This past summer, my air conditioner stopped working. And, I swear, as soon as cool air stopped coming through the vents, my allergies began acting up. While temperatures in Michigan hovered in the mid-80s around that time, it was the humidity that made me miserable for the entire week it took to get the equipment fixed. That harrowing week made me realize that I wouldn’t survive in a world without air conditioning — something my husband jokes that he has known for a while. (OK, I probably would if I had to, but I don’t, and that’s the point.)
I know I’m not alone. Americans love their air conditioning. The U.S. is the world’s leader in air conditioning, something Europeans think is dumb, according to a Washington Post article published back in July. Stan Cox, a researcher studying indoor climate control, is quoted in the article saying the U.S. consumes more energy for air conditioning than any other country. And, per the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), air conditioners are now standard equipment in U.S. homes, occupying 87 percent of households in the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey. We Americans like to be comfortable.
In fact, comfort — along with energy efficiency — are two of the top factors motivating homeowners when it comes to purchasing heating and cooling equipment. Contractors should keep in mind that most homeowners probably wouldn’t mind spending more money to ensure their homes are comfortable.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
When talking to homeowners, it’s important for contractors to ask questions. Sometimes just replacing the furnace or air conditioner with higher-efficiency equipment will not solve the problem, and the customer ends up angry because he or she spent a significant amount of money. Find out if they have uncomfortable areas, such as hot or cold spots, in their homes. Do they deal with low or high humidity? Is there moisture in the basement? Do they have allergies or asthma? Are their energy bills high?
By asking pointed questions, contractors are able to pinpoint the problems in the home and determine what factors may motivate the homeowner to purchase the solutions, whether it’s a new HVAC system, duct sealing, or whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers.
INFORM, DON’T TELL
After asking the right questions, and, of course, completing some testing to verify the problems, it’s essential that contractors explain why the homeowner is experiencing those problems and how the recommended solutions can help eliminate them. Keep in mind, the average homeowner does not understand things like airflow, static pressure, relative humidity, SEER, or EER. Use this as an opportunity to educate the homeowner and explain it to them in ways they can understand. Analogies are great in these circumstances.
Better yet, get the homeowner involved in the testing process and let them help discover the problems. Let them use the infrared camera and tell them what normal readings should look like. Visual aids and documentation can help improve closing percentages.
CLOSING THE SALE
When it comes time to close the deal, make sure to appeal to their emotions. Explain once more that the recommended solutions will solve the problems that bother them the most. Still, the most commonly voiced objection will be the cost. However, a contractor can address a customer’s monetary concerns by talking about rebates and return on investment. Who doesn’t want to save money on their energy bills?
Remember, you’re not just selling heating and cooling. Ask questions, educate the homeowner, and close the sale. By using this approach, you’ll not only differentiate your company from your competition, you’ll also increase customer satisfaction. And, happy customers will recommend your business to their friends and family. Comfort rules in the U.S., and, much like Goldilocks, we Americans prefer to be not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
Publication date: 10/19/2015