Editor's Note: Charlie Greer is in the midst of a year-long primer designed to teach you what to do when running service, and how to maximize each call in an honest and professional manner. “I'll tell you everything I do; from the moment the call is dispatched, to the greeting at the front door, to closing and handling objections, down to what I do to prevent ‘buyer's remorse,’” Charlie says. Here 's installment number 2.

Take off your sunglasses as soon as you get to the street on which your call is located.

Whenever possible, park in front of the home, in plain sight of the front windows of the building.

If your truck has a “back-up beeper,” put it in reverse gear for a moment. That beeping alerts your customers that you’ve arrived, and gives them a moment to get fully prepared for you, which helps the initial greeting to go smoothly.

Don’t take forever to get out of your truck and start heading for the door. Be prepared to shut off the engine and step out of your truck as soon as you arrive on the scene.

At the Front Door

If the front entryway is clean enough, put your shoe covers on prior to ringing the doorbell.

When the customer opens the door, say “Hello, I’m here to take care of your . . . (furnace, air conditioner, heat pump, boiler, etc.).”

Even though it makes sense to tell them your name and who you’re with, don’t. They called your company, your company called them a little while ago to tell them you were on your way over, your truck is in plain sight, you’re in uniform, and your name is on the uniform. Sometimes they respond with a rude comment like, “Don’t give me the whole sales pitch. How much is … ?” Or, “Yes, I can read.”

At that point, they’ll usually invite you inside and you’ll get the initial introductions out of the way. If they haven’t introduced themselves by name, confirm you’re in the right place by saying, “You’re Mr(s). (customer’s last name) ?”

People don’t like to have to repeat everything they’ve told dispatch, and they like knowing that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. By the same token, dispatch doesn’t always get everything right. Confirm what you’re there to do by saying, “Mr(s). Smith, dispatch has already briefed me on your situation, but if you don’t mind, can you tell me in your own words exactly what you’re experiencing?

While customers are explaining their problems, try not to be walking or doing anything. It’s best if you’re facing each other, giving the customer your undivided attention, and making eye contact. After you’ve listened to their response, repeat back to them what they just said. This is called being an “active listener.”

Then say, to let them know you’re a professional and that you’ve done this before, “When I encounter this situation, I have a very specific procedure that I follow. First, I’ll look everything over. I’ll then step out to my truck and compile a list of options and prices. I’ll go over them with you and gain your authorization to proceed. Then, I’ll do the work. And, I can usually do it right here on the spot.”

Crazy Talk

Be advised that if a customer is going to say anything “insane” or odd to you, it will usually occur at one of two places—when you first walk in the door or right after you present the price.

I once had a customer say, “When my air conditioner goes to start up I hear a slight popping sound outside. When I go outside, I smell something like burning oil, and nothing goes on. My husband says that smell is Freon and that the whole thing can be fixed by changing the thermostat.”

The front door is not the place to straighten people out. During these first 60 seconds, my goal is to put their mind at ease regarding their situation. No matter what they say, I let them know that I understand what they’re saying by paraphrasing back to them what they just said to me.

I’ll say, “If I understand you correctly, when the thermostat calls for cooling, you hear a slight popping sound outside, then smell something like burning oil, but nothing works. Your husband says that smell is Freon, and that the entire problem can be resolved with a new thermostat. Is that correct?”

She said, “Right.”

I said, “When I encounter a situation like this, I have a specific diagnostic procedure that I follow, which would start me at the thermostat, then I work my way to the outdoor unit, then, because the furnace also doubles as the blower for the air conditioner, I’ll be checking that out as well. When I’m done, I’ll compile a list of options, prices and time frames and present them to you for your decision on how you would like me to proceed. And I can normally fix it right on the spot. Does that sound good to you?”

Do:

• Keep everything on a businesslike and professional level
• Use their name (“Sir” and “Ma’am” are not acceptable substitutes for their name.)
• Appear completely relaxed and confident
• Make eye contact
• Ask questions.

Don’t:

• Wager any guesses as to what could be wrong
• Start “selling” right away
• Debate them
• Be overly friendly
• Get on a first-name basis
• Bring your price book in with you yet (you will later, when you present the price)
• Bring a briefcase in with you (it’s too “salesmany” and can be intimidating)
• Waste their time
• Act confused or unsure of yourself
• Talk too much
• Talk to the equipment, your tools or yourself
• Look up prices before performing a complete inspection
• Offer opinions or guess at what the possibilities are until you’ve looked things over, priced them out, and written them down
• Offer opinions, solutions, or advice until you’ve established rapport and your own personal credibility.

Money Worries

When people call for service, they can be a little anxious about money. Sometimes they’ll tell you what’s been going on, then press you for an instant diagnosis at the door. Say, “Well, let’s take a look at it."

Them: “Okay. But what do you think might be wrong with it?”

Set the tone for the rest of the call by stating, “I don’t do guesswork. There are a few things it could be, but I’m here now. I’ll take a look at it, and in a few minutes, I’ll give you a diagnosis, a solution, a price to take care of it and a time frame on when it will be done. And, I can usually take care of it right on the spot.”

When they push harder, say "Don't worry about the money. I'll take care of you. I've got you covered."

Sometimes, right at the front door, they’ll announce, “I don’t want to spend a lot of money here!”

Say, “Okay. You want the job done right, but you want to spend the least amount of money possible. Am I right?”

They’ll say, “That’s right.”

You respond with, “Okay. I’ll keep that in mind. Let’s take a look at it.”

Charie Greer is an HVAC service technician and the creator of “Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD,” the video series that provides contractors with a year's worth of short, pre-planned weekly video sales training sessions for their technicians. For more info call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or visit www.hvacprofitboosters.com. Email Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.