Unless you were born into this business, one of the first things you probably experienced when you took on this career choice was to explain to your mother and father the meaning of HVAC. After they overcame the shock (or unbridled joy) of their baby leaving the nest, I am sure that as they proudly watched you walk down the sidewalk and into the world, they looked at each other and said, “So, what is she going to be doing?”

Mom and dad, just like typical Joe Consumer, have very little knowledge of this industry. That, of course, is changing as people have greater access to information - after all, our economy is flying through the Information Age faster than digital camera prices are falling. The HVAC industry is tethered to the wings of a plane.

However, heating and cooling is not as easy of a proposition as selling toothpaste. If you are an HVAC salesperson, pat yourself on the back.


The first thing to recognize about HVAC is that it is not a packaged goods item (like toothpaste), with a typical packaged goods sales response where a person sees the product and they buy it - or they don’t. You happen to be in durable goods products, which are typically purchased only once or twice in a person’s lifetime. Buying heating or air conditioning is a considered purchase that involves a relatively large sum of money.

On top of that, it is a complex sale. Consumer attitudes make it even tougher. Consumers perceive your products as cost commodities. In their minds, they invest more than they get back in pleasure or ego stroking. Someone who invests more in a HEPA air filtration system for their home can’t very easily brag to the neighbors about how different their house feels compared to the nasty dump across the street. It’s simply too intangible. However, it does make them feel good when, upon being reminded to turn off the headlights of their expensive car, they can smugly say, ‘Oh, don’t worry. They turn off by themselves.’

Consumers have relatively little knowledge of HVAC brand differences. Study after study has concluded that most homeowners do not know the brand name of their present HVAC systems. (Those who do tend to have more loyalty to that brand.) Some don’t even know the brand name of their refrigerator, and they see that almost every day. They may not know much about why their particular refrigerator is different from the other products available, but HVAC products require a bit of explaining and focusing on the real differences.

Consumers think of your products in negative terms, primarily because consumers are most aware of heating and air conditioning when they are not comfortable - when the product is not working properly. Thank goodness for service agreement customers, who are at least neutral if they aren’t happy when you come to see them.

Unfortunately, consumers often have negative opinions about contractors. You get lumped in with roofers, painters, carpenters, plumbers - any number of tradespeople the customer may have come in contact with, and might have had negative encounters with. There certainly is nothing wrong with any of those trades in their own right. However, consumer perceptions are your reality. There is normally infrequent contact between contractors and customers; therefore, consumers have a relatively low level of confidence.


When a consumer buys your product, that consumer is actually buying an intangible promise that your products and your company will deliver trouble-free comfort and economy. There is usually no way for the consumer to gauge the product performance before he buys. So, the consumer generally buys the lowest perceived risk of performance.

How does a customer measure risk? By the gut feel of what he sees, hears, and reads about the products and the contractor - all relative to price. The challenge is to reduce the risk in the mind of the customer.

Every point of contact - from a phone call, an installer’s appearance, a company vehicle, and a salesperson’s knock on the door, to TV commercials and grocery aisle conversations - each of these create a perception of your product and company. Each is an important moment of truth: a moment when the customer may make the decision to buy from you and your company, or someone else.

Publication date:06/11/2007