Contractors, service technicians, and salespeople call me often for advice on closing replacement sales. The most asked-for advice is how to distinguish yourself enough from the competition to “get your price,” and how to get people to stop putting off making a decision.

The best way to do this is by addressing the air distribution system, specifically with regards to return air.

Many Unhappy Returns

Sight unseen, I'll state that nearly every structure in your market area is short on return air. How do I know? Because I've tested systems all across the country and I don't believe I've ever found a system with adequate return air.

It only makes sense. If you're in a cooler climate, and the air conditioning was added to the system after the fact, the original duct system was designed for heating only. If you're in an older home, residential central air conditioning wasn't even all that prevalent when the home was built.

Cold air is heavier than hot air, so it requires a stronger blower, more airflow and larger ductwork to get it properly distributed.

The home was built by a general contractor who subcontracted the HVAC to the lowest bidder. Neither the G C, nor the sub, was even remotely interested in proper airflow and energy efficiency. All they wanted was to be able to tell people that the structure had central heat and/or air conditioning, so they did the installation as cheaply as possible.

Differentiating Yourself

Twenty years ago, high-end, quality contractors differentiated themselves through things such as uniforms, marked vehicles, shoe covers, professionally printed business forms, over-the-top guarantees, and customer service training. I won't go so far as to say that all these things are now the norm, but they're common enough that you must go beyond them. One way you and your sales staff can differentiate yourselves is to actually know what you're doing.

I've run calls with more than 1,000 HVAC professionals all across the U.S. I've had another 1,000 of them attend my 4-Day Sales Survival Schools, where we discuss air distribution, and how addressing it leads to a higher closing ratio at a higher average sale. Hardly any of the attendees have had any formal training in air distribution and balancing, or have ever used the testing equipment.

Here's where we stand: Nearly every structure has airflow problems, and hardly any HVAC salespeople know much about airflow. I see opportunity in that.

Getting the Emotions Involved

Whether or not you have the testing equipment, you can at least start testing systems to see if they're lacking on return air.

This procedure will not only prove the need for improvements to the duct system, it will also differentiate you and get your prospects emotionally involved. Emotional involvement is essential to closing sales. Here's how to do it:

  1. If you suspect the structure is short on return air, look things over and determine if it's possible for you to add return air.

  2. If so, take off the door to the blower compartment and put a piece of tape over the door's safety switch so that when you take off the door, the fan still runs.

  3. Reattach the door, but don't screw it down. Keep it loose enough for you to be able to remove it quickly.

  4. Find the prospects and tell them you think you can get them more airflow, and that you'll require their assistance while you try a little experiment.

  5. Have them stand near a supply vent with the blower running.

  6. Ask them to monitor the airflow, and to tell you if they feel more air in about two minutes.

  7. Go remove the door to the blower compartment.

It's highly unusual for them not to feel a sudden rush of air and to get very excited. They'll really want that increased airflow, and that will build its own sense of urgency.

You'll be the only contractor who has done this, and they'll gain a new respect for you.

This procedure leads into a great closing technique that helps you overcome the price objection. To read it, go to www.contractingbusiness.com.

Charlie Greer is the instructor at Charlie Greer's 4-Day Sales Survival Schools. The next session for HVAC service technicians is October 6-9, 2009. The next session for HVAC salespeople is October 13-16, 2009. For complete details, or to get on Charlie's mailing list, go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com or call 800/963-HVAC (4822). E-mail Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.

DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE? Or do you just have a comment to contribute? Please send your feedback on this article to letters@contractingbusiness.com