I knew that would catch your eye. It sure did when I posted my opinion on an Internet discussion site recently. Most folks didn’t agree with my position and at least one decided to stop readingThe NEWS. I trust that same person might make an exception and read this column - giving him another chance to vent his opposition. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion, including yours truly.

First let me add a couple of disclaimers. I think it is OK for techs to sell replacement parts when on a service call, that is part of their job. If a new fan motor is needed to fix the problem or a furnace filter is needed to wrap up the maintenance call, the tech should have the freedom to sell.

Also, many HVAC contractors employ service techs that do a phenomenal job of selling replacement equipment, because it is a requisite of their job. Others do a good job of selling replacement equipment, although it is not a requisite of their job. I say, more power to them. If your tech makes your company money selling replacement equipment, then I wouldn’t mess with your formula.

But I have two reasons for believing that service techs shouldn’t sell replacement equipment. I’ll lay them out for you. The first is that service techs - good ones - are hard to find. They are trained to troubleshoot and fix equipment problems. That is their No. 1 priority. Secondly, on a service call, and in particular an emergency call, there is already a customer’s heightened level of anxiety, e.g., no heat and an expensive repair. The service tech is walking into a negative situation and may compound the problem by suggesting a replacement system.


Service techs are often people who have good mechanical skills. They can solve an equipment problem because they enjoy being problem solvers. The “old school” tech is one who loves to tinker around with cars, do-it-yourself projects, etc. He or she likes the moniker of “Mr. or Ms. Fix-up.”

With HVAC equipment becoming more complex and the training required to properly diagnose and repair this equipment becoming more mandatory than necessary, we are asking our techs to do more and learn more in order to stay competitive and keep up with the industry trends. Wrench turners are now computer programmers and electricians. Maybe that should be enough to attract more people to the HVAC trade but it hasn’t been.

We are still losing young people to colleges and Fortune 500 companies who should be in the vocational trades learning a lot of good skills and earning a lot of good money. We simply need to hit on the right formula for showing young people that with a minimal amount of mechanical aptitude, a willingness to learn, and a good degree of people skills they can be very successful HVAC techs.

Adding another dimension of selling replacement equipment may be the straw that breaks many of their backs. They simply don’t want to sell. They want to fix. If you find the exceptional person who can do all of these things well, then more power to you. I don’t think we need to add another dimension to the tech’s background when it is already hard enough to find a good one.


Customers are already stressed when the heat or a/c goes down. No one likes to be uncomfortable. Then add the potential for a costly service invoice, perhaps in the hundreds of dollars. Up goes the stress level.

Now add a service tech who suggests a few options for replacement equipment, if it is necessary. Now the hundreds of dollars become thousands of dollars, and the customer is seeing visions of “Dateline” or the local TV station’s sting that nabbed dishonest service techs selling parts or equipment that a customer doesn’t need.

All of the sudden there is the air of distrust. Not always - especially with long-time or repeat customers - but in particular with new customers.

Your tech, who has been asked to sell replacement equipment, is now in a vulnerable place. I’d like to see him or her leave some information with the customer and then suggest a visit from a company owner or salesperson. This gives the customer time to climb down from stress mountain and to prepare him or herself for the inevitable, a costly replacement job.

If a customer calls and schedules an appointment for a bid on replacement equipment, that is a totally different story. Maybe your service tech, who happens to be your best salesperson, could make the presentation. At least he or she isn’t walking into a potentially hostile environment.

In the end, I believe it is best to let a service tech fix the equipment and leave the selling to someone else. OK, fire away.

Looks like Murph has the first shot. Make it a good one.

Publication date:12/11/2006