and offer up the lowest-priced option. This isn’t true. The lowest-priced option is a repair.

However, the point can be made that technicians aren't good at selling higher-end equipment and will often sell the lowest priced system. Of course, the same complaint can be made about many salespeople.

The answer in both cases is the same. More training.

Should Technicians Sell?

So the question is, should technicians sell or not? Only you can answer that.

While everybody sells, some people are better than others. Some technicians will do it poorly or not at all if asked, so don’t ask them. However, they can still turn in leads and should. If one of every 15 air conditioners is replaced in a given year, one out of 10 service calls should generate a lead. Remember, service calls aren’t needed for pristine equipment, so the equipment should be ready for replacement in at least one out of 10 calls.

There are technicians who are fully capable of replacement sales. They should be given the opportunity after they’ve been given proper training. If they can become proficient, they will benefit personally and so will the company.

Selling technicians may not be the answer for your company. That’s okay. But they may be the answer, or part of the answer for other companies. And that’s okay too. Before you condemn a competitor’s business practices, see if there’s something you can learn from them.

For more help with your sales, marketing, and business management, check out the FREE section of the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com. If you would like a tour of all the organization has to offer, call 877.262.3341.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable (ServiceRoundtable.com). The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable (ServiceRoundtable.com). The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.


Photographer: GeorgeRudy. From the iStock Collection, #455193951, Thinkstock.com
Closing the Sale