I keep receiving the same letter with the same complaints, except they’re from different residential replacement salespeople.

To keep from having to re-send the same letter to nearly every residential replacement salesman in the country, I’m going to publish it here once, then post a link to this article on my website.

First, a note to business owners: Don’t read this letter and wonder if your salesperson sent me a letter like this. I’ll put that to rest right now. He did.

The Letter

My company has been reading your articles for years. I’ve been a salesman at the same company for more than 12 years, averaging more than $100,000 a year in income. The company has been in business for more than 25 years.

Last year was great. This year has been totally different. EVERYBODY I’m seeing tells me they are shopping and I’m the first one in the door.

Since my way of selling has always been based on emotional bonding, listening, and trust with the customer, this has been very frustrating. People are looking mainly at price and they don’t bond because I am always the first one in. Now my mental problem is that I EXPECT people to say that!

It also doesn’t help that my owner has a price increase every year and that we are, on average, two-and-a-half times the cost of every other provider in my market area. If I’m not the first person in, when they look at my price, they tune out. I’m having a hard time because I cannot justify it.

Additionally, I don’t see why I have to pay for the owner of my company’s two houses, luxury cars, and extravagant lifestyle. These high prices are making them all this money and I’m paying the price for it.

What is one to do?

— Miserable

The Response

You don’t get $100,000 a year for the easy ones. They could hire a high school girl to get the easy ones. You get the $100K because you can handle the difficult ones. If this stuff sold itself, they wouldn’t need you.

You’ve got one of the highest paying, easiest sales jobs there is. Nearly everyone you see buys — either from you, or from someone else — usually within hours of seeing you.

If you’re going to have one of the highest paying, easiest jobs in sales, you’ve got to be one of the best salespeople out there.

If you’re making more than $100,000 per year, you’ve got nothing to complain about!

You can’t dwell on the ones you didn’t get. If you’re going to obsess about something, obsess about your successes. Analyze what went right and what went wrong after every call, then try to do less of the stuff that doesn’t work and more of the stuff that does.

When you say, “People are looking mainly at price and they DON’T bond because we are always the first ones in. Now my mental problem is that I EXPECT people to say that!!!” are you saying there wasn’t a time when you didn’t expect them to say that?

I’ve always expected them to say that. Even when they didn’t say those exact words, I walked into the call knowing their intention was to get multiple bids and that, at that time, their main concern was price. That’s not a negative attitude. One of the most positive things you can do is determine what the worst thing that could happen is, then be prepared for it.

Isn’t it a given that your prospects are searching for the contractor which will provide them with absolutely everything they want for the least amount of money?

Until they meet you and learn there is a difference between contractors, they view all contractors as being the same; consequently, their focus is on price. Why wouldn’t it be?

As far as being the first one in versus the last one in, or somewhere in the middle, I don’t have a preference. They’re going to make their decision when they make it, and they’re going to make it when they feel good about buying from someone. No one really wants to spend their free time talking to HVAC salesmen. Since they’re going to buy from someone anyway, they’d just as soon get rid of the stress of decision-making, get it over with, and start enjoying their new system as soon as possible.

Many salespeople flounder, unable to isolate where they’re going wrong. You’re fortunate in that you’ve identified your fatal flaw. You’re having trouble bonding with people. I used to have that problem myself; I couldn’t do “small-talk.”

The ability to engage in small-talk can also be called establishing rapport. Some people call it the “warm-up” phase of a sales call. There are all kinds of books and audio products available on that topic. While your prospects don’t have to like you to buy from you, you do need to have rapport. You’ve established rapport when there is an easygoing sharing of ideas. You can converse freely and they’ll listen to you; they haven’t “thrown a wall up at you.”

Regarding their desire to get other bids, it’s supposed to be that the more salespeople they see, the better you look to them. After visiting with you, then a few of your competitors, your prospects are supposed to look at each other and say, “I can see why he’s higher. He’s the only one that’s worth the money.”

Because of the fact most people base their decisions more on “feelings” than on logic, the rapport you built with them will do more to sell the job than the information you share with them. They’ll remember the good feeling they had about you long after they’ve forgotten all the facts and figures you shared with them. Make making them feel good about buying from you your sole mission.

My own personal decision regarding the air conditioning I replaced about 16 months ago prevents me from agreeing that people won’t pay your “outrageously high prices. I could have replaced my air conditioners for $12,000. I decided to pay $32,000 because I was impressed with the salesman. No matter what logic I applied to my buying decision, it all boiled down to the salesman and the way he conducted and presented himself (CB Nov. 2006, pg. 71 and Dec. 2006, pg. 74).

Your job as a salesman is to educate them on the difference between you and your competition. You normally do that more with your conduct than with making speeches.

Questions to Consider

Can you, without thinking, rattle off a dozen reasons how people save money by buying from you? Until you can, you have no right to complain about the price objection or people being so “stupid” that they can’t see the value of doing business with you. If you can’t articulate why someone, including those wanting to spend the least amount of money possible (and, who isn’t?) should buy from you, how can you expect your prospects to?

Are you running a load calc on every call? If not, why not? I can’t tell you how many people have bought from me and the people I’ve recruited into the business, simply because we were the only people who drew and measured their home. You’ve got to do what the other guys don’t do.

Do you run an energy survey where you analyze their actual utility bills, then tell them how much they spent to heat and cool their homes over the last year, and how much they would have saved with new equipment under the same, identical set of circumstances? A salesperson who doesn’t do both of those things is not the top-shelf HVAC professional they’re pretending to be. I couldn’t earn a living without doing both of those things. You skip these steps, and I don’t know you.

What percentage of your proposals include duct modifications? Most buildings need them, especially return air. If you’re not quoting duct improvements on most of your replacement calls, you’re not being thorough.

What percentage of your proposals include Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) products? They’re going to buy new heating and cooling equipment, therefore, it’s a given that they’re going to be more comfortable, put their service problems behind them for the time being, and enjoy lower utility bills. The cheapest stuff on the market will do that for them. The IAQ products are the things that enhance their lives, get them excited about their new system, and cause them to brag to their friends about it. Pride of ownership gets them emotionally involved.

What are you doing between calls? If you’re like most salespeople, you spend a good three hours per day driving between calls — 3 hours per day X 5 days per week X 50 weeks per year X 12.5 years = 9,375 hours that you’ve spent behind the wheel. That’s a lot of time. What have you been doing with that time? Did you waste it by listening to the radio or music CDs, or arguing with people on your cell phone? My best advice is that you listen to sales training between calls. Everyone I’ve recommended this to has experienced an immediate improvement in their closing ratio.

As far as your boss making all this money, well, that goes hand-in-hand with your having a cake job in which you set your own hours, essentially answer to no one but yourself, and make more than six figures, without an advanced college degree in some field in which the demand is high and the supply is low. You’re making good money, why shouldn’t your boss? You can’t just go anywhere and make that kind of money. Quit your complaining and get down on your knees and be thankful for what you’ve got.

Note to contractors: Don’t show your employees your money. They’re not as delighted about your financial success as you think they should be. Ever heard of a little thing called jealousy? Never show your employees your money. Most employees in this business would describe the owner of the company they work for as greedy. They’re probably right. You’re supposed to be the only contractor they ever worked for that wasn’t greedy. It’s okay to desire wealth, but don’t be show-off.