Contractors Can Use Persuasion for HVAC Customers' Good
Positive persuasion can lead to profits and long-lasting relationships
Many contractors think of the word “persuasion” as something negative. When persuasion is used to manipulate and deceive others for selfish gain, it is negative, and this perception holds true.
However, persuasion can be used in a positive way to help others see your point of view for their own good. Done the right way, it creates a winning environment for you and your customer. They get the HVAC system they expect and deserve, and you get a profitable sale that leads to a long-lasting relationship.
Performance testing adds another layer to persuasion. It supports your viewpoint with facts about an HVAC system. Testing helps a homeowner view their HVAC system differently than your competition would like them to.
Let’s look at how one high-performance comfort advisor uses testing to help positively persuade his customers to make the best choices about their HVAC systems.
Curriculum developer and trainer National Comfort Institute
INTRODUCING COREY OSBORN
I recently sat down with Corey Osborn from Getzschman Heating LLC in Fremont, Nebraska. He is the first-ever winner of National Comfort Institute’s (NCI’s) High-Performance Sales Excellence Award and a role model for high-performance contractors who use performance testing to persuade their customers.
Corey started at Getzschman seven years ago. He led their system commissioning team with skills learned at NCI training. He ultimately combined this commissioning knowledge into his sales process to create a unique approach that allows him to differentiate himself from the competition.
PERFORMANCE TESTING IS THE FOUNDATION
Corey uses performance testing to help each customer better understand the state of their system and the needed steps to remedy any issues. Instead of focusing on equipment model numbers and efficiency ratings, he adds some quick, simple tests.
The first performance test that Corey does is static pressure. He starts with total external static pressure (TESP) to determine overall HVAC system health. If TESP is excessive, he knows there are airside problems to address. Additional static pressure tests are taken to identify airflow restrictions. They include filter pressure drops, coil pressure drops, and duct pressures.
Corey also knows that static pressure and airflow go hand in hand — high static pressure with low airflow will only get worse. To address this, he measures airflow once he completes his static pressure tests.
Since Getzschman mostly deals with upflow systems in a basement, Corey performs an airflow traverse of the return drop to determine fan airflow. If field conditions aren’t acceptable for a traverse, he plots fan airflow.
In the summer, Corey also adds temperature readings if the compressor is running. He combines temperature readings with his airflow measurement to quickly determine system capacity. He uses it to show the customer what they currently have and lets them know Getzschman performs the same tests after completing the job to assure the system works as designed. These three tests help discover the source of a problem and get the customer involved. Corey said it’s common for customers to start asking questions before he has their test results complete.
LET THE CUSTOMER LEAD
Corey has the customer lead the way — after all, they know their system better than anyone. It’s amazing how many issues a customer will tell you about if you listen and let them guide the way.
Corey helps the customer understand why their system works like it does and what can be done about the issues they point out. However, unless you have test results, you can’t do this, because otherwise, it’s just an opinion.
As he describes any issues, he avoids getting technical with his explanations. When the customer asks questions about a test, like “What does that mean?” he explains the tests in a simple, easy to understand comparison.
Corey sets targets upfront, so the customer knows what to expect. He then shows them their results and gives simple explanations to help them see there’s more to their system than the equipment.
TESP is an excellent example of this technique. Corey shows customers the equipment’s maximum-rated TESP and then shows them live readings from their system. He compares static pressure to blood pressure, so the customer can relate. He also has them consider what will happen to their new system if the issues causing high TESP aren’t corrected.
If you would like a copy of the static pressure to blood pressure comparison table that Corey uses, send me an email request.
COMMON REPAIRS AND UPGRADES
Corey finds several issues that consistently show up in their area from performance testing — most are on the return side of the system. Undersized and restrictive filters top the list and are typically the result of poor design, poor installation, and lack of maintenance.
Static pressure and airflow testing reveal return duct issues that include undersized return trunks and drops, restrictive wall cavities used as return ducts, and trying to bring the systems total return air through a single floor joist.
Each job is unique and special to the customer. Interviewing customers and asking them questions are important to ensure their needs are addressed. In many cases, Corey includes filter and return duct upgrades as part of a replacement package to solve the problems Getzschman’s encounters.
A RECENT EXAMPLE
Corey shared a recent example of how Getzschman’s process works. A homeowner was convinced they needed larger equipment in their 20-year-old home. They had the home renovated and built a room addition. The contractor who installed the HVAC equipment in the addition simply tapped onto existing ducts.
The homeowner had never been comfortable in their room addition. Four other contractors had told them that larger equipment was needed to correct their comfort problems. Something didn’t sound right to the homeowners, so they contacted Getzschman for answers.
None of the previous contractors did any performance testing. Corey took his test measurements and showed the homeowner his readings. He then explained what those numbers should be compared to. The equipment’s maximum-rated TESP was .50 inches of water column (w.c.). The measured TESP was well over .80 w.c., and measured fan airflow was extremely low.
The readings helped explain a few issues:
- The existing equipment was already oversized for the current duct system.
- They showed how simple duct system improvements would allow similarly sized equipment to perform at a higher level.
- Upsizing the equipment without addressing the “airflow kinks” would not solve their issues.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered the return duct was undersized. No one mentioned the return, the need to repair it, or what would happen if it wasn’t fixed. Corey explained what would happen to the variable-speed fan in the proposed equipment if the return-side issues weren’t fixed.
At first, the homeowners thought Corey was crazy, but in the end, they were thankful for his attention to detail. They are purchasing a system because of Corey’s actions — he persuaded them to make a better choice with performance.
BARRIERS TO THIS APPROACH
Corey believes many HVAC contractors don’t use performance testing to persuade because they have misconceptions about it that are hard to overcome. Many believe it takes too long to test. Corey says the tests he performs add about 10 minutes to a call.
Another barrier is the skill set of many salespeople. Unfortunately, many don’t have a technical background and haven’t been educated on how to test. The last thing a salesperson wants to deal with is drilling test holes in equipment, only to face homeowner backlash because they don’t understand the importance.
Corey has a strong support system at Getzschman because management believes in high-performance HVAC systems. For this approach to work, you must believe in the importance of measuring performance.
Be bold: Measuring offers the confidence to prove that you’re different. If you aren’t happy with your current results, learn the skills needed to test performance. Once in place, start to increase your selling skills. Two books you need in your library are “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” by Og Mandino, and “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling,” by Frank Bettger. Start reading and applying the knowledge in these books in small chunks, one principle at a time. Before you know it, your confidence and success will increase.
Invest your time and learn the persuasion skills needed to better serve your customers. Help them see your point of view so they agree with you — and then act. Remember, when done correctly, persuasion is a positive step to help your customers understand.
If you’re an HVAC contractor or technician interested in learning more about measuring system performance, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-633-7058. NCI’s website, www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com, is full of free techånical articles and downloads to help you improve your professionalism and strengthen your company
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