One of my favorite myths of HVAC sales is that if you don't make the sale on the call when you presented the price, you don't have a chance. That's just not true.

It's also convoluted thinking. What are you, a rip-off artist who can only make sales to uneducated, inexperienced consumers? Do you think people are so stupid that they can't see true professionalism when it's presented to them, or that they have no desire to have the job done right?

When you're a real HVAC sales professional, the more of your competitors your prospects talk to, the better you look to them.

When I worked as a full-time HVAC residential replacement salesman in my hometown, I had a very high closing ratio.

However, what many don't know is that 80% of my replacement sales were closed on followup calls, after my customers got bids from other contractors. This is despite the fact that I worked for the highest priced company in town.

As a rule, I quote prices on the first call and leave proposals with the "undecided." I'm not concerned about prospects sharing my ideas with the competition or showing them my proposal. I also don't worry about working as an "unpaid consultant." This is only the case when you're not a good closer.

Furthermore, when you're overly guarded with your information, you project to your prospects that you don't expect to make the sale if they talk to other contractors. That's about as negative of a message you can send.

Roadblocks to Following Up
The successful follow-up starts with not boring your customers by speaking too technically, providing detail that doesn't apply to what they're hoping to accomplish, or saying too much in general — whether it's talking about yourself or bragging endlessly about your company

The use of high-pressure sales tactics or overstaying your welcome will stand in your way, as well. Take a hint from the theater and "always leave them wanting more."

Look at your own frame of mind while you're running sales calls. Are you just there to sell something, or is it obvious that you're there to solve problems?

The beauty of not pressuring people and being confident about the eventual sale is that nearly every person who will let me back in the door will buy.

After all, by the time I return, they've already spoken with other contractors and obtained other prices. They're also aware of my "outrageously high price." so the sticker shock is long gone. If they'll let me back in the door, it's to buy from me.

A big key to a successful follow-up visit is sending a thank-you card with a brief, personal, handwritten note and one of your business cards inside, as soon as you leave the appointment.

I'm also an advocate of putting a photograph of yourself on your business card. When people are getting estimates and seeing a lot of salespeople, it's pretty easy to forget who was who, and the photo helps them to remember you.

The Follow-up Phone Call
I prefer to do my closing in person. Although it's unusual for me to try to close customers over the phone, I do have to call to schedule the follow-up visit.

Also, I don't call unless I'm pretty certain the customer will be available for an immediate visit and that I have enough time in my schedule to head right over and close the sale.

When you call, your first challenge is to get their attention. Get their mind off of what they were doing, and get them concentrating on what you're saying. Additionally, you must constantly remind your prospects of the benefits of speaking with you. This is usually done by painting some quick verbal pictures of them enjoying the products or services you're recommending.

When they pick up the phone, I say: "Hello, this is Charlie, with XYZ Heating & Air Conditioning. We spoke the other night about my installing a new heating and air conditioning system for you so you can have a cooler master bedroom over the summer, so you can sleep better and not be tired when you wake up in the morning; a warmer master bath in the winter, so you won't be cold when you step out of the shower; something quieter, so you won't have the turn up the volume on your T.V. when it comes on; and something that will provide you with an overall cleaner and more comfortable indoor environment. Do you remember me?"

They usually say, "We could never forget you." They also tend to thank me for sending them a thank-you card.

You want to show concern for them, without using the lame, trite, and standard-issue salesman opening line of "How are you today?" (When salespeople call me on the phone and start with line, I usually respond with, "What do you care?")

In lieu of that, I ask, "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"They usually respond by saying, "Well, I'm in the middle of something, but, what have you got?"

Again, between my sincere concern with resolving their problems, the professionalism I've already shown, and their receipt of a personalized thank-you card, they tend to be pretty courteous to me at this point.

When you call, have more to say than to simply ask them whether or not they've made up their mind to go with you or not. Think of something new and interesting to say; something you know they're going to want to hear. My technique is to not have the answers to all their questions on the previous visit.

One of the hardest things to teach salespeople is that you don't have to know all the answers to all customers' questions, and you don't have to overcome every single objection in order for them to buy.

When they start asking questions, at some point I'll say, "That's a good question. I'm surprised that no one else has ever asked me that before and that it hasn't occurred to me either. I'm going to write it down and get back with you with an answer," then continue the conversation. Now, they'll expect my follow-up phone call.

Keeping this in mind, I'll continue the follow-up phone call by saying, "When I was out there the other day, you still had a few questions needing to be answered."

I then give them the answers and remain quiet for about 30 seconds or so. On an extremely rare occasion they'll tell me they've decided to go ahead with my services.

One of the hardest things to teach salespeople is that you don't
have to know all the answers to all customers' questions, and you don't have to
overcome every single objection in order for them to buy.

Usually, they'll just hem and haw around for a few moments, not really saying much of anything, or will reluctantly tell me that they've received quotes of significantly lower dollar amounts than mine.

Regardless of what they say, I respond with, "I've been thinking about your job, and I have a few ideas on a really nice installation that would definitely save you money, but I don't want to say anything without taking another quick look at your home to make certain my memory is accurate. Then, I may be able to make you an offer you can't refuse. Are you going to be around for the next 45 minutes or so?"

Now, I'm back in the door.

Charlie Greer is an award-wining HVAC salesman, the creator of Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD, a cocreator of The Service and Maintenance Agreement PowerPack, and the instructor for Charlie Greer's 4-Day Sales Survival School, held every spring and fall in Ft. Myers, FL. He will also be conducting a seminar on service technician replacement sales at HVAC Comfortech 2005. For information on Charlie's products and speaking schedule, call 800/963-HVAC or visit him on the Web at www.hvacprofitboosters.com. E-mail Charlie at charlie@hvacprofitboosters.com.