Arrive at the door, clipboard in hand, with the inspection form clearly visible. Say, “As a point of clarification, Mr(s). (customer name), for $ (price of inspection), I'll do a complete inspection of all the mechanical aspects of your air conditioning system. That means I'll be going over it with a fine-tooth comb. When I'm done, I'll provide you with a full written report on this form. Should I find anything requiring attention or improvements that should be made, would you like me to point them out to you?”

Of course, the customer will respond in the affirmative.

Work silently, even if the customer accompanies you. Don't talk to the equipment, your tools or yourself.

When you find something wrong, don't be in a hurry to point it out. Keep it to yourself. You'll go over everything all at once after you've completed your inspection.

The Paper Towel Close

When you've completed your inspection, excuse yourself by saying, “I'll be writing your report. This may take a few minutes.” Then, complete your inspection report.

The inspection report is a summary, but doesn't lend itself as well to explaining their options in the order you want to present them as well as a hand-written list on a plain sheet of lined paper. This list is called the “Paper Towel Close” (PTC).

Your PTC lists absolutely everything that should be done to a customer's air conditioning system. It could be fairly lengthy. Prioritize your recommendations and use subtotals at logical “stopping points.”

Show four prices for each task: the price to do each task as a single task now and as an additional task later, for both non-service agreement customers and service agreement customers. The fact that it's significantly cheaper to do everything all at once, provides a sense of urgency to take care of everything on this service call.

As an example, it's very common for the list of tasks above the first subtotal to be:

  • Chemically clean outdoor unit
  • Chemically clean indoor coil
  • Pull and clean blower
  • Service agreement.

If you're going to have to do all that cleaning on the indoor blower and coil, it only makes sense to provide the customer with the opportunity to prevent those conditions (and expenses) from occurring again. The tasks above the second subtotal might include:

  • System sterilizer (UV lights)
  • Upgraded filtration system.

The items above the third subtotal might be:

  • Compressor saver (hard start kit)
  • Ceiling saver (float switch).

Write down everything you see that requires attention or upgrading, regardless of your feelings about the customer. Don't even think about what you perceive the customers' financial position to be, how long they'll own the home, or whether or not it seems to you like they're interested or likely to buy. They're paying for your complete inspection and recommendations, so give them what they're paying you to do.

Presenting your Findings

Don't go in thinking you're there to sell customers something. Go in as the “certain kind of retentive” HVAC professional who is there to educate and enlighten them on what their air conditioner requires to run properly. Do not view your inspection report and PTC as sales aids. They are simply lists.

Show the customer the inspection report and say, “Most everything checks out fine. There are a few items that require attention and a few deficiencies that should be addressed to make sure you get the most out of your system and keep your expenses down to a minimum.

“I've also written down the prices for me to take care of them for you. I've written everything I recommend down on a separate piece of paper in order to make it easier for you to read.” Lay the PTC down next to the inspection report.

Say, “I'll give you a moment to look things over, then, I'm available to answer any questions you might have.” Then, remain silent until the customer speaks.

There will probably be a few questions, then, the customer will make a decision on what he or she wants you to do today, and what is to be put off.

Should the customer happen to say that he or she doesn't want anything done, calmly place your finger on the first subtotal and say either: “This has to be done,” or, “This is the least you must do now.”

For more on this topic visit contractingbusiness.com and click on Greer's latest column.

Charlie Greer is the HVAC Consultant of the Year, and the creator of “Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD” and “Slacker's Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD.” The spring, 2009 dates are set for “Charlie Greer's 4-Day Sales Survival Schools,” with separate classes for HVAC technicians and salespeople. To talk to Charlie, order a free catalog, or check his training schedule, call 800.963.HVAC (4822), or visit hvacprofitboosters.com. Email Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.