Weldon Long was once a poverty-stricken drug addict caged behind bars with no hope.
After serving part of his life - more than 13 years - behind bars, the once troubled teen had grown into an adult with absolutely nothing.
Today, just seven years removed from his last prison term, Long, 48, is a successful HVAC contractor, motivational speaker, author, and sales trainer. He built his empire on personal responsibility and proven sales tactics.
During a two-day training event at distributor The Habegger Corp. in Cincinnati, Long told a roomful of Bryant HVAC dealers that with a little discipline, they too can attain similar results.
SUCCESS IS ATTAINABLEGrieving over his recently deceased father, Long, while in prison, stumbled across the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage." Long repeated the words every day for seven years.
As Long entered society, he did so with no job experience and a lengthy criminal record. His son, Hunter, who he deserted at 3 years old, was kept from him, as his role as a father had dissipated to just another guy.
Courageously, as Emerson hinted at, Long set out to make a man of himself.
He landed a sales job with a small heating and air conditioning company and used that experience to start his own small HVAC company in 2004. In 2007, he purchased Wright Total Indoor Comfort, a residential/add-on HVACR business.
Long tirelessly learned the HVACR industry, and, through trial and error, taught himself the most effective way to close a sale.
In just four years, his companies amassed $20 million in sales and were recognized as No. 1,690 on Inc. magazine's ranking of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in America.
THE POWER OF CONSISTENCYLong insists his effective practices begin between the ears. The first step: Get the mind right.
"If you give away a $400 discount on a job, that isn't going to kill your business. However, if you give away $400 discounts to 500 customers, you've just cost yourself $200,000," he said. "If someone walked in on New Year's Eve and asked for a $200,000 discount, you wouldn't give that money away, because it is too much. But, throughout the year, that is exactly what is happening. You have to do the little things, and you have to be consistent."
He said effective results are a reflection of effective thoughts.
"The key to creating a life of abundance, wealth, happiness, and peace of mind is evaluating what's in your subconscious, removing the junk, and replacing it with the life and business of your dreams," he said. "So, I changed my thoughts. And when I changed my thoughts, I changed the way I felt. And when I changed the way I felt, I changed the way I acted. And when I changed the way I acted, I got better results."
Long developed the F.E.A.R. (Focus, Emotions, Action, and Responsibility) process for personal change. Through the process, he began writing down goals that included gaining wealth, buying a home in Maui, becoming an educated man, and establishing a relationship with his son. Over the next decade, he had achieved each.
"I wrote down my goals, stuck them to the wall of my cell, and read and dreamed about them every day for the next seven years," he said. "When you start telling yourself these things, in the present tense, you start to believe them as true - and then you start to do the things necessary to make them happen."
Long encouraged the HVAC professionals in attendance to create their own lists and spend 10 to 15 minutes with them each and every morning.
"If you force yourself to review your goals and experience the emotional attachment of these thoughts, you'll develop a purpose. You'll develop a drive," he said. "Over time you will accomplish these goals. Your actions will field results."
CLOSING THE DEALLong told the Habegger dealers that they need to offer their products with a no-risk guarantee. Whether it is a factory-authorized partnership, a risk-reversal contract, or money-back guarantee, presenting this backstop promotes buyer confidence.
"Tell these individuals that they'll be installing or repairing their unit at no risk. The risk falls on you as a contractor," he said. "Homeowners have no idea if they've made the right decision until after a system is installed. You have to stress that if they are unhappy with the service, the people, the product - or for any reason at all - that you'll refund their money and remove the system, free of charge."
Upon entering the home, before ever looking at the equipment, Long encourages a contractor to sit down at the kitchen table with a homeowner to discuss the guarantee, referral letters, price, timing, and why there is no need for three bids.
"The key is to close off any potential escape routes that could hold up a deal before the homeowner ever considers running for them," he said. "It is important to discuss these objections in a proactive manner before you get to the final steps of the sale."
Regarding the need for three bids, Long simply tells customers that no other company is offering the risk-free option that his company is.
"They don't need three bids. They simply need to trust in your confidence and trust in your guarantee. Because if they aren't happy with the system, or if you screw up in any way, you'll buy it back," he said.
Price needs to be discussed up front, so there isn't a sense of "sticker shock" at the end of the discussion.
"We're talking price upfront because I want to make sure that a homeowner is realistic with just how much HVAC systems cost," he said. "I also want to find out that the homeowner can afford my least expensive equipment. I'd much rather conquer that issue now than an hour down the road at the end of the sales process."
Long also identified, maybe most importantly, that a contractor always asks a customer to trust him with the job.
"You can't leave the home without asking for the homeowner's trust," he said. "Trust is a key issue, and if you offer your word, and ask for their trust, it may be the final step to closing a deal."
AN EFFECTIVE PROCESSThe Bryant professionals in attendance at the Habegger seminar believe Long's training techniques may have a lasting impact on their sales.
"Wally and I go back to 2009, and when we brought him in to a company sales meeting, we all got the shock of our lives," said John Dorr, CEO, The Habegger Corp., Cincinnati. "I wasn't sure what to think as here is this guy walking from prison to our training floor, but the more we worked together, the more phenomenal he was. He knows how to sell in a tough economy, and his message resonates with everyone he connects with."
Mike Breiner, comfort consultant, JonLe Heating and Cooling, Cincinnati, said he was very impressed with Long's methodology.
"I learned the importance of consistency, why not to lower a price, and that you have to train your brain to be successful," he said. "Weldon taught me that I have a job to do - to diagnose and offer solutions. It is my job to present the options, and it is up to the homeowner to say yes or no."
Mike Dorsten, sales, The Habegger Corp., said the training session was the best he's ever attended. "This was a great session," he said. "Every contractor will gain something from this event."
Brian Newport, residential sales manager, The Habegger Corp., said Long's training has proven successful, and that he is excited to introduce Long's techniques to the business.
"We believe in training our dealers. We understand that trained dealers are successful dealers. We know that if we train them we will be better, more profitable, and have better overall success," he said. "We've worked with Wally for the last four years on our Bryant side and have yet to see anyone that has experienced his training regress. He is an amazing trainer."