I interview sales professionals all the time and am constantly amazed at how these professionals have been able to get so far in their careers without learning the basics of selling. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling pencils, lab equipment, or HVAC products — what is most important stays the same: You should always give your customers what they need.

The only way to discover what the customers’ needs are is by asking questions. The answers to these questions will allow you to discover what the customers truly need, which may be different than what they originally thought they wanted.

Your client thought they needed a low-cost provider of goods to increase their margins, when in reality they needed a partner who could help them to manage their inventory. The solutions allow the customer to keep their trucks properly stocked so they can run more service calls, which generates more revenue.

Customers do not want features recited to them, such as low costs, better warranties, or Wi-Fi capabilities. They need the solutions, such as better inventory turns, products that will allow them to achieve higher profits, products that consumers want and which will increase a contractor’s closing rates. Your customer wants the outcome that will come with the right solution to their problem.



I ask people I interview to sell me a pen, and amazingly enough, most will tell me all about the pen they are trying to sell me. Only a few will ask why do I need a pen, or ask what’s wrong with the pen I am currently using. Customers typically only give you half the story. It’s your job to pull out all the information. You have to truly understand what the customer needs, and then you will be able to come up with the proper solution.

If you ask the right questions, sometimes you might just discover that you and your company are not the right fit for an organization. You cannot sell to everyone. It is best to realize this early and save everyone time, money, and headaches. You will never know this unless you ask probing questions. If your company doesn’t offer the right solution, you should refer them to someone who might be able to and ask how else you could be of service.

You will only temporarily have an account if you just probe for pain, sell them on the benefits of your products or services, but never really solve their problem. The temporary solution won’t last, and the real problem will still exist. The salesperson who can properly identify what the customer needs and then match that to the correct solution will be able to keep the account long-term.

Why is the contractor looking at a new equipment line? Do they have a poor closing rate, not enough leads, or they don’t offer financing? The average salesperson will bone up on benefits, get great pricing, stock up on nice brochures, and march into their prospective customers office and present nothing but features and benefits of their equipment, with very competitive pricing. It is better to help solve the real problem.

Once again, if you ask direct, open-ended questions, you will be able to drill down to the real problem.

Example: “If I may ask, why are you looking at a second line of equipment at this time?”

The answer will help you solve the problem.

Customer: “Our main brand is a little too expensive, especially when we have to sell in the city. Whenever we sell into the heart of the city, everything seems to be about price.”

The customer seems to think you will provide them with a low-cost, possibly inferior product that they can sell to customers who they believe are in financial trouble. The real problem is that the customer hasn’t figured out how to show their value proposition to some of their potential customers. It could be that they do not have value to offer. If so, they will lose to anyone who is lower priced, and sometimes to competitors who are also priced higher.

The contractor has no perceived value to offer the homeowner, so selling has become a price game for your customer. If you can help the customer develop a value added sales process while introducing your equipment, it is likely you will not only earn the sale but gain a loyal customer who will look to you as a trusted advisor.



One way to teach a contractor how to sell value is getting them to understand that what they really need to sell to their consumers, which is a solution to their problems. The consumer typically wants a reliable system and wants their heating and cooling concerns to vanish.

The contractor needs to help the consumer understand that the best equipment will fail if it is installed poorly. If you look at Consumer Reports, the Furnace Doctor, Angie’s List, etc., they all say the same thing: The installation, not the brand, is the single most important aspect when choosing equipment.

The best part is that all of this great information is being published by others, by a neutral party, and not by you. All of the websites disagree on who makes the best equipment, but they all agree on the importance of the installation.

You can help your contractor sell the value of his installation teams (provided he has a good one). If you help people improve their sales process while you’re quoting your particular equipment line, not only are the chances good that you will get that business, but your chances of becoming their main supplier will improve.

You need to conduct a proper need analysis, asking open-ended questions until you understand what the customer truly needs, followed up with a needs solution on all your sales calls.

Drop reciting features and benefits, trying to find the customer’s pain. Instead, solve the customer’s problems. Your customers will love you, and your sales will increase dramatically. You will become their go-to guy. If you become a trusted advisor, you will be in the position every sales person secretly wants. It is then that you will cross over and become a great salesperson.

Happy selling!

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