This may sound like a column I have previously written, but it isn’t, so please read on. Our sales engineers are seeing an increasing and discouraging trend of contractors using unethical tactics in their sales practices. These examples are not from hearsay, but are true life incidents our people have encountered.


The first incident occurred on a Friday right after the first of the year. A lady called and explained that a contractor’s service technician had inspected her furnace and that he not only condemned the furnace by saying there were holes in three of the four heat exchanger cells, but he turned off the gas, put a tag on the furnace, and told the lady that if she ran the furnace, it could kill her. Those were her exact words. Fortunately, she questioned the integrity of the technician enough to give us a call to check it out. What we found was a 17-year-old furnace with a heat exchanger that lacked even a speck of rust. It was in beautiful condition. Our technician reconnected the furnace because the weekend forecast called for bitter temperatures. Although we attempted to ensure her the furnace was in really good condition, she had been scared enough that she still wanted us to replace the furnace the following Monday. When we made the replacement, we instructed the installers to return the old furnace to our shop and we had the heat exchanger removed. We thoroughly checked it over and are 100 percent convinced there never was anything wrong with it.

I had hoped tactics like this had gone away, like so many things from the 1950s and ‘60s. But, there it was, right in front of us. A customer was being pressured through scare tactics to make an unnecessary purchase. These are not the types of schemes we want to see in the HVAC business. Word spreads when contractors who use methods like this, and the entire industry pays a price. Once we’re known as that kind of an industry, it’s hard to shed that label.


The second example is not quite the same because it doesn’t involve a broken furnace, but it is an example of an unacceptable high-pressure sales tactic that can again damage the industry’s reputation. In this instance, one of our sales engineers had an appointment at a couple’s home to give them a price on a new furnace. The job, as it turned out, was a fairly routine furnace replacement. When our guy arrived, there was a truck from another HVAC company in the driveway. Not wanting to be rude and willing to wait his turn, our guy waited in his car.

Thirty minutes later, our guy decided he’d waited long enough and knocked on the door. As he attempted to apologize for interrupting, the lady of the house apologized profusely to him, saying, “I can’t get rid of him.” With that, our engineer entered the house and the salesman from the other company planted himself on the sofa. The homeowner led our guy downstairs to inspect the furnace, at which time the lady’s husband came downstairs to join them. They discussed the furnace replacement and both the husband and wife complained about the other salesman who refused to leave. In fact, picture this: Our man is downstairs selling the couple the replacement furnace while the other salesman continued to sit alone on the living room sofa.

Eventually, when our guy and the couple had done all they needed to do in the basement, they returned upstairs and the lady finally got tough with the other salesman and escorted him out the door. He had obviously come to the home with the commitment that he wasn’t going to leave without a sale.

We hear of this tactic frequently. Sales people who need to use these types of tactics are not properly selling anything. In our industry, if a salesman shows a sincere interest in solving the problem and explains all available options — as well as sells himself as an honest and sincere individual — there’s no need to stall on the sofa until the consumer cries uncle.

If your sales engineers, comfort advisors, technicians, etc. have to resort to high-pressure methods to sell themselves and your company, then you have the wrong people in the wrong positions.

Contractors, please carefully look at how you do business. Please don’t resort to tactics that set our industry back to the 1950s. We are an industry that does the public a tremendous service. It’s unfair to our customers, and the industry as a whole, if we lower ourselves to these unethical sales standards.

Publication date: 3/14/2016

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