“What’s the cost of the furnace?” asked Mrs. Smith, as she fumbled through several pages of downloaded furnace pricing sheets. “How much do you charge per hour and what would you charge me to just hook up the furnace?”

Can you relate to this scenario?

In today’s information age, with the Internet-educated consumer, it has become even more critical that the successful HVAC contractor distance himself from the masses and continue to inform, educate, and create value for the client. The first thing all contractors can do is start by repeating 10 times slowly out loud: “It’s not about the box.”

Develop a Different Relationship

Depending on where you live, almost any Joe with a bag of tools and means to arrive at a customer’s house can label himself an HVAC specialist. This is not what any of us want our industry to look like. No matter how much time the customer spends surfing Internet HVAC chat rooms or do-it-yourself websites, no amount of best-price furnace searches will help a customer differentiate multiple furnace bids from multiple companies.

It’s the HVAC contractor’s responsibility to develop a relationship, earn trust, and ask the appropriate questions to ensure clients are receiving the options they actually want, not just a new box that distributes hot and cold air.

Wikipedia defines a client as a person who receives help or advice from a professional person. The successful HVAC contractor is the mentioned professional person and the customer that invites the contractor into the home is the client. Contractors must respect this privilege and honor clients by determining what they actually want before sharing any re-

Ask the Right Questions

Picture yourself, on a beautiful, warm spring day as you and your special someone head to the local car dealership to check out your dream car. As you strut on up to the shiny new ride, you gaze through the window at the custom, six-way, power-heated leather seats and a full-surround stereo system with an advanced, heads-up display. You can almost feel the cool air from the precision air conditioning system rushing across your face as you imagine cruising along the winding Oceanside ride. Then you hear: “I think you two would look great in that new minivan across the lot,” as the salesman, offering a firm handshake and smile, abruptly breaks you away from your mental vacation.

What was the biggest mistake the salesman just made?

Did he ever ask what you, the customer, wanted?

How does he know you are better suited for a minivan?

A smart salesman would never steer you away from your dream car, and he would never judge what you can or cannot afford.

Now ask yourself, how many of you — and let’s be honest — have walked into a customer’s home, looked around, checked over the existing furnace, and quoted a mid-efficient box to replace the existing low-efficient box. All of you? Shame on us. Repeat after me — it’s not about the box.

Maybe they wanted the HEPA filter and a touchscreen thermostat with 98 percent modulating furnace complete with UV air purification. We don’t know unless we ask.

Without asking, we provided the customer with a piece of paper no different than the same piece of paper every contractor has left with them. We gave them what we thought they wanted and what we felt was best for them, but had no idea what they wanted, what they can afford, or what was truly best for them because we never asked.

Develop a relationship with your clients, earn their trust, and ask specific questions to determine what they want. Then you will begin to provide the service requested when you are invited into their homes.

Treat new clients with the same respect you’d expect your mother to be treated with and you’ll close more sales with higher margins. You’ll be better serving them while distancing yourself from the competition. Repeat after me — it’s not about the box.

Publication date: 5/14/2012