How do top contractors sell high-end furnaces? They emphasize the best available equipment for maximum comfort and energy savings. It may be comfort first or savings first, but the consensus of several Carrier Distinguished Dealers and Bryant Medal of Excellence Dealers is “sell the best.”

Dr. Roseann Cyngier, president of Cyngier Heating & Air Conditioning, Cleveland, OH, is the only woman in the country to receive Carrier’s One Million Dollar Sales Award twice, in 1997 and 2000. Her residential and light commercial business covers Northeast Ohio and she says, “The main thing is comfort. There is always some problem you can fix.

“We ask, ‘What don’t you like about your system?’ and we sit back and listen.” Her firm then emphasizes the benefits of high-efficiency variable-speed furnaces.

Variable-Speed Benefits

The top benefits Cyngier sells include tighter temperature control, ±2? rather than ±4?F. Next is better airflow. “Rather than blasting out the air and getting stratification, you get a much more even heat. There are no cold feet.” The low-speed cycle provides a quiet system. And she cites operating cost. “Variable speed saves considerably on operating costs summer and winter.”

Cyngier does note that “Energy savings, absolutely, is an even bigger benefit today. Prices of all types of energy have gone up and are going up quickly.” She sees a payback of three to five years in her area, depending on size of home and thermostat setting.

If a customer wants to buy on lowest cost, she asks, “Why would you want to pay 12% to 14% more in gas costs? It’s kind of like watching your dollars go up the chimney.”

Sue and Bob McCrady of Hammel & McCrady Heating and Cooling, a Bryant dealer, operate their family business in the small city of Circleville, OH, doing about 95% residential work. Sue says, “Over the last five years our high-efficiency furnace sales have averaged 78% of our total furnace sales.”

How do they sell high end? “To start with, you have to believe in high-end equipment yourself. We have a 90% variable-speed furnace is our showroom that heats our showroom, offices, and parts stock room. We also have one in our home. When a customer asks, ‘What would you put in your home?’ we can say, ‘I have a variable-speed 90 and I love it.’”

Bob says, “When talking to a customer, we stress the energy savings and thereby dollar savings. We use the flue temperature comparison of their old furnace to the new furnaces as a way of demonstrating what we mean by higher efficiency.

“We stress added electrical savings on the variable-speed furnaces, especially for people who want to run the blower all the time for better air filtration. We stress the comfort level and quietness of the longer, slower run cycle on low speed.”

Sue notes variable speed “is something of which many people are not even aware. But, this is a good area for customer education.”

Selling Efficiency

Jeffrey D’Amelio, general manager of Olson Energy Service, a Carrier dealer in Seattle, WA, doing primarily residential retrofit work, says, “Energy efficiency is tremendously important to people” in the greater Seattle area. “That’s what sells people.”

His firm starts by selling high efficiency. “A majority of our customers feel a responsibility to save energy, not just for their own benefit but everybody’s benefit.”

Comfort, however, still is a very important issue with customers, says D’Amelio. They look for energy efficiency, “but they’re not going to sacrifice comfort.”

Tom Gabrilson is president of Gabrilson Heating & Air Conditioning Co., a Bryant dealer in Davenport, IA, where selling energy efficiency is key. “Our cost of natural gas went from $0.46/therm to $1.61/therm last year. This fall we’ve reminded people of that in our advertisements with great success.”

More than 72% of his furnace sales are high efficiency, with the majority of those either variable speed or two speed. “I’m not sure the general public is aware of the added benefit of variable-speed products and constant air circulation, so it’s been our salespeople’s job to educate them. However, once it has been explained, most customers see the value.”

Gabrilson notes, “Last spring I did a simple spreadsheet for a major home show in our area. It showed that even if a consumer had just purchased a standard 80% furnace, they could pay for the entire cost of a new 90% variable-speed unit in 4.26 years with the operating cost savings. The assumption was based on $1.25/therm gas and $0.092/kWh electric costs. It also assumed an intermittent fan. The return on their investment would be 23.5% tax-free.”

Top-Down Sales Approach

He adds, “Our salespeople sell from the top, down. That way any price objections can be handled immediately. It also prevents the salesperson from assuming what the consumer can or wants to purchase.” Carrier dealer Bob Forty, president of Energy Service Air Conditioning & Heating Co., Naperville, IL, says selling comfort is his top priority. He covers the western suburbs of Chicago and his business is 90% residential. After initially going up, energy prices moved downward and stabilized in his area, he says, and because of this, “Selling efficiency is a non-event.” However, Forty notes, “Most people are uncomfortable in their homes.” His salespeople discuss in detail with homeowners each room of the house and seek out any comfort problems they may have. They then offer a solution to that problem, also using a top-down selling approach, emphasizing variable speed as the continuous-comfort choice, eliminating temperature lag. His biggest seller is 94% variable speed. “Customers with variable speed say they can’t believe they are now comfortable in every room of the house.” Scott Vanderwiel, president of Hawthorn Heating & Air Con-ditioning, Wauconda, IL, a Carrier dealer that does 60% new construction and 40% add-on/replacement, says that he installs 90%-efficient furnaces for 85% of his customers. “After last year’s natural gas price increases, energy savings became extremely important,” he says. “We explain the benefits of going to high efficiency to every customer.” The payback sells the furnace, says Vanderwiel. “Most of our customers are surprised at how fast the payback is.” He notes that if a customer has a 15-plus-year-old heating and cooling system (65% efficient furnace with a 6.5 SEER condenser), he can install a 94% variable-speed furnace and 12-SEER condenser and save the customer up to 47% in operating cost. George Smith, president, Wiemer Heating and Air Conditioning, Idaho Falls, ID, is a Bryant dealer who reports that fully 97% of his sales is in 90%- efficient units. He does both replacement and new construction, and says all new construction uses 90%-efficient units. He emphasizes both comfort and energy savings. “Energy savings has become more important with rising fuel costs, but comfort is still an important issue. We offer solutions to customers’ comfort problems” by offering variable speed, zoning systems, and a range of accessories. “It is also important to use parts and labor warranties.” He includes the furnace warranty at no additional cost. “We don’t talk price, we talk value and prove the value is there,” using computer software to generate payback calculations for each option or solution. Summing up, Smith says, “We find that to upsell equipment and accessories, it is imperative to listen to customers’ problems with their present system and to offer solutions to their problems. Also, it is imperative to do a heat loss/heat gain calculation and size equipment and accessories accordingly. Customers will pay for the added value and energy-saving features of high-end systems if they know the value is there.”

Publication date: 11/26/2001