According to sales consultant Drew Cameron, a customer has to “feel you understand them and ‘get it’ when it comes to their wants, wishes, needs, desires, concerns, and problems. This is part of the golden rule of sales.”
PITTSBURGH - Success in sales is not about pressure. It's all about performance. In the eyes of sales consultant Drew Cameron, president of HVAC Sellutions, top performance comes from executing a structured, effective, efficient, engaging, and endearing sales process.

"Sales or selling is not a numbers game," said Cameron. "More leads do not necessarily yield more sales. ... As salespeople, we only get compensated and contribute to sales volumes and quotas based upon what our customers do. Only then is what we do truly meaningful."

Short of engaging a prospect to purchase something, Cameron said the role of a salesperson is "simply a conversation between people about what they expect and happens to involve a discussion about the products and services we represent." In order for this conversation to benefit both parties, he said both must mutually agree that they are comfortable with one another, want to work together, feel that the solutions or recommendations make sense, and that the money to do the work is right for both parties.

"The sale is the natural outcome of those events working together."

While this may all sound easy, Cameron knows selling is easier said than done. It's why he was one of the speakers at the recent Masters of the Game Conference, put on by Lennox and HVAC Learning Solutions. Cameron provided more than 50 attending Lennox contractors his guidance for selling. "Ultimately, the buying decision will be based upon who the prospect trusts and feels comfortable with," said Cameron. "The prospect has to feel you understand them and ‘get it' when it comes to their wants, wishes, needs, desires, concerns, and problems. This is part of the golden rule of sales."


Cameron stressed that his audience should use a defined sales process, as it allows the contractor to:

  • Leverage a common framework and pattern for planning, reviewing, and executing sales activities.

  • Communicate and strategize about sales opportunities with sales team members and management using a common language.

  • Make fewer mistakes since everyone knows what actions must be taken, which reduces the chance of important steps being forgotten when the potential stress of a sales call arises.

  • Shorten the selling cycle as salespeople can work through the steps of a preplanned process much faster than just winging it, making it up as they go along, or allowing the customer to dictate the sales process, "the number one mistake most salespeople make."

  • Shorten the ramp-up time for new recruits who need to learn how to engage customers in the market and industry.

  • Quickly troubleshoot and coach individual lagging sales performance.

    "There are no perfect scripts, one-liners, glib presentations, smart phrases, or clever closes that work all of the time," said Cameron. "Traditional selling styles may have worked years ago, but today's buyers are better informed."

    In his estimation, trust, respect, and rapport will stop shoppers in their tracks and overcome higher prices, lack of features, and other sales shortcomings.

    "When a prospect feels you are ‘with them,' and on their side, as opposed to trying to sell them, they will want to do business with you. Trust will get you on their side and spending their money with you and your company."

    It's the selling process that helps a salesperson minimize mistakes and maximize a foundation of mutual trust and respect, he said. "If you are working on developing the perfect sales call, you are working on the wrong end of the problem," said Cameron. "Don't strive for perfection, as it is unattainable. Instead, strive for excellence and consistency."


    There are many things salespeople do wrong, said Cameron. He said 90 percent do not uncover the real issues of a customer. He also noted that many just show up and, as he termed it, "throw up ‘sales vomit.'"

    According to the sales consultant, most salespeople try to sell:

  • before they know the customer;

  • before they know the customer's needs;

  • before the customer perceives a problem;

  • before the customer commits to solve it;

  • before the customer is ready to buy;

  • before the customer realizes urgency;

  • without knowing the buying process;

  • without knowing a customer's budget and method of payment;

  • what they want to sell; and

  • thinking they know what the customer wants and will pay for without asking.

    "If you think about it, this is not known as selling, but rather, marketing," said Cameron. "As such, you need to become a master marketer and focus on developing and presenting the right messages to the right prospects at the right time."

    In his eyes, an effective selling system addresses five questions in the customer's mind:

    1. Why should I buy?

    2. What are my options; what should I buy; and how will it solve my problems or address question one?

    3. How much should I invest and how should I pay for the solution that properly and completely addresses my concerns?

    4. Who can I buy from and why should I buy from you?

    5. Why should I buy now versus later?

    "A defined sales process ensures that you leverage both criteria in your favor more often than not, which will result in your getting prospects to give you a simple decision," said Cameron. "This, in turn, will generate more sales."


    Cameron referred to his "discovery selling system" as the way to go. It involves a five-step pre-call plan. Not only does the lead coordinator work with the salesperson in conducting pre-visit research, the system also entails preparing the salesperson for the call. When going to the customer's home, it means doing a pre-survey of the neighborhood and outside of the customer's house. It means parking on the street when possible, not in the customer's driveway.

    "You want to establish yourself on the right foot," said Cameron. "This could even mean picking up stray items in the front lawn."

    The actual sales process involves seven steps. Step one is the "meet and greet warm-up." This step is designed to establish control for the salesperson.

    "Seize control of the sales process by asking to sit and talk for a few minutes before going to the equipment," suggested Cameron, noting that he also brings a place mat with him, along with booties so as to avoid dirtying the customer's floor.

    "You have to begin the process of bonding and rapport. Selling without rapport and trust is like a man winking at a beautiful woman in a dark room. It accomplishes nothing."

    During this initial stage, the salesperson needs to be viewed as a friend, collaborator, or partner in the process, said Cameron. After a brief extraneous conversation, one should transition the conversation to why the salesperson is there. Here one needs to ask big picture general questions, including:

  • How long has this issue been a problem, want, or need?

  • How long have you been thinking about doing something about it?

  • How do you see me helping you?

  • How old is your home?

  • How long do you plan on staying in your home?

    "Then ask, ‘Have you ever purchased a comfort system before?'" said Cameron. "Here you are stating the call objectives, setting the ground rules, and agreeing upon mutual expectations. The entire buying and delivery process is spelled out and mutually agreed upon. Both parties agree upon what they hope to accomplish, know where they are going and what to expect, and know ‘what happens next' every step of the way."

    Step two involves qualifying the prospect and the opportunity. This means asking questions, and having the customer fill out a comfort survey and engineering analysis. Part one allows the customer to explain the problem in great detail. It also allows the salesperson to discuss money and budget terms.

    Step three involves the closing. Cameron said the salesperson should have an agreement to get a simple yes or no upon completing the presentation.

    Step four is presenting your recommendations only as they relate to the customer's needs and wants. To come up with the recommendations, he encouraged the salesperson to conduct a heat loss/heat gain load calculation, along with an energy analysis.

    "Present your findings, solutions, and recommendations as they relate specifically to your prospect's wants, wishes, needs, desires, etc., and you don't have to finish," said Cameron.

    Step five is the actual closing, or "discovery," as Cameron put it. This step is where the salesperson gains final commitment to move forward or not - and close out the opportunity.

    "A sale is the logical result of an effective, timely, and appropriate presentation," he said. "It's the emotional realization that this is what the customer wants to do without reservation."

    He noted if the sale is not closed, then the salesperson should schedule a follow-up visit or phone appointment. Cameron said the salesperson should try to find out, among other things, if an appropriate presentation was made. "If making a two-call close, drop a thank you card in a U.S. mailbox immediately after leaving the house, thanking the customer for their time and that you look forward to your follow-up visit, providing the date and time," said Cameron. "Make it personal. And, enclose another business card."

    Step six is the "post-sell" or "burn down" session. Here the salesperson is supposed to confirm the customer's decision to own and "remove any potential remorse with the salesperson's willingness to cancel the agreement and walk away."

    As Cameron put it, "Give your customer the chance to back out while you are there so it does not happen later."

    The final step involves "debriefing, rehashing, and follow-up." A salesperson should find out why he/she earned the customer's business or not. This may involve reselling if necessary or offering an incentive to close.

    In the eyes of Cameron, it is just as important to have post-close processing, too. This means informing the sales coordinator as to the status of the lead, passing the baton to production with a complete detailed file, establishing installation or delivery of service, job follow-up, and, finally, sales follow-up.

    "Focus on the customer and performing the process," concluded Cameron, "not on making the sale."

    Sidebar: Basic Principles For Coaching

    There are many reasons why sales consultants quit. According to research quoted by sales consultant Drew Cameron, president of HVAC Sellutions, 41 percent leave due to a lack of opportunity, while 25 percent exit due to a lack of recognition.

    With this in mind, Cameron believes contractors need to be coaches in order to keep their sales force productive. He was also quick to point out that "coach" is a chosen title, "a position that carries tremendous power and responsibilities."

    "Sales coaching should be an individualized development process designed to change a salesperson's behavior to better meet an organization's goals for customer happiness and financial performance," said Cameron. "Through coaching, your salespeople should benefit from your ongoing observation, analysis, feedback, and encouragement."

    In Cameron's eyes, a sales team's success is directly related to the sales manager's ability to coach and mentor the team. His five basic principles designed to help a contractor become a better sales coach are:

    1. A coach must be ready to make others look good. "It takes a particular level of emotional maturity, and you would be surprised at the difficulty many people have with getting over their own ego."

    2. People learn from experience, not from being told. "You can tell your salespeople about selling all day long, but that doesn't mean they are going to get any better at it," said Cameron. "They need to experience failure, rejection, and success. It is your job as the coach to introduce them to these experiences. This means going on sales calls with them, listening in on conference calls, etc."

    3. A coach has to be up when others are down. It is vital that the coach sets the tone for the sales environment. "It is especially important that you stay positive when things get tough, because if you're in the dumps, your salespeople will be, too," said Cameron.

    4. Use systems, processes, and principles. "People perform better when they have a system. It's no different with sales," he said. "Establish a useable sales system and coach your salespeople on the principles of the system."

    5. Finally, "you must be inspiring." As he said, "If you are a cold fish, it's just not going to work."

    Sales coaching breaks down into two distinct areas on which to focus. There is the performance environment, which includes the values, systems, and overall conditions that effective sales coaches create to enhance the sales team's performance. There is also individual development. Combined, these are the specific practices that effective sales coaches use with individual sales team members to ensure their success.

    When it comes to developing a top-producing performance environment, Cameron rattled off 11 important guidelines:

    1. Develop good rapport with the sales team and individuals.

    2. Demonstrate awareness of individual differences among team members.

    3. Create an environment that encourages open communication.

    4. Give appropriate rewards and recognition.

    5. Model professional attitudes and behaviors.

    6. Encourage salespeople to seek information and resources to enhance their success with customers.

    7. Do not play the answer man, rescuer, company closer, or problem-solver.

    8. Encourage initiative, creativity, ingenuity, and appropriate risk-taking.

    9. Encourage sales team to establish clear priorities and allocate them accordingly.

    10. Encourage cooperation and collaboration among team members.

    11. Promote and develop the concepts of total sales awareness to the sales team and throughout the entire company.

    When it comes to individual development for the salesperson, Cameron provided nine important guidelines:

    1. Demonstrate commitment to each individual's success.

    2. Provide each individual with specific feedback on strengths and weaknesses.

    3. Help "home comfort experts" to develop goals, short-term objectives for accomplishment, and strategic action plans.

    4. Work with each home comfort expert to design and implement a developmental plan to continuously improve performance.

    5. Ensure a home comfort expert receives ongoing training in product and market knowledge.

    6. Ensure a home comfort expert receives ongoing coaching in selling skills, people, and communication skills, as well as product and market knowledge.

    7. Grow the individual's identity, as well as the individual's role capacity.

    8. Exhibit genuine interests in individuals, not just sales results.

    9. Create goals, contests, incentive programs, compensation plans, bonuses, reward/award/recognition programs that are equitable, performance-based, attainable, foster growth, motivate, stimulate, encourage, and are in sync with individual and company objectives.

    Publication date: 01/09/2006