John Cameron, Jr. is the reigning Comfortech Idol.

John was raised in the industry and worked in the family business (John H. Cameron & Sons) doing grunt work until he graduated from high school. He thought he hated it, but four years in the Navy aboard nuclear submarines changed his mind.

After a utility purchased his family's company, he resigned and started at Oliver Heating and Cooling, where he's been for the last seven years. In total, he's been a residential replacement salesman for 20 years.

I sat down with John to find out more about what makes him so successful.

Charlie Greer: Besides running sales calls, what else do you do?
John Cameron: In 2006, I became a sales manager over three salespeople, and a sales trainer over 43 service technicians. I still run sales calls, and am required to hit my own individual personal sales goal of $1.5 million per year. I ride with the techs and the other salespeople at least once each week, which leaves me the rest of the time to sell $1.5M — No pressure!

CG: You entered an elimination round and did a stellar job. Then, I had to twist your arm to return to compete in the Grand Finale. What's up with that?
JC: I brought my father to HVAC Comfortech 2006 on a one-day pass to see my brother, Drew, do a presentation. I watched the first Elimination Round for the learning experience. My father insisted that I give it a try. I'd already been scheduled to enter a red 1966 Pontiac GTO, I'd spent years to acquire, in a car show that same weekend. Returning for the Grand Finale would have required me to drive an extra eight hours in two days and miss being there for the car show.

When my brother, Drew, called to tell me that the other contestants were pretty good and that I might not want to make the trip because I stooda good chance of losing, I took that as a direct challenge and decided that making it back for the Comfortech Idol Grande Finale was something I had to do. I made it back and I won. The car managed to take 3rd Place without me even being there, so it was a winning weekend all the way around.

CG: Why do you think you won Comfortech Idol 2006?
JC: I came prepared to win. I brought my presentation book, and I wore my shoe covers and my normal sales attire. I didn't do a presentation for the audience. I went one-on-one with a customer. I did exactly what I do in a living room or a kitchen.

CG: Describe your sales process when running residential replacement sales calls.
JC: I never pre-judge a lead. I don't think people call up and request a price on new equipment just because they're bored. They're going to buy from someone.

I feel that if they call me and they don't buy from Oliver, I've done them an injustice because I've deprived them of all the benefits of doing business with us.

I listen.

I air-condition the people, not the house. I learn their economic needs. I recommend what I would buy if I were them. I treat people in the same manner I would like to be treated. No pressure.

I run a load calculation on every home that doesn't already have an Oliver system. If I'm there to replace an Oliver system, I can proceed with full confidence, knowing that an accurate load calc has already been run.

My distributor told me that we sell more two-stage equipment than anyone else in our area.

I don't sell efficiency as much as I do comfort. For instance, when I'm recommending zoning, variable speed, or variable capacity, I might open the topic by saying "You have an 8-sq.ft. car and both the passenger and the driver have independent temperature controls. Yet, you have an 1800-sq.ft. home with only one temperature control. Does that make sense to you?"

Here's a different one, "We tend to have two or three different light switches in a single room, but only one place to turn on our heating and cooling system. Does that make sense to you?"

I sell high-end equipment more for its quietness, than for the efficiency.

I carry two reference books. One contains pictures of installations — both good and bad pictures. The other contains customer satisfaction surveys, and letters of reference we've received.

CG: Where do you get your leads?
JC: I try to get my leads from the easiest source to sell. I don't want Yellow Pages leads where I know they're getting bids.

I'm always on. I'm always selling. I'm a member of Rotary. When we do charity work, I give free Oliver t-shirts, sweatshirts, and/or hats to all the workers. For Halloween, I give away Frisbees with the Oliver logo on them that glow in the dark. I tell my wife to keep her ears open for any of her friends with heating or cooling problems.

This is my sport. My days on the playing field are over. My sales figures are my new scoring method.

CG: What is your favorite closing technique?
JC: I feel it's best to get a clear course of action prior to making any closing attempt. Early in the call, I'll say, "Let's pretend we go through the whole thing and at the end of the evening you have a heart attack because my price is so high. You'd be up front and tell me that, wouldn't you? If we put a package together that would be good for you and your family, you'd be willing to tell me that, too, right?"

This gives me an up-front commitment to get a straight yes or no.

CG: How often do you quote indoor air quality (IAQ) products and what percentage of your sales include IAQ products?
JC: Nearly every job.

CG: Where do you stand on the technical side of things? Can you do an installation, perform a pre-season tune-up, or change out a heat exchanger?
JC: I can do all those things, but I don't feel those skills are necessary to exceed in sales.

CG: How did you get your start in HVAC sales? What motivated you to convert from the technical side to the sales side?
JC: I was working as an installer/technician when our salesman turned in his week's notice. I wasn't cutting it as an installer because I didn't like the work, so they sent me out on three sales calls with him. All we did was take measurements. I had to go back and close them on my own. I'd never done sales and was shaking in my boots. I didn't have a clue. I didn't realize what I'd done until it was too late, but I'd stepped in doggy-doo on the first call and got it all over the house. All three of them bought from me, despite my inadequacies as a salesman.

CG: What advice do you have for residential replacement salespeople?
JC: Don't take it personally when you lose a sale.

CG: When they announced you were Comfortech Idol 2006, you burst into tears. Why?
JC: My brother, Ron, had died in March of 2006 at the age of 38. He was a big fan of the band The Who, so when they came to Philadelphia in July of last year, the whole family went to see them in his honor. Just before going in for the Comfortech Idol Grand Finale, I sort of closed my eyes, raised my head toward the sky and said to my brother, "Please don't let me make a fool of myself or embarrass my family." When they announced me as the new Comfortech Idol, they started playing The Who over the sound system. I lost it.

What is Comfortech Idol!?
Comfortech Idol is the search for the best HVAC salesperson at HVAC Comfortech.

It’s a contest that is loosely based on the hit television show “American Idol.”

HVAC salespeople compete head-to-head by role-playing sales calls in front of a crowd of HVAC contractors. The contestants are then critiqued by HVAC sales trainers and past Comfortech Idol winners. The audience votes on which contestant they feel best exemplifies excellence in HVAC sales.

Comfortech Idol is both entertaining and educational. At Comfortech Idol, you see how real, working HVAC salespeople respond to the tough objections such as, “Your price is too high,” “I want to think it over,” and “I want to get other bids.”

The Grand Prize is $1,500, Charlie Greer’s “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales; The Lazy Man’s Way to Really Make it in Residential Replacements,” a write-up in Contracting Business magazine, the Comfortech Idol trophy, and bragging rights. All contestants are awarded valuable prizes.

There is no charge to enter or watch Comfortech Idol. All elimination rounds and the Grande Finale are free and open to all registered attendees of HVAC Comfortech.

Complete details on Comfortech Idol 2007, including an online entry form, can be found at www.hvacprofitboosters.com

Charlie Greer is the sponsor of Comfortech Idol, and the creator of "Slacker's Guide to HVAC Sales; The Lazy Man's Way to Really Make it in Residential Replacements." For information on Charlie's products or schedule, or to request a copy of his current catalog, go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com or call 800/963-HVAC (4822), or e-mail Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com