Oh those wonderful women in HVAC sales! They come from all across the nation, twentysomethings to sixtysomethings who defy the long-held belief that selling in this industry is a man’s job. The sometimes surprising and circuitous paths that brought them into this great industry is both fascinating as well as instructive for anyone scratching their head wondering where do I find them? And, are they really good at it?


Meet Holly Vires, Comfort Consultant, Miller’s Area Heating & Air Conditioning, Grayslake, Ill. Holly said, “I got out of high school with no clear direction for a career.” Her pivotal decision to accept the position as dispatcher at Miller’s put her onto a career path she hadn’t known existed. In the next five years, Holly moved around the company as an office manager and into accounting. All the while she was reading and learning everything she could about the products that were available for customers. It was Holly who talked to homeowners when they called in wanting “a little more information” about humidifiers and air cleaners. And, those important conversations turned into sales.

Holly Vires has moved from office manager, to accountant, to comfort consultant with Miller’s Area Heating & Air Conditioning in Grayslake, Ill.

Up until this time, John Miller, the owner, had been the only one making in-home sales calls. His business coach advised it was time to bring on a full-time salesperson. But where do you find the right person?

John explained, “Our company really focuses on finding the right fit. We hire rock stars! We have a very tight group who all understand our corporate culture. Our company is like a big machine, we all have to do our part to make it run optimally. This is the single most important thing to my wife, Curt Miller. Curt is the person who, after a few months of working with Holly, came to me and said, ‘Holly is your salesperson.’

“She was right there under my nose, already part of our culture, ready and willing to change and grow. I was willing to do everything I could to make her a success. I gave her the tools and the training she needed, including factory training, and Holly did the rest.”

“It was an extreme advantage - Holly already knew all the customers and had a rapport with them. We worked side-by-side for about two months until I saw my vision come true. I adopted the philosophy, (where I’ve heard it, I can’t recall) that a teacher is never a great teacher until his student can surpass him. That she did!”

Holly said, “Women respond very well to me, they immediately feel more comfortable. They often comment that a man had been there before me and had been “frightening” in a pushy, technical way. I break it down for them in a softer way, clearly explaining to them on a level they understand, what the advantages are.” Curt points out, “Holly hits the mark on what people need because she’s empathetic and she really listens. It’s all about them, how could I make this better for them?”

Holly said, “Men often challenge my knowledge, and that’s OK. I understand they feel that way - they aren’t used to a woman in this field. It doesn’t take them long to see that I really do know what I’m talking about. Then they tell me they’re impressed with how much I know, and it’s no longer an issue.”

Holly describes herself as a girly girl. She wears dress pants and a nice shirt with an ID badge when she meets homeowners. She dons coveralls for those all-important trips into crawl spaces and attics. Oh, so it surprises you she goes into attics and crawl spaces? Another myth blown apart! Holly points out that mice run from you, not to you.

Curt Miller said, “I think the one idea I could share with women who see their future in HVAC sales is something Holly reminded me of today. When she started going on sales calls, I tried to give her an easy reminder to offer all customers the great equipment we have, so I told her, ‘Just imagine you bought the perfect dress, now what do you do?’ Her response was what I was looking for: ‘Accessorize! Get the purse, the shoes, the necklace, and earrings.’ Holly understood completely. From that moment on, she offered everything that was appropriate for a particular customer instead of a preconceived idea of what the customer wanted. This took her to a new level - from good to great. I am so proud of her and so grateful that she is part of our company.”

John said, “One thing, right or wrong, I don’t look at my comfort consultant as a woman. I look at her as a valuable team player that can help move our company forward. I just happened to find a woman who loved HVAC as much as I do. I give her credit for walking into what’s considered to be a man’s world, but she is woman enough to do it.”

Holly’s recommendation for hiring great saleswomen is to look for someone who is:

• Outgoing and easy to talk to;

• Represents herself and your company well;

• Learns on their own; and

• Is self-motivated to achieve.

On her own time, Holly loves water sports and loves snow boarding. She has a 2-year-old daughter, Jaylan, who is the light of her life.

Dawn Vickers is a comfort consultant for GV’s Heating & Cooling in Glenview, Ill.


Now let me introduce you to Dawn Vickers, comfort consultant for GV’s Heating & Cooling, Glenview, Ill. Prior to becoming marketing assistant for GV’s Heating and Cooling, Dawn was the assistant soccer coach at College of Lake County in 2005 and 2006 and was named head coach at the College of Lake County in 2007. She was honored as Coach of the Year in 2007, winning State that same year. So Dawn knows a thing or two about goal setting, team building, discipline, and follow-through.

Dawn said, “Our Mid-Way Supply distributor TM, Adam Tolan, is the one who put me on the path to becoming a comfort consultant.” Adam explained she had what it took to be great as a retail sales professional:

• Engaging personality;

• Completely embraced the retail approach to running the business;

• Quick learner; and

• Demonstrated leadership skills in the office and out.

Dawn said, “I am, by nature, driven to succeed; it’s in my DNA.” Her dad, Greg, is the owner and her mother, Pam, manages the office/accounting. Her brother, Scott, and her husband, John, are service technicians. It’s a true family business.

Dawn said she was particularly surprised how well she was received by elderly people. Like Holly’s experience, women tend to be very comfortable with her immediately. She said, “I have to prove more to men up front, and that’s OK. That just inspires me to work harder and get even better.”

Dawn’s success as a comfort consultant is demonstrated in this story. She said, “A couple months ago, I got a call from a couple needing to replace a furnace. When I arrived, we sat down and talked about the comfort concerns they had in their home. The biggest concern was a master bedroom not getting enough air coming out of the supply registers. In this house all of the air supplies were located in the crawl space.

“When I went down in the crawl, I did a complete evaluation of the ductwork. When I crawled about 20 feet on my belly in the crawl, I had found the supply run that is supposed to attach to the boot was disconnected, so the air for that room was being poured into the crawl space.

“Not only did I find the ductwork disconnected, but any time you have ductwork in a crawl or attic, you need to have it all insulated. None of the ductwork in the crawl was insulated one bit. I had taken some pictures of the supply that was disconnected.

“After I did a complete evaluation of the house, I sat down with the homeowners (husband and wife) and went over the concerns that I had found, and showed them the picture I had taken. They were amazed! They had had two other companies in their home before me, and they hadn’t even bothered going into the crawl space.”

Dawn said “GV’s Heating & Cooling Inc. is a family-owned and -operated company that has been in business for 20 years. When we arrive at a client’s home, we will do a complete evaluation of the house, which usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours. The evaluation entails load calculation (to properly size the new equipment), airflow measurements (cfm readings) and a whole-system static pressure test. We feel we are a pioneering company. We hear from clients on each and every sales call that we were the most thorough company that they had.

Our job is to educate and inform our clients above all and to deliver an efficient and comfortable environment with the service and products we provide. Our industry, as a whole, needs to continue to educate HVAC businesses to follow this model of excellence.” She added, our motto is, “First Class Service! First Class Results!”

What does she recommend other contractors look for in hiring women for in-home sales? Dawn said, “Ask them what their goals are. They should have clear goals and be motivated to continually learn and achieve sales and service excellence.”

In her time off, Dawn enjoys rollerblading, hiking, fishing, going on walks with her dog (Toby), and decorating her new house.

So, are you ready to include successful saleswomen on your team? And, why wouldn’t you, most of your customers are women? As John Miller said, she just might be the valuable team player that can help move your company forward. One thing is sure, when you do hire a woman, it’ll be great on the women’s network, and that’s very good for business. “Women do not gossip, they advertise!”

Publication date:11/09/2009