Can you use a cold box to warm up sales? Just had a question posed to me this week: Do you think that computer technology can help us build the personal attributes and relationships needed to sell systems today?

Yes. How’s that for a one-word, three-letter answer? Yes, in fact the computer and your Website can be two of the most powerful forces to propel you to a new level of sales and profits in the future. Just think with me for a moment.

If you had a technician show up at your home to work on your unit, it would be great if he had a set of tools. As a professional comfort consultant, you need tools as well. Let’s look at them together.

Start with the Website. Yes, that group of pages you posted on the Internet a few years ago.

It really needs to be more than a billboard. By that I mean, it needs to be current, engage the prospect, and answer questions they may have. My son, Jon, helps contractors with Websites daily (since that is his job, it needs to be daily), and he sees things that surprise us all. He regularly sees coupons on sites that have expiration dates from two years ago. Or feature products no longer made. Not good.

So, Jon’s suggestion is to look at the entire Website page after page. Jon will change something on mine occasionally, and he’ll call to tell me to check it out. I’ll ask which page, he says to check them all, find it on your own. That forces me to look at each and every page.

So let’s say you’ve got a Website that is current, powerful, has great, quick-loading pages, let’s go see how to use it. One idea is to add a coupon, say $20 off on your next service call, $50 off on a new furnace, $100 on an entire system. You pick the numbers, and before you get all excited (giving our money away, are we?), price that coupon into your numbers so that you make the targeted gross margin after coupon.

Then, instruct your employees to ask each call-in customer if they have been to the Website and downloaded the coupon. Some may not have a computer, so then tell them the service tech or comfort consultant will bring one along, not to worry.

That sort of response to a call-in thrills a customer. They feel they are getting into the inner circle; they realize you didn’t have to tell them about the coupon. They will tell, actually brag, to friends, neighbors, and co-workers about what a good deal they got.

Go into almost any home today; in the kitchen is a drawer with coupons of all kinds. Our Chevy has an envelope full of them today, just waiting for us to head across town to use one for dinner. Enough about the coupons, let’s go see how else to use this Website.


Have a Website that has details about your company. The history, how you got started, what kind of work you do, all sorts of things that a client may want to know. You need an employee page or pages with photos of the technicians, everyone in the building. I would suggest first names only, so the competition doesn’t start calling them asking them to jump ship. I would have links to other Websites, but be careful. If you link to an electrician, be sure he doesn’t link to another HVAC company on his site. Check it out to be sure you know what the customer will see.

Now combine this with a laptop computer that can be used in the home. (Great, now you gotta buy some more electronic stuff. Not a big deal, you can get a full-featured laptop for less than $600 today. One good sale will pay for it and more.)

On this laptop you can put a slide show of before and after photos, showing the craftsmanship you put into your projects. Just as an aside, the dictionary tells us that craftsmanship means you are an artist, your work is excellent; it sets the standard. It’s all in the details.

Another way to use that laptop is to run a load calculation. Which you do now by hand, or not? Sadly, most do not. I ask in my seminars “How many run a load?” Almost all hands will rise up. Then I add “every time”. Most hands go down. I next ask the hands still up, what is your closure rate? Every time, this group has the highest closure rate in the room - by a significant margin.

So if the only reason to run a load is to increase your closure rate, that is a good reason. I have heard the objections; too much time, don’t need to, customers are turned off, etc. Let’s just pretend that you can spend more time helping the customer purchase a system, and less time quoting a unit. If your close ratio improves, you won’t have to run across town three times a day to look at six projects. You can concentrate on one or two that will trust you and your company to do what you said you were going to do.


So invest in a load calculation program, add an energy analysis program, use the smart box to help bring the correct set of answers to the table. Then use it to confirm your findings. Pull in Websites that show the cost of fuel rising in the next decades, how the air in our homes is actually more polluted than the air outside, how variable-speed systems can even out the room temperatures, etc.

Back in the day (OK, in the ’90s, when I was selling retrofits daily), we sometimes said that too much technology could overwhelm them. Not so anymore. It is rare that you will come to a home where the family doesn’t have at least some connection to the Internet. My 88-year-old mom tells me to search the net for a ticket when she is ready to fly out for a vacation with my sister.

I would also have some testimonial letters loaded in my computer. Put them together on a slide show; let the customer click on the next slide when they are ready. It gets them involved, gets an emotional connection. That is how they buy, emotionally.

Just as an aside, my screen saver shows my sons and me on our Harleys. Kind of like Wild Hogs, one great movie. So put some photos of the kids, dogs, family, or significant others on the screen. Why put up an island that you may never have been to, or a mosaic of letters advertising a computer manufacturer? Put something up that will give them a reason to connect with you.

Just some thoughts on computer technology and how we may use it today.

If you want a white paper “Seven Methods of Internet Marketing,” e-mail Jon Hinshaw at

Publication date:10/01/2007