Before you even worry about what to say when they tell you your price is too high, do you have a way to present the price to the customer — a way that is almost guaranteed to ensure survival on the call? That would be important, wouldn’t it?

As I mentioned in my article last month, I don’t bring the price book in with me when I first meet the customer. After I’ve completed my inspection, I usually go out to the truck to figure my prices and write everything up. I find that watching me flip through a lot of pages, doing a lot of writing and hitting a lot of buttons on a calculator makes my customers nervous, so I make every attempt to do it out of their sight.

I don’t quote the prices on the company’s beautifully designed, preprinted work order. Why? Because it’s colorful, it’s interesting, it’s distracting, it’s confusing, and it’s intimidating.

I also don’t use the price manual to point to the prices. Using the price manual to quote prices causes me to have to flip through a lot of pages and, if my recommendations involve more than one task (which they certainly will), that technique doesn’t allow me to quote a total bottom-line price for the complete job in an easy to comprehend format.


I take a simpler, easier to read and less sophisticated approach to presenting the price. I write out everything that needs to be done, line-by-line, on a clean sheet of lined 81¼2 by 11-in. paper. I show both the “standard rate” and the “service agreement rate” for each task, side-by-side.

Don’t forget to show the standard rates for cleaning both the furnace and the air conditioner when appropriate. (And whose air conditioner and furnace are already clean when you get there? Lack of maintenance probably caused the problem in the first place!) Also, show the price of the maintenance agreement added in to the “maintenance agreement price column.”

If your company has a service agreement program that provides service agreement customers with discount pricing, one way to get a lot more agreements is to allow techs to apply the discount pricing to that day’s service call if the customer wants to sign up for the agreement on the spot.

This technique proves to the customer that they’re not “paying extra” for a maintenance agreement — they’re saving money with one!

I usually separate the repairs that absolutely must be done just to get the equipment running from the add-on repairs with little subtotals along the way.

Skip a line between each repair to make it easier to read and to fill as much of the piece of paper as possible.

Don’t use dollar signs ($) unless you’re showing customers the savings they will realize; they make the numbers look bigger.

This format is called “Charlie Greer’s Paper Towel Close,” and has improved the sales of countless technicians across the country. Just about all the top selling techs I know use this technique. (See Figure 1 for an example.)

When I’m running a service call on older equipment where I feel that the customer would benefit by replacing it, I also show the price for the replacement equipment under all the repair prices along with a brief description of the equipment. (See Figure 2.)

Listen, when the equipment is so old and in such bad shape that it would be foolish to repair it, quote the repair price anyway! Some techs fight me on this, saying, “I don’t want to waste my time pricing out repairs when there’s no point in repairing it anyway.”

I understand that, but they’re missing two points. First, you were called out there and are being paid to provide them with a written quote on repairs, so it’s your job to do that.

Second, it actually saves time to price out the repairs (even though you know you’re not going to have to do them) because it cuts down on the amount of talking you need to do to convey to them the necessity of replacing their equipment at that time.

When it truly does make sense for the customer to replace rather than repair, the figures speak for themselves.


Make a subtotal after the mandatory repairs and list all prices of things you know will break down over the next year or two beneath them and total it out again. This gives them a very clear idea of their cost of ownership over the next few years. My customers tend to like this professional approach because I’m educating them on what to expect in the near future and I’m probably the only hvac professional who’s ever done this for them.

It also prevents us from getting into trouble with the customer who opts for repairs when it breaks down again. They can’t say they weren’t warned!

Once I’ve gotten the OK to proceed with the work, I then write it out on the formal work order and get their written authorization. I also make a note on the work order of any recommendations I made that were declined.

Waiting until after the job is sold and at least partially completed to fill out the invoice also helps me to have neater paperwork, which is important.

So far, we’ve covered the paperwork aspects of presenting the price when running service calls. Next month, I’ll cover preparing to present the price.

Greer is the owner of HVAC Profit Boosters, Inc., and the instructor of the “Sales Survival School,” in Ft. Myers, FL. He also does weeklong training sessions, actually running sales and service calls all across the country, demonstrating his techniques in the field. For more information, visit his website at or call 800-963-4822.

Publication date: 03/18/2002