What can you learn from the superstars of HVAC sales? That’s what we set out to find with Comfortech Idol, a contest seeking the best HVAC salesperson at HVAC Comfortech. The contestants go through an interview process where they describe their sales process, then role-play closing the sale and overcoming objections. All of this takes place in front of a live audience. Contractors come to watch the competition to see how the top salespeople in their field do their jobs.

I’ve reviewed the recordings and come up with a list of lessons learned by observing the contestants at Comfortech Idol 2007.

Sales training is a mandatory component of success. All of the finalists spent years studying salesmanship by attending seminars, reading books, and listening to sales training on audio CD while riding between calls.

Why re-invent the wheel by learning what works and what doesn’t work through trial-and-error, when there are a myriad of training products available that will teach you techniques you’ll immediately use to close more sales than before?

People compare you to your competition. The word competition itself implies a sports analogy. You wouldn’t even consider competing in professional sports without training and ongoing conditioning, would you? Then why compete in the professional sales arena without training?

Despite the economic challenges of 2007, some HVAC contractors had record-breaking years. That has little or nothing to do with their market area. Every market area has its winners and its losers.

The winners in HVAC are the contractors whose employees know how to close profitable sales. None of their employees were born good salespeople. Good salespeople aren’t born, they’re made.

Have a planned presentation. Your prospective customers will judge you by your preparedness. From the moment you walk through the door, it must be clearly obvious that you’ve done this before and been successful at it. Sure, you have to be able to adapt to each individual customer and situation, but winging it doesn’t look right.

You must have a procedure from which to diverge. When you know a procedure that has a high success rate, why wouldn’t you use it every time?

A soft voice and a gentle demeanor are more persuasive than direct confrontation. When role-player John Cameron, Jr. (winner, Comfortech Idol 2006) told one of this year’s finalists that he’d think it over and call him back, the finalist responded by saying, “Mr. Cameron, a lot of times, when customers tell me they want to get other bids, I don’t hear back from them, so I usually like to get an answer at the table, a decision as to what you’re looking to get.” Could he have said anything worse?

When the same objection was thrown at Jared Corpron, the winner of Comfortech Idol 2007, he very softly replied, “John, when I was in the sixth grade, there was a kid that wanted to get in a fight with me, and I did not want to go to school. So, I told my mom everything I could come up with to get out of it. Every one of the reasons that I gave wasn’t the real reason that I had.”

Narrow down the objections. Jared went on to say, “So far, you’ve told me that you’re concerned about the price, that you want to get another bid, and that your system is still working. Of those three, which is your greatest concern; or is there something else?”

The prospect replied by asking, “How do your prices compare to the competitions’?”

Jared narrowed it down to one issue by asking, “So, your main concern is how we compare with the competition?”

Tell interesting, true stories instead of listing boring facts. When the prospect replied in the affirmative, Jared told the story of a man that had met with eight other contractors and, by the time he met Jared, had become completely confused. Jared had copies of the other bids, which showed four different sizes of furnaces.

He closed by saying, “Then I looked at him, and I asked him the same question that I’m going to ask you, ‘What is the value in knowing that your equipment is properly sized?’”

Note that a closing question doesn’t always have to be a request for a buying decision. Have a little subtlety about yourself.

Don’t try to close someone when they don’t even want what you’re selling. At one point, when the prospect was giving one of the finalists the usual put-offs, he also mentioned that he wasn’t that hot on the brand name of equipment the finalist was trying to close him on. The finalist ignored that and just went on trying to close him.

Remember at all times that they have to want to buy what you’re selling. The salesperson’s job is not to sell what they want to sell. It’s to determine what the customer wants to buy. Don’t waste your time trying to overcome stalls and put-offs when customers don’t even want what you’re recommending.

The finalist should have backed up and asked something like, “What is it about the equipment that causes you to hesitate?” This should then be followed with a meaningful conversation that lands the prospect on either the original equipment recommendation or some alternate choice.

Don’t make the focus on a particular brand name and model of equipment. Your prospects should first decide that they want your company to do the installation. The equipment you’re installing should be a secondary concern.

Don’t validate the objection. Don’t say, “You should think this over. It’s a big decision,” or “You should get other bids.”

Don’t tell customers you’re usually higher in price. Instead, explain to them that, based on what you do for the customer, in terms of overall cost of ownership, you’re their lowest price alternative. Yes, there may be a higher initial investment, but in terms of overall cost of ownership, you save them money.

Try to close prior to handing them your proposal. Once they’ve got your printed proposal form, you’re no longer needed and it is time for you to leave.

Use trial closes. Here’s Jared’s winning trial closing procedure, word-for-word:

John, before I print this off, may I ask you a few questions?

Are you completely comfortable with the system we have designed and its ability to take care of the comfort concerns that you had?

Are you completely comfortable with my company’s ability to install the system exactly the way you want, the way we’ve talked about today, and to the manufacturer’s and the city’s specifications?

And you’re also comfortable, John, that we can provide the service that we’ve promised, the service that would be worthy of an investment of this type, that will live up to our mission of providing service that you’d only expect from a neighbor?

Then, we’re down to the easiest part. You mentioned that you wanted the financing.

He then went on to show two different payment plans. When he showed the dollar amount of the payment, he went on to explain that, if you were to deduct the amount of money the prospect would save in energy from his monthly installment, his total monthly out-of-pocket expense would only be $X.

His closing question was, “Which of these two options looks better to you, John?”

These were just some of the lessons learned at this year’s search for the best salesperson in HVAC. Charlie Greer is the creator of “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD,” “Tec Daddy’s Service Technician Survival School on DVD,” and the sponsor of Comfortech Idol. For information on Charlie’s products and speaking schedule, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or visit him on the web at www.hvacprofitboosters.com. E-mail Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.

Comfortech Idol Audio
You can get recordings of both Comfortech Idol 2007 Elimination Rounds, the Comfortech Idol 2007 Grand Finale and all the Comfortech Idol sessions at HVAC Comfortech 2007 on an mp3 CD for $149 by calling Rollin Recordings at 830/537-5494 or on the web at www.rollinrecording.com.