In a sales interaction, which thought is most likely to run through your head: “This customer is a problem” or “This customer has a problem?” The one-word difference speaks volumes about your potential for sales and marketing success.

If you choose door #1 – “this customer is a problem” – you have chosen an expensive attitude that will cost you the money you spent getting the lead, the time you spent talking with the customer, and the “opportunity cost” you’ll pay for not selling to someone else while you’re spending your time not selling to this person.

However, if you choose door #2 – “this customer has a problem” – and can follow up with “which I can help him solve,” you’ll be a winner time and again.

In HVAC sales, your top priority is to help your customer identify specific needs and problems and provide the right solutions. Your marketing approach should be the same.

The marketing messages are coming at your prospects from every direction – TV, radio, Internet, mail, email, billboards, door hangers, windshield flyers and store displays. So, how can you make your message stand out among all others?

Hint: Focus. Focus your own efforts. Don’t worry about what everyone else is saying. You have to focus on the main thing you want to tell your customers. The main thing you want to tell your customers is how you plan on solving their problem.

Is the problem a high utility bill? An air conditioner that won’t cool? A clunky heater that costs almost as much to operate as it would to replace? A tight budget? Whatever the issue, you have the solution.

For instance, how can you help a customer whose air conditioning just went on the blink, and they don’t have the money for repair, thanks to a stack of bills that can’t be ignored? Your head and subhead answers are: “Get Ice-Cold Air Conditioning Today / But Don’t Pay Us for Six Months.”

Can you see how that’s a lot stronger than, saying, “Call the folks who’ve been cooling homes for three decades.” Impressive tenure, but what can you do for the customer today? The prospect’s eye keeps searching for the ad that answers their immediate need.

When writing your ad, think of the customer. Think of what customers want to read, what they can gain, how they “win” with your offer, and most important – how they can get these benefits. Use one major point (the headline) and no more than five minor points in the ad (that support the main benefit or build a customer’s reasons to act).

Think value. Think benefits. Offer something free with a purchase of something else. Anytime you can lower the risk or resistance for a prospect, you automatically increase his chance of calling you. It’s human nature. Your ads are meant to produce, encourage, and influence phone calls. “Free” items can and do melt the barrier between you and the phone call. Just make “free” valuable and it’ll work.

Make it easy for customers to buy by offering rebates and financing options. Rebates help by giving customers a discount they can see. The visible discount can move them one more step toward purchase.

Financing options come in handy on a very practical basis. Think about it. Would you rather write a check for $6 grand right now for a new system, or pay $95 a month? How can you help the customer solve the problem of paying for their new system?

Use your message to show how easy it is to buy from you, and watch your leads soar. Focus your marketing on the solutions your customers are seeking – and then welcome every customer who calls with a problem.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Call 1 800 489-9099 to request a free copy of a 16-page report, “Get More Leads in Less Time.” Also check out www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports. For a free marketing newsletter, contractors can fax their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115.