After I replaced the air conditioner in my home, a guy called me out of the blue to ask me which model I chose. I bought what I considered, for various reasons, to be the best model that the manufacturer offered. It wasn't the most expensive, because I don't believe "the best" also has to be the most expensive. I also don't believe "the best" also means, "highest efficiency rating."

When I told the guy what I bought, he said, "You cheapskate! You wouldn't pay a couple of extra bucks for the top-ofthe-line model, would you?"

I responded that I did buy the top-of-the-line model.

He said, "No you didn't! For a few dollars more, you could have gotten the one with a higher efficiency rating!"

I started to explain the basis of my decision, when he begin talking over me and cutting me off with a lot of playful ribbing. That's when I realized that an intellectual discourse was out of the question.

I could tell by the background noise that he was riding in a car, so I asked him what kind of a car he was in. He told me it was a Lexus.

"What kind of mileage does it get?" I asked. "I don't know," he said. "About 15 or so around town and maybe 21 or 22 on the highway."

"Why didn't you get the higher efficiency model?" "Charlie!" he exclaimed, "this thing's got plush leather seats, a $7,000 stereo system, twin DVD players for the kids in the back seat, a built-in GPS, it rides like a dream . . ."

"So, you bought it for the comfort factor," I interjected. Then there was a long silence. "OK, you got me," he finally said. "I guess what you're getting at is there's a lot more to consider than just the efficiency rating!"

More Than Just Efficiency
Why is it always about efficiency? I'm constantly hearing equipment referred to as the "19 SEER model," or the "90% furnace." Cut that out.

If the prospect has an SUV, don't waste a lot of time selling them on high efficiency! Regardless of what the prospect may tell you, obviously, comfort and safety vastly outweigh efficiency in their buying decisions.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn't make high efficiency your whole sales pitch:

  1. The prospect may believe high efficiency is a bunch of baloney, so they may believe you're full of it too.

  2. The fact that equipment is rated for high efficiency does nothing to set you apart from the competition. Everyone sells high-efficiency equipment these days.

  3. The prospect is buying the equipment for comfort, so stress the comfort factor!

What is Total Comfort?
My first day in the business, I was taught that "total comfort" is total non-awareness of one's environment, meaning:

  • No drafts from infiltration or supply air from the registers blowing on you

  • No noise from blowers, vibration, air turbulence through diffusers, resonance in ductwork or the condensing unit

  • Humidity control year-round, during both the heating and the cooling months, and the time in between.

  • The temperature you want in every room, with no temperature swings or temperature stratification

  • Clean indoor air.

So, how do you attain total comfort for your prospects? By going through the following checklist, based on the definition I just gave you.

Reduced drafts — Do a "whole-house inspection," including the building envelope. Seal all accessible cracks in the building and in the ductwork. This requires specialized training and equipment

Noise reduction— Properly size ductwork and registers or diffusers; possibly over-size returns.

Use canvass connectors to attach sheet metal plenums to equipment.

Place equipment on vibration absorbing pads, relocate condensing units if necessary, and use variablespeed equipment.

Humidity control— Seal the building envelope. Install humidifiers and de-humidifiers.

Even temperatures —Use zoning systems to get the temperature you want in every room. Variable capacity equipment will reduce temperature swings. Also, run a load calculation to determine proper sizing.

Indoor air quality —Sell them a high-efficiency air cleaner, and a UV light with a catalytic element for VOC and odor control.

Inspect ductwork — Most ductwork is dirty, can't be properly cleaned, was improperly designed to begin with, and should be replaced if at all possible.

Get the training and equipment necessary to be able to check IAQ and provide useful hard data to support your recommendations that they invest in IAQ solutions.

Is Total Comfort Expensive?
Obviously, a total comfort package has a higher initial investment than a bare-bones package, but is it more expensive that a bare-bones package?

I contend that the bare-bones package has a higher overall cost of ownership than a total comfort package.

If you look closely at every single item I listed as part of the total comfort package individually, I believe you'll agree that, if the need is there, the customer will be paying for each and every thing on that list, whether they buy the equipment or not.

If the customer has leaks in the building envelope and they don't get them fixed, they'll overpay on their utility bills by at least as much you'd have charged them to fix it, and they'll miss out on the comfort. Won't they?

If the customer's ductwork is improperly sized or has leaks, they'll overpay on their utility bills and on maintenance, and they could experience premature equipment failure by at least as much you'd have charged them to fix it. Plus, they'll miss out on the comfort. Won't they?

If the customer lacks humidity control, they'll overpay on their utility (and medical) bills by at least as much you'd have charged them to fix it, and they'll miss out on the comfort. Won't they?

If the customer has uneven temperatures, they'll overpay on their utility bills by at least as much you'd have charged them to fix it, and they'll miss out on the comfort. Won't they?

If the customer has poor indoor air quality, they'll pay for it in higher medical bills and equipment maintenance, and they'll miss out on the comfort. Won't they?

The people who say customers won't spend the money for a total comfort package rarely quote it. You've got to quote it to sell it. The contractors who are selling it, are the contractors who are quoting it — and contractors are selling it. Translation: Customers are buying it.

The fact that very few contractors quote a total comfort package should be good news to you. A total comfort ackage is your unique selling proposition.

Homeowners can buy boxes from anyone. If you just go from call to call quoting them only what they asked for — what everyone else has quoted them — you're just one of the pack. You've got to differentiate yourself. You can do that by selling total comfort.

Charlie Greer is an award winning HVAC salesman, the creator of "Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD" For information on Charlie's seminars and audio/visual products, or to order his catalog, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or visit www.hvacprofitboosters.com. You can e-mail Charlie at charlie@ charliegreer.com