Mike Murphy

After a few weeks on the road with a variety of contractor groups, it happened again. I learned some things about this business that I had thought I already knew. Or, at least thought I had heard a hundred times before and had probably stopped listening to what I had perceived as the same message over and over again.

An interesting thing about learning is that it usually stops at that point in our lives when we discover we know everything.

Actually, while attending the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Contracting Week™ conference in Fort Worth a lot of things looked new to me. Perhaps it was the sunny, cloudless sky on the edge of west Texas that opened my eyes. On second thought, no; that just made me squint too much. I still like cloudy Cleveland better.

I think it was Adam Gloss who got my attention. He is the vice president of Bel-Red Heating and Air Conditioning, in Mukilteo, Wash. Now, maybe he was telling me something new, or maybe he was saying the same things everybody always says about encouraging service technicians to sell; but something about the way he said it sounded new to me. Gloss explained during a workshop session that most HVAC technicians don’t really like to sell things. Is this earth-shattering information that we have never heard before? No. However, what he described next rocked some worlds in the room.

HVAC technicians don’t hire heating and air conditioning contractors to work on their own homes. Why? Because they don’t need to; they can do that work themselves. They don’t hire plumbers. They don’t hire electricians. They don’t hire people to fix their leaky roofs. Why? Because HVAC service techs were born to make things right, to fix things that are broken. It’s in their nature to fix things, not sell things - or at least so they think. This inherent talent causes them to sometimes recommend that a homeowner may not need to purchase a new unit when a merely crippled one can be brought back to life.

The inherently talented (and sympathetic) tech has been known to suggest that an owner might be able to wait a while before replacing even a relatively inexpensive component such as a contactor - even though one might be needed; even though a second service call to replace a contactor in three months will be more expensive than replacing it when it was first discovered. Why? Because service technicians think like customers do. This is a tremendously valuable trait for any employee to possess. Because of this, customers inherently trust service techs much more than anyone else who is on the inside of an HVAC company.

Thank you Mr. Gloss for reopening my eyes to an old thought. However, this all made me think: How does a business owner and a technician make sure they are operating from the same book?


(If you are a service technician, please do not read the rest of this section, for this bit of information is only intended for business owners. Thank you for your cooperation, and thank you for readingThe NEWS, but you’re done now.)

Service technicians may not know it, but they are already doing what good salespeople do when they are inside of the home. The tech who suggests that an owner can hold off on replacing a contactor, or suggests that a 22-year-old furnace really should be replaced, is offering an honest opinion of what the tech would do if in the homeowner’s shoes. Technicians are selling every time they make a repair recommendation.

A key to ensure that the goals and intent of the technician and the company are the same lay in education. In other words, there sometimes is a difference between an honest opinion and an educated opinion. For example: the contactor. Regardless of a homeowner’s current financial situation, the contactor costs the same today as it does three months from now. However, the costs to travel to the jobsite, a second time, three months later, is certainly more costly to the company, and that extra costs will certainly be billed to the customer. The end result? The homeowner pays more for something three months down the road on a second call, than if it had been purchased on the first call.

Education starts with communication. How often are mutual goals discussed among your company members? How often are regular meetings held to discuss business strategies? How are you communicating with some of your best customer representatives?

Publication date:10/18/2010