MT. PLEASANT, MI — “What is sales? What is sales technique?” asked Charlie Greer, sales consultant and president of HVAC Profit Boosters Inc., Fort Myers, FL.

“Some salespeople define sales as if it were the ability to convince people to buy something they may or may not need, and may or may not be able to afford, but that we make a commission on.”

Not so, Greer told members of the Michigan Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (MIACCA) at the organization’s annual meeting, held recently at the Soaring Eagle Resort here.

Salesmanship Defined

“The short version of my definition of true, professional salesmanship is simply the ability to reach an agreement with a customer in the shortest amount of time possible and using the least number of words,” Greer said.

But he added that this definition is not as simple as it sounds. Being able to reach an agreement with your customers in the shortest amount of time possible means you have a planned procedure that includes methods to:

  • Determine customers’ needs, wants, and reasons;
  • Establish credibility and rapport;
  • Explain the features and benefits of your products, as well as the benefits of doing business with your company; and
  • Close the sale in a dignified, professional manner, without over-pressuring customers to make a decision; without being at a loss for words; and without overstaying your welcome.
  • “When I run a sales call, I not only want to close the sale, I want my conduct in the home to improve the public’s perception of the hvac industry in particular, and salespeople in general,” he said. “Every time I run a call, I try to leave the door that much more open for the next salesman who comes into my customers’ lives.”

    It is important to remember, according to Greer, that selling is not done to the customer, but rather is done for the customer. There is no need to compromise your morals in an effort to sell more.

    The Price Objection

    Greer offered several ideas that he said could help contractors overcome price objections they often face.

    Presentation and looks go a long way in terms of influencing the success of a salesperson. People skills, organization, and product knowledge — or the lack thereof — all affect the outcome of a sale.

    “A positive personal impact can go a long way toward preventing objections to your recommendations, speeding up the entire process of running service, increasing your personal sales, increasing your personal income, upgrading the entire industry, and making your interactions with your customers more pleasant,” he said.

    Visual aids can help a good salesperson; according to Greer, “A visual aid that provides an estimate of energy savings with new equipment can spark questions in the minds of customers, which can help in the sale of a product. The important thing is being able to answer those questions without saying, ‘I will have to get back to you.’”

    For example, a customer may ask what the efficiency rating of their existing equipment is. There are a variety of sources that tell what the product should be operating at, but the question is, what efficiency level is the equipment operating at now? Being able to answer this question could help not only with this sale, but also with future contacts with that customer.

    Customer Put-Offs

    Some of the more common put-off phrases from customers include:

  • “I want to think it over.”
  • “I’m getting additional prices.”
  • “Your price is too high.”
  • “I could get it cheaper elsewhere.”
  • “I want to wait.”
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
  • “I have a friend (or relative) in the business.”
  • Greer said that the only way to deal with these and the other assorted questions is to know the product and be able to tell customers why they should buy it from your company. Tell them what they are getting for the money, and make sure you include all warranty information.

    Be able to tell customers why spending more money on a more-efficient product, installed and serviced by your company, will save them money in the long run.

    Getting a Signature

    “The mistake most people make in helping a homeowner reach a decision is saying all they have to say and then asking for one large, final commitment,” said Greer. “It helps the homeowner to narrow things down into small pieces.

    “After covering my findings, making my recommendation, and getting enough positive feedback from the customer to where I believe I’m headed in the right direction, I’ll ask a few questions that lead directly to the close.”

    One question that should lead to a direct close, if the salesperson has answered all questions and left no room for the customer to waver on their decision: “Is there any doubt in your mind as to the necessity of changing your equipment at this time?”

    “The answer to that should be no,” said Greer. “Obviously, if you’re asking them to invest several thousand dollars in a replacement, there needs to be no doubt in their minds that it should be done at this time, and the reason why it’s a good idea should have been covered and put to bed long before asking them to make a decision.

    “But remember, I’m helping them to sort out their thoughts, make a decision, and be able to defend themselves when their father-in-law says, ‘Whadja do that for when the one you’ve got is still working?’”

    Customer’s Assistant

    Before you start an effort to increase sales, it is important that you change your role from “salesperson” to “assistant buyer for the customer.” After all, you are there to help the customer make a decision, not just stand there, hands in pockets, waiting for them to make up their minds.

    “Promote yourself from salesman to assistant buyer,” emphasized Greer. “Stop selling and start helping your prospects buy.

    “When you do this, your life changes. You make more friends and customers than you can possibly hope for. The muscles around your neck relax, and you sleep better at night with a clear conscience. Your recommended actions are better received.

    “You stop trying to close sales and let your customers buy.”

    Greer offers workshops and audiotapes, information on both of which can be found at (website); or by contacting him at charlie@hvacprofit (e-mail).

    Publication date: 05/21/2001