It only takes a few words to describe the dramatic change that confronts every salesperson today, including those in the hvacr industry:

The customer is in charge of the sale, not you.

The role of the hvacr salesperson is to expedite the customer’s decisions, not to influence the process according to what you want to sell. Customers today think they can choose their own products; but what will draw them to your company for advice and service?

Getting in the door

Salespeople will admit their number-one problem is getting through the door. When they do, they encounter an empowered prospect who takes charge of the selling process.

This customer already has printouts from hvac manufacturers’ websites with a variety of product descriptions, and has some idea of what they’re looking for. Why should they call you?

Because you’ve been in touch with them all along, that’s why.

The new sales situation requires the customer to find the salesperson because they want what is being offered: information they can trust.

Be the magnet

To make more sales, the job is to motivate the prospect to want to do business with you — to know you. There are five parts to the process:

1. Identify the correct customers.

Too many businesses fail at prospecting because they have not identified precisely to whom they want to sell. This is a demanding process.

The worst possible assumption is expressed as, “We know our customers.”

2. Work your way inside the prospect’s head.

If the customer is in charge of the sale, then the assumption that you know what they want and how to deal with them is a deadly one.

“Our customers want good service and the lowest possible price. That’s it,” the sales manager of a commercial air conditioning service firm reported. “That’s all they want from us.”

However, a survey of the company’s customers revealed a different picture. At the top of their list were complaints about system operation (too hot, too cold) and unresponsive repair service. Price was not an issue.

3. Pull the customer to you with a “magnetic field.”

The message, or “pull,” can be implemented with e-mail messages, a Web site that provides helpful information, and communications that make ordering easy.

Consider sending highly focused direct mail; publishing niche market newsletters; holding seminars; distributing bylined articles to trade media, business, and consumer publications; and advertising.

The goal is to position your company as a valuable, relevant, and unequaled customer resource.

Let customers know that you understand their businesses, along with the steps needed to make them more successful. Create a “buying environment” that sets the stage for the salesperson to be perceived as a useful ally.

4. Stay with the pulling process.

Most sales are lost because the salesperson quits too soon. When the customer fails to buy according to the salesperson’s schedule, the prospect is dropped.

Once you have created the magnetic field to pull the customer, keep pulling. Also, look for new ways to enlarge that field by identifying and focusing on additional prospect niches, or extending the pull beyond the current marketing area.

5. Keep your hands on the prospecting controls.

There is a tendency to view everything as a project, with a definable scope and time frame. Project thinking views every activity as limited, where you complete the project and move on to something else.

Marketing and sales are not projects; they are an integral part of the company’s ongoing operations. They are not to be “turned up” when sales are down, or minimized because sales are strong.

This five-step process will help your company change its selling process.

Today, nothing happens until someone wants to buy something. Once this occurs, the professional salesperson is in business.

John R. Graham, president of Graham Communications, is an author and a speaker. He can be contacted at (Web site).