[Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in an
eight-part series on selling to Baby Boomers.]
Baby Boomers grew up in an era of risk-taking. Being drafted
for an unpopular war, civil rights protests, drug experimentation, free love,
and the Nixon administration all carried unique risks. As Boomers grew older
and a bit wiser, risk reduction became an important part of everyday life.
In the HVAC industry, 10-year compressor warranties and
multi-year parts guarantees were developed primarily to meet Boomers’ needs to
minimize risk. Today, warranties and guarantees are just the ante. If you want
to consistently sell to the folks who buy the vast majority of high-margin
premium comfort systems, you must understand how Boomers perceive risk and be
able to reduce each one to an acceptable level.
The safety of loved ones is our highest priority.
According to behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow, people
must feel safe before they care about less basic needs like precise temperature
and humidity control. Every Boomer has read at least one story about an entire
family dying from an improperly vented gas furnace or other heating- and air conditioning-related
Our subconscious mind has an overpowering need to know how
your customized solution will reduce potential safety-related risks to their
lowest possible level. To eliminate
anxiety caused by physical risk:
• Tell how your installation provides the final layer of
• Mention how you reduce physical risk. “We buy the safest
equipment, hire the best qualified people to install it, and inspect every step
during and after the installation.”
• Ask if they’d like to hear more about the steps your
company takes to eliminate physical risk.
Peace of mind is more important than price.
Psychological risk manifests itself as unpleasant emotions
that disturb our sense of well-being. Anytime we suspect a pending purchase
could result in the feelings of guilt, remorse, regret or irresponsibility,
there’s a degree of psychological risk that must be resolved before we’ll feel
comfortable buying. Buyer’s remorse is unresolved psychological risk.
One reason Boomers buy warranties isn’t because we can’t
afford future problems, it’s because if we do have problems, we don’t want to
regret not buying one. This complex behavior is especially true when we
purchased long-lasting big ticket items like a replacement comfort system. To
help your customers effectively reduce
• Justify the purchase as an investment;
• Use emotional benefits to build desire higher than
perceived risk; and
• Tell how improved physical comfort improves one’s peace of
If it’s not reliable and dependable, we don’t want it.
Boomers are more likely to replace their existing comfort
system before it breaks than any other group of buyers. Over the years, we’ve
discovered functional risk is inevitable. The wet spot under the hot water
heater will become a flood. A dirty furnace causes a $1,500 repair. The strange
noise coming from our car’s engine will leave us stranded on the freeway. To
help us visualize the reliability you provide, use your equipment
manufacturer’s literature to:
• Show how they test components and equipment.
• Use pictures or diagrams to point out reliability
• Tell how your maintenance program reduces all aspects of
The lowest risk is the best investment.
Boomers are passionate about money. We believe buying
seldom-purchased negotiated products, like comfort equipment, is rife with
risk. We fear paying too much, being taken advantage of, and not getting
everything we want. We ask a lot of tough money-related questions that you must
be prepared to answer. “If it’s so good, why do I need to pay extra for a
warranty?” “Why does your air cleaner cost so much?” “Why are you $3,000 higher than the last company?” Proven ways to
reduce monetary risk include:
• Show estimated energy savings;
• Provide a return of investment; and
• Customize their comfort system around their requirements.
Is this the Edsel of air conditioning?
A young man met a distinguished looking gentleman at a
cocktail party and asked what he did for a living. The older man said he was a
Rolex Co. executive. The brash young man said, “I have a Seiko that keeps time
as good as any Rolex ever made.” The executive said, “That may be true, but at
Rolex, we’re not in the watch business, we’re in the luxury business.”
When dealing with the 40 percent of Boomers concerned with
reducing social risk, you’re also in the luxury business. The luxury brands
they buy are your biggest clue. If they have a Viking range kitchen, a new BMW
in the garage, and Rolex on their arm, they’ll probably appreciate your help
buying “the best socially acceptable solution.” The steps to do that include:
Briefly detail your brand’s history.
Relate a story about a well-known
person who bought from you.
Tie your brand into a one they own.
“This is the Rolex of comfort systems …”
THE PRICE ISN'T TOO HIGH
Unresolved risks create insurmountable objections.
A significant number of Boomers who don’t buy say the
problem was the price. Most of the time the real reason isn’t too much money,
it’s too much risk. If the risk is too high, the price will be too, no matter
how low the cost. The key to boosting Boomers sales isn’t lowering your price,
it’s lowering their risk.
Sidebar: About RiskRisk:
The likelihood of bad things
Potential risk to people,
buildings, animals, and environment.
An informed decision not
to become involved in a risk situation.
How Boomers perceive
The money a buyer can
afford to lose.
Reduction in the
likelihood of occurrence or consequences of an event.
An acceptable low, tolerable level
Perceived risk transfer.