Studies show that women drive as much as 80% of purchasing decisions. Yet many HVAC contractors struggle to reach these critical consumers. For those who want to do a better job selling to women, it starts with hiring salespeople.
A recent study by Zolo, an online real estate marketplace, found an updated HVAC system ranked as one of the most important features for women when looking for a new home. It didn’t ever rank in the top five for men.
“There's always been interest in homes that offer an updated furnace and central a/c unit; however, the recent survey lends credibility to the idea that would-be homeowners are spending more time at home, so they want to be extra-sure they can spend more time comfortably at home,” said Romana King, Zolo’s director of content.
King said it makes sense that updated HVAC components were high on a women's want list, since, by and large, women took on the bulk of the hours to work from home. They are also often responsible for overseeing their children as they attend school online during the pandemic.
“Given the stress of using your home space as work, school, and play space, it makes perfect sense that women would want a system that functions efficiently and effectively,” King said.
So HVAC contractors need to target women. A problem is that many HVAC salespeople struggle in this area. Some are too technical. Others have a personality that turns off women in one way or another. One solution to this challenge is hiring more female salespeople.
From Restaurants to HVAC
The owners of Air Comfort Heating and Cooling, an HVAC firm with operations in Columbus and Fremont, Nebraska, hired its first female salesperson a year and a half ago. Co-owner Steve Simmons met Holly Jackson at the restaurant where she used to work. Simmons said he kidded with her and she dished it right back. Before Simmons left with his wife, Jackson had his business card.
She called Air Comfort a couple of weeks later. Taking a job with an HVAC firm was a major change for Jackson. She had spent her entire adult life working in the restaurant business. Still, she was willing to take the chance, and Simmons was willing to take the chance on her.
In fact, Simmons said he prefers to hire salespeople from outside the HVAC business. He said too many of them get too technical for any customer, male or female. Often, they will steer a conversation more toward a husband than a wife if he seems more interested in the nuts and bolts of the system, rather than how it performs.
Consumers Want Heat, Cooling, Not Technical Specs
What consumers really want is someone who will address their needs, rather than the machinery’s features.
“The homeowner wants to be listened to,” Simmons said. “They want somebody to understand what their problem is.
“They want to be warm when it’s cold outside and they want to be cool when it’s hot, and they don’t want to have any problems. And they want to know that if something does happen, you’re going to be there to take care of it.”
Jackson tries to give consumers what they want. She has gained more technical knowledge in the past couple of years. Early on, Jackson rode along with technicians and went to installs. That learning curve helped her understand how to explain the ways a new system will benefit customers.
Jackson avoids topics such as air flow and static pressure. This just confuses people. Instead, she attempts to draw people into conversations. Jackson said she’s good at reading people. She said women usually know what they want from an HVAC system, but many avoid technical conversations.
Another HVAC firm recently sent its only female salesperson to visit Jackson and learn how she operates. Jackson is happy to help other women as they enter the HVAC business. She said one piece of advice is that they will be outnumbered by men at most firms, but she knows that her team has her back because she has theirs.
“I’m still trying to make their life easier with every single install,” Jackson said.