Last time we talked about how sales is a two-step process. We talked about the three major things customers use to decide whom to hire: trust, feeling listened to and getting a good deal (price is a part of this). 

And finally, how if the first two aren’t addressed, the default choice is price.

Remember me writing about how typical jobs are bid? Numbers are thrown at people with a minimum of information. Everyone takes turns coming in, looking and sending back a price. Talking to potential customers about technical HVAC stuff when they have no clue or desire to learn about the industry. And you wonder why they picked the cheapest contractor even though you didn’t give them a reason to pick you.

A better way

Remember you’re also trying to convince customers they should actually go ahead with the project they’re considering. Sometimes, of course, they don’t have much choice: If the heat exchanger is cracked, the furnace has to go. But if they’re considering an upgrade because they want to gain efficiency or are tired of constant repairs, sometimes they need a little nudge.

Asking good questions, based around your customer’s wants and needs, followed by listening to their answers, is what causes them to trust you have their best interests at heart. If they’re thinking they might replace their furnace, there are safety, comfort and efficiency issues to ask about. Every system has some issues, real or perceived, that can be addressed. You just have to dig them out.

Let’s say that you show up to “Shelly’s house” because she and her husband are thinking it might be time to replace their HVAC system. In looking at the existing system with her, you notice freestanding electric heaters in a room or two. You ask her about that, and she lets you know that yes, there are cold areas in the house.

You notice Shelly has a new baby. You ask if they have carbon monoxide detectors and explain why they’re important if they don’t.

You talk about heat bills and how during the cold months they can really eat into the family budget. Or the air conditioning bills during the hot months. You talk about how new equipment and technology can really help control what they’re paying for energy.

Through the conversation, you get a feel for how Shelly feels about energy efficiency. If she feels green HVAC is an important issue, you explain some products and methods available to address it.

You see Shelly has a couple pets in the house. You talk about indoor air quality. You mention how air exchangers are an efficient way to keep the air fresh, and that a certain brand has an awesome new filtration system that can be installed with a new furnace.

You notice Shelly has various devices in the home — maybe a tablet, a smartphone and a laptop. Since the family is obviously tech-savvy, you talk about the new cutting-edge thermostats available that can be accessed by their devices.

It’s not about you

Hopefully, you never once mentioned how awesome your company is. Or how your company has a really neat new sheet metal shop. Or that all your service vehicles are under 4 years old? Or that your company just invested $5,000 in new vehicle exterior advertising wraps? Or that all your technicians get trained and certified. Or that your company belongs to several industry associations.

Customers don’t care about you, your company, your shop, your vehicles or anything else about you.

It’s not that all the things you’re so proud of aren’t important. They are. They just aren’t what gets you the sale. So be proud of all the awesomeness your company has achieved. Keep improving and moving ahead. Just don’t try to use them to impress customers.

The close

Instead, take all the feedback customers give you and create a proposal with all their concerns addressed. Don’t email it to them and wait for a phone call. Create a clear, concise, detailed document, bring it to their homes and talk about every concern you uncovered. Do it item by item, explaining what the various fixes are.

Then simply ask for the sale. You don’t need fancy closing techniques or to be pushy. But you do have to ask.

When you make the sale about customers and address all their concerns, they can see it’s possible to get what they want and that going ahead with the project is better than waiting. And you’re setting your company apart from the competition. No one else is going through all the trouble to understand them.

This process isn’t going to win you every sale, especially from people fixated on price. But you’ll definitely sell more jobs, and the ones you sell — assuming you do what you promise — will give you customers for life. You’ll also feel a lot better about yourself when you just give people what they want. And you’ll make more money per sale in the bargain.

Randy Redinger is the former owner of contracting companies in the plumbing, HVAC and hydronic heating fields. He says it’s his mission to help contractors avoid having to go through the pain of bad business practices by teaching them to truly understand their businesses. His consulting company is Milestones Inc. Visit and email him at