Jason Young is an example of how perseverance pays off. He made it to the finals in Comfortech Idol 2004, but lost in a tight race to Michael Youngs. He returned to Comfortech Idol in 2005, determined to win . . . and he did!

Jason was born into an HVAC family and has worked for the same company for 11 years.

In both of his Comfortech Idol appearances, Jason won audience favor with his easygoing nature and charming sense of humor. He describes his sales philosophy as, "Have fun, and the customer will, too."

I recently caught up with Jason and he was gracious enough to share some of his insights with us.

Charlie Greer: What is your level of technical expertise in HVAC?
Jason Young: I have worked as a service technician and as an installer. Since being a salesman in my company also means being a project manager, I'm often involved hands-on. I'll strap on the tools several times a year. Also, I volunteer several days per year in construction and maintenance of worship-related buildings in my community and elsewhere. This helps keep me sharp.

CG: Have you had any formal sales training?
JY: I take all the sales training I can get my hands on. I've attended sales seminars by every wellknown HVAC sales instructor, which has been very beneficial. However, I'd have to say that the Bible-based ministerial training I've received, where I've learned such personal qualities as empathy, good communication, and proper motivation, has been more effective than all of the industry-specific courses combined.

CG: Describe your sales process.
JY:
It's different every time. I hate being tied to a formal process. I like it to be more fun than that. I want to let it flow naturally, like a relaxed conversation with a friend.

At times, the client and I will start at the equipment, the thermostat, the kitchen table, or the outdoor unit. We usually run a few laps around the house examining registers, the load, the duct system, and the equipment configuration. I also look at the family's lifestyle. Many questions are asked; problems and concerns are identified.

We'll stop anywhere to talk. Maybe we'll stand in a back bedroom for 10 minutes discussing continuous fan and variable speed, or 15 minutes in the backyard talking about their incredible calla lilies.

When we settle down at the kitchen table or living room — or even back yard, if it's a great day — we continue our discussion, while calculating the load and building a system.

We discuss some of the things that make our company special, but by this time they probably know much of it already. It's particularly effective to relate specific solutions to concerns we identified together while walking around.

After building the right system together, I ask for their approval to get the work scheduled.

CG: How long does your average sales call take?
JY: Anywhere from one to three hours.

CG: What do you do during your sales presentations that you feel gives you the edge?
JY: I listen to the client, take notes, and actually give them what they want.

Instead of being pushy, I try to treat them the way I'd like to be treated.

I look for ways to demonstrate technical proficiency, so they feel they're in good hands. This can include the use of a Magnehelic gauge, anemometer, or other diagnostic tool. It can also include a simple illustration or analogy to help them understand a complex concept.

Additionally, I think appropriate use of non-HVAC technology has helped give me an edge. When I'm taking notes on my Palm, showing past job photos on my laptop, or printing a proposal to my wireless printer, I feel my clients are reassured about the technical ability and market leadership of my company. In a computer-savvy market like Portland, OR, this can sometimes be even more of an edge than HVAC expertise.

CG: How many closing attempts do you usually make during a sales call?
JY: Trial closes begin right away — such as asking, "When we replace the furnace, do you think you'd like us to haul away the old one and recycle it?" — then it's not at all unexpected or uncomfortable when I do ask for the order.

I seldom need to ask more than once. However, if additional attempts are made, I make sure that something about the offer, or their understanding of it, has changed. If I have to repeatedly pester my client, then I'm not really treating them the way I'd like to be treated.

CG: What percentage of your sales calls includes a quote on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) products?
JY: One hundred percent of them. Bringing up IAQ products helps to increase sales, helps build trust, and demonstrates technical proficiency.

CG: How does recommending IAQ help build trust?
JY: When the customer and I discover IAQ problems, and I offer solutions, whether they accept my offer or not, I've demonstrated I know what I'm doing, I'm looking beyond the box and I'm there to help.

CG: What percentage of your sales includes IAQ?
JY: About 70% of my sales include the common IAQ products such as air cleaners and UV lights. I find that more and more homeowners are interested in, and buying humidifiers. I probably sell more humidifiers than anyone in my market.

I consider variable speed an IAQ improvement because so many IAQ products are enhanced by the variable speed. So, if I rephrase your question to, "What percentage of your sales include an IAQ improvement?" then it's about 95% because nearly every furnace I sell is variable speed, and usuallyincludes a programmable stat.

CG: Can you describe your favorite closing technique?
JY: "In view of all of the benefits we've outlined, do you see any reason not to get this scheduled today?"

CG: Where do you get most of your leads?
JY:
From referrals, tech leads, and direct mail sent to our existing customer base. You could say that our satisfied customers are our largest source of leads. I also run a lot of Internet leads, as well as some generated through newspaper ads and the Yellow Pages.

CG:What is your advice to HVAC residential replacement salespeople?
JY: Treat your clients the way you'd like to be treated if you were in their shoes. Better yet, treat them the way you'd like to see some random guy treat your grandmother in her own house.

Have personal integrity at all times. Pretend there is someone looking over your shoulder all the time. It will only help you in the long run.

CG:What did you do with the $1,000 you won from Comfortech Idol 2005?
JY: We made a hurricane relief trip to New Orleans. My brother (and co-worker), his wife, my father, another technician from my company, my wife, and I were all privileged to serve for two weeks donating our skills toward rebuilding some of the hardest-hit homes in the region. What a great experience. And, the Comfortech Idol Award played a major role in getting us there.

What is Comfortech Idol?

Comfortech Idol is the search for the best HVAC salesperson at HVAC Comfortech.

In a contest that is loosely based on the hit television series "American Idol," HVAC salespeople compete head-to-head by role-playing sales calls in front of a crowd of HVAC contractors. The contestants are then critiqued by HVAC sales trainers and past Comfortech Idol winners. The audience votes on which contestant they feel best exemplifies excellence in HVAC sales.

Comfortech Idol is both entertaining and educational. At Comfortech Idol you see how real, working HVAC salespeople respond to the tough objections such as, "Your price is too high," "I want to think it over," and "I want to get other bids."

The grand prize includes $1,000, a write-up in Contracting Business magazine, and bragging rights. All contestants are awarded various other prizes.

There is no charge to enter or watch Comfortech Idol. All elimination rounds and the finals are free and open to all registered attendees of HVAC Comfortech.

Complete details on Comfortech Idol 2006, including an online entry form, can be found at www.hvacprofitboosters.com


Meet Comfortech Idol 2005

Name: Jason Young
Age: 35
Education: High school graduate
HVAC certifications:
NCI certified air balancer, NATE certification in seven disciplines, EPA refrigerant handler.
HVAC experience:
My dad introduced all three of his sons to this trade 20 years ago. Although I no longer work for my dad's company, I've been actively working in the industry since I was 16.
Employer: Climate Control Heating & Air Conditioning, Lake Oswego, OR, for the past 11 years, as a salesman/project manager. I also take an active role in the marketing, training, coordination, and technical support.
2005 sales figures: 226 presentations. 168 sales. $933,807 total sales volume.
2006 sales figures through May 31: 95 presentations, 55 sales, $417,403 total sales volume.
Family life: Wife of 13 years, Krystal; son, McKinley, 10; daughter, Sedona, 7.
Hobbies/pastimes: I enjoy mountain and rock climbing, backpacking, skiing, canoeing and kayaking, bike riding, participating in local ministry, and I enjoy all of the above with my wife and kids.

Charlie Greer is a service technician, a salesman, a sales trainer, and sponsor of Comfortech Idol. For information on Charlie's products and seminars, go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com, email charlie@hvacprofit boosters.com, or call 800/963-HVAC (4822).