When I began this series highlighting professional HVAC saleswomen (“At the Table: Women in the Salesforce,” Sept. 28, 2009) I related that I had tracked down some of these women, and there was no cookie-cutter approach to their path to being a saleswoman in HVAC. Dr. Roseann Cyngier, president of Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning, Cleveland, certainly fits that description.
How many HVAC salespeople, men or women, do you know who have earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry? Cyngier has. In fact, she was a happy, full-time research chemist when an unexpected turn of events put her on the path to HVAC sales, proving once again John Lennon’s insightful quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Cyngier explained, “I started in HVAC by working in our company where my husband, Peter, serviced apartments with mostly boilers for management companies. I did the billing, paid bills and worked from a small home office - all while working for The Standard Oil Company (SOHIO) as a full-time research chemist. I went on maternity leave with our oldest son, Edward, with the understanding of having part-time work at the end of the leave. Meanwhile, BP (British Petroleum) decided to buy SOHIO and would not allow new part-time positions. Since I wanted to be there to raise our son, I left a very promising Ph.D. chemist position, as I did not choose to be away 50-60 hours per week, which I had done working at SOHIO for over 8 years.”
Then Cyngier embarked on her move to full-time, flexible involvement with HVAC as their family grew to include six children, three of them adopted from Russia.
WHAT A SURPRISECyngier wasn’t originally involved in in-home sales, but that all changed one very busy October. She remembers it clearly. “I had attended sales classes with our employees, but the first time I went on a sales call of my own was in the 1990s when our salesperson suddenly took a job as an inspector ‘that he’d been waiting for’ and left me with phones ringing and no official salesperson in the busy month of October. I picked up one of our sales books, walked out the door, and have been selling since.”
Selling indeed! Carrier has twice awarded Cyngier the Million Dollar Sales Award for selling over $1 million in residential systems within a year.
How do customers respond to this Million Dollar Saleswoman? “Most frequently I am met with surprise. Women, especially seniors, take to me. They confide things like ‘My late husband said to never go with the low price, but we don’t need the top of the line either.’ By the time I leave their home, they are so grateful that I explained everything so thoroughly (translation: in a language that they understand)! I don’t fumble over Btu, AFUEs, and technical talk that confuses (even frightens those that don’t understand). Instead, I focus on the features and benefits of the possible choices. I sell more Carrier Infinity products than all of the Performance, Comfort, and Base levels combined,” stated Cyngier.
“Men are the most surprised that I have showed up at their house. Sometimes the office does not tell them who is coming out; it would be a shame to have a hesitant man cancel a call because he doubts my abilities before I get there. They get over it quickly as I typically ask how they heard about us, tell them briefly about us, and include the presentation of my five state of Ohio licenses: HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Hydronics, and Refrigeration. They know these are not easy to obtain, and they boost credibility.
“By the time I inform them that Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning was selected Best Contractor to Work For byThe NEWSand that we are the only Carrier Distinguished Dealer in their area, they are all ears. Then I shut up and listen, just like a good salesperson, till they tell me what they want.
“We match up their needs to our products and present it all not as sell, sell, sell, but as help, help, help. You have problems with a noisy air conditioner outside your bedroom window? We have a sound silencer in our Carrier condensers.’ ‘You are paying $300 a month for gas in this bungalow? We can help with the Carrier Infinity furnace.’ ‘You need payment plans? We can help with that, too.’ I am almost never the low price on the table; frequently I’ll be the highest.
“One customer told me that a competitor said that two-stage air conditioning is only for rich people. I asked, ‘Are fuel-efficient cars only for rich people?’ Our discussion ended with a very happy customer to date who paid $1,200 more for a system that he’d almost been taught to avoid. Whew!”
ENGAGING A COUPLE“Couples are a challenge because I want to engage both. Sometimes the woman says little because the man ‘understands better.’ My mission is to get her to understand, too. She can’t fool me; frequently if a decision is not made that first visit, the man will ask the woman, “So what do you think?” She will choose the proposal that has attached to it the salesperson that she liked best (translation: that spoke her language and explained features and benefits to her).
“I was at a prospect’s home a few months ago where he had scheduled me at a time when another contractor was still there. I could have left. For all I knew he was getting about half a dozen estimates, and I knew by the truck in the driveway that I would not be the cheapest, for sure. Instead, I took my basement furnace measurements, etc. and bought some time while the other guy finished up. I heard him say something like ‘I promise you won’t be disappointed.’ Geez, how’s that for inviting fear, doubt, and uncertainty into your potential job decision?
“I noted that the woman was puttering around in the kitchen. When it was my turn, I asked some questions, engaged the woman, [and found out] oh, yes, she has Lupus. She was very concerned about the air quality and humidity levels. She participated directly in the conversation, sat at the table, watched my drawings, and read the literature as I highlighted the best features. I knew she was going to be the decision-maker here!”
The biggest surprise to Cyngier when she got into in-home sales was “that people in bungalows, small houses, and very working class neighborhoods wanted the best because they are tired of ‘deals that seem too good to be true.’ They want to be comfortable and are tired of handing paychecks over to the gas company. So, they are willing to pay for it!
“Yes, I have sold many top-of-the-line Carrier Infinity systems in neighborhoods that are not affluent. So, do not judge a book by its cover translates to don’t judge the homeowner by the pickup truck vs. BMW in the driveway.”
HVAC SALESWOMEN TRAITSWhen I asked Cyngier if she went in crawl spaces and attics, her immediate response was, “That’s where all the fun is!” We can put the myth to rest that women won’t go into crawl spaces and attics; every saleswoman I’ve interviewed does.
Cyngier said, “Working in the HVAC field has given me immense flexibility in scheduling hours. Sure, I take evening appointments, but I went to almost all the daytime events, orchestra concerts, and conferences for all our children.”
Cyngier’s recommendation for what contractors should look for in hiring women for in-home sales are women who can:
• Establish credibility through attitude, knowledge, and presentation with customers;
• Explain features and benefits of the HVAC products you have;
• Adapt to working with different people, e.g., CEO of a corporation, auto worker, senior widow, young couple, and understand their needs;
• Listen, listen, listen, offer choices, listen, listen, and get the sale; and
• Get profitable results regularly and consistently.
“It’s important they are clean and hygienic - but they certainly do not need to be a model. Real people buy from real people.”
To find women with these qualities and characteristics, Cyngier said to pay attention; they are right before you every day. They are the people who provide great service inside your company and those you love doing business with outside your company.
LIVING LIFEWhen I asked what people would be most surprised to know about her, I learned just what a courageous and tough lady Cyngier is. Her response, “On a personal note, I fought a cancer battle in the spring/summer 2009. I am fine now - back to my usual high-energy level.”
“I was told on March 2, 2009 that I had cancer and went to my first MRI two weeks later. On my way back from the Cleveland Clinic, I went to Cleveland City Hall and put in a bid for a project with Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. I believed I would get through this cancer and had faith that I’d be able to continue at my high energy level.
“After fighting cancer with surgery, radiation, and medicine, I turned 50 in July. Then, after a great birthday party with family and friends, I went on my own Celebrate Life Trip with my son Kevin, and nephew David Mallon (both 19 years old) for some high adventure in Utah. We hiked all the trails in Arches National Park, did two awesome rappels into a 90-foot grotto and 120 feet off an arch, went whitewater rafting on the Colorado River in Westwater Canyon, explored Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon, and went 4x4ing in a dry wash canyon in Canyonlands National Park.”
It’s easy to see that Cyngier lives the quote on her bedroom wall, “It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” - Abraham Lincoln
What happened with the bid on the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport project? “We just successfully completed that project. I’ve been blessed. Have faith.”
Cyngier is very active in her community. She speaks for many groups in her expertise as an inorganic chemist and to groups encouraging girls and women to explore less traditional and highly rewarding careers such as those in HVAC.
In her special time, Cyngier enjoys photography and traveling with her husband and sons. And, most recently she’s rebuilding the engine of her 1980 Chevy Camaro Z28.
Exemplary women in HVAC sales make for success stories that race through the mighty women’s network - and that is very good for your business. “Women do not gossip, they advertise!”®