I call it the “I want it now” mentality. Text messages and e-mail, even the fast food drive-through window, all have one thing in common: Their fundamental design is to give us what we want as quickly as possible. Like it or not, our society is one of instant gratification. Today’s consumers want things and they don’t want to wait to get them. In response to this demand, most retailers offer their customers a variety of financing options, making the purchase of their products easy and affordable.
Nonetheless, despite this growing trend, I still come across HVAC dealers who refuse to offer financing. Why is financing essential in today’s market? If financing is so important, why doesn’t everyone offer it? Most importantly, how can financing be used to close more sales? To answer these questions, let’s first look at why financing is necessary in today’s HVAC industry.
DIFFERENT CUSTOMERSFor starters, we need to understand that there are three kinds of customers. The first is one that can easily pay for larger purchases in cash, but in our “credit or debit” society these customers are becoming rather uncommon.
The second is one whose cash is plentiful, but it is tied up in investments or money markets and is therefore not easily or eagerly accessible. The third customer is one for whom financing is absolutely necessary in order to seal the deal. Failure to offer financing automatically excludes two of the three kinds of customers. Giving two-thirds of your potential customers an instant objection doesn’t sound like smart business to me.
It still amazes me that in the 21st century, any company would willingly turn its back on hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual sales and referrals, simply by refusing to offer financing. It just doesn’t make sense.
Throughout my line of work, I have heard several excuses why businesses choose not to offer financing to their customers. Business owners complain of increased or confusing paperwork, waiting longer to get paid, dealing with rejected credit applications, or limited knowledge on how to offer financing. All of these excuses boil down to two things: time and resources. As an HVAC sales professional, I understand how valuable time and resources are to me. I also understand how valuable they can be to my bottom line as well. Case in point: It takes time and resources to design, print, and hand out business cards, but few would argue that it is not a smart investment. Offering financing is no different. Carrying financing has never been easier and offering it the right way will prove itself a successful investment.
AT THE TABLEWhen used correctly, financing can be a powerful tool in the quest to earn the consumer’s almighty dollar. Understanding customer need for financing, in conjunction with a few simple changes in selling habits, can lead to higher investments and increased sales. Whenever I do a seminar on financing, I am always met with the same two questions: To whom should I offer financing, and when should I offer it?
My answer: Every customer, every time. If you are waiting for your customers to ask about financing, don’t hold your breath. Customers will rarely inquire about financing, either due to embarrassment or for fear that they will be looked down upon. Many consumers would rather walk away from the deal than be forced to ask for financing, and they’ll be walking straight into the arms of the competition that is willing to offer them the financing options they need. If you want to seal the deal, not only do you need to offer financing to every customer, but you need to offer it in the correct way. For illustration, let’s take a look at what not to say:
“Mr. and Mrs. Jones, if you are broke, like a lot of people are, we have some great financing programs. Here is a credit application if you need some cash. Just fill it out and call me if you decide to buy.”
Not only is this offer unprofessional and insulting to the customer, it is much like a hand grenade; you may throw it out once in awhile and get a hit, but you also run a very high risk of having it blow up in your face. Let’s now take a look at a more professional and likely more successful offer:
“Mrs. and Mr. Jones, if you are like many of my customers, who do not wish to withdraw funds to pay for this investment, we offer a wide variety of financing promotions to choose from. First, we offer a 12-month, zero-percent interest program that works much like your Best Buy account, or if you prefer, we offer 36-, 48-, and 60-month programs. The programs are simple to set up. All we need to do is have you (hand the credit application to the female) fill out this half-page credit application, which only takes about five minutes. Then, I will call the 1-800 number for pre-approval and we can schedule your installation date before I leave.”
Unlike the first illustration, this offer informs the customer of the different options available as well as what to expect in the application process, without offending them or putting them in an embarrassing position. Offering financing in this way makes customers more relaxed and ready to buy.
To sum it up, offering financing allows you to meet the needs of today’s consumers, while getting you the results you want. If you currently do not offer financing to your customers, I challenge you to take the initiative and give financing a recurring role in your sales presentation. Taking the time to offer financing in a professional and courteous manner is often all that is needed to turn an uncertain consumer into a paying customer.