I ’ve been sharing the correspondence I’ve been receiving from Jason, a contractor who runs his own replacement sales calls, and whose challenges are the same ones we’re all faced with on a daily basis.

To reset the stage, last month he wrote to me about a prospective customer who’d gotten competitive quotes. The prospect told Jason his quote was the highest and showed him a competitor’s quote that was $6,000 less. Jason’s quote included essential duct renovation and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) products his competitors did not. He also quoted a different brand name of equipment. According to Jason, the prospect seemed not to care about the difference between the two proposals, but was concerned with the price. He didn’t seem overly interested in solving his airflow and IAQ problems.

My Response
I commend you for having enough commitment to professionalism to invest in the training, the equipment and the time to correctly identify and offer to remedy airflow and IAQ problems on every call. Air distribution and IAQ are at least as important as the equipment.

Air distribution problems cause unnecessary expenses in operating costs, repairs, premature equipment failure, as well as comfort issues. Improper airflow is a significant contributor to our ongoing energy crisis and adds to pollution.

IAQ problems contribute to our ever-increasing health-care crisis in terms of disease, expense, hospitalization, and even death.

Both types of problems can cause severe property damage and financial difficulties.

All of this is completely avoidable and it’s our responsibility to enlighten and serve the masses.

The question is, what do you do when you’re running a call in a structure where these problems exist, and about two hours into things, you realize that you’re the only one in the room who is interested in solving them?

Long-term Plans?
Always work under the assumption that your prospects want the job done right, but be flexible in your thinking. They may want the best system possible, but either can’t afford it or don’t have long-range plans for the structure.

People with short-term plans for the structure tend to be less interested in investing in solutions for these conditions than those with long-term plans.

To help me prepare my presentation, I always ask, “Do you have definite plans to sell the building in the near future?” during the initial needs analysis, which occurs within the first few minutes of entering the door.

When They Just Don’t Care
You stated that the customer seemed not to care; that all he wanted to talk about was the difference in the prices between his bids. If he’s like everyone else, he cares about comfort, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and protecting his investment. He just didn’t want to spend any more money. That $6,000 in duct repair and IAQ was just too big of a pill to swallow.

This may be less of a bona-fide “price objection” and more of your trying to sell more than the prospect wanted to buy. He may not have believed there was a real need for duct and IAQ improvements.

Establish the need for these things during your testing process by keeping your prospects actively involved. It’s common for salespeople to become so engrossed during their testing that they forget about interacting with their prospects.

Sometimes prospects think the testing is all smoke and mirrors. Make really good eye contact throughout your entire presentation. Project confidence and a positive level of expectation.

When prospects don’t appear to be interested in resolving their air distribution problems, I ask, “Aren’t you interested in solving these problems?”

If they say no, I follow-up with asking, “Why not?”

I don’t ask these questions in a judgmental or challenging manner. When you’re selling, it’s not your opinions that matter, it’s the opinions of your prospects that matter.

When they tell me it’s because of the expense, I ask, “If it seemed affordable, and you could convince yourself that your air distribution problems are costing you more to have than they are to resolve, would you want to know more about it?”

Normally, they’ll say yes, and then I explain how, one way or another, they’re paying for these improvements whether they buy them or not.

If they say no, I drop the subject.

The ‘Whole Enchilada’
There are contractors who refuse to take jobs when the prospect doesn’t buy into resolving all their air distribution and IAQ problems. They’re few and far between. That level of commitment is certainly admirable and there are plenty of valid reasons behind that thought process, as long as you’ve got all the work you need to meet your financial goals.

Personally, I’ve never had that luxury. I want to make a sale on every single call, so I don’t deliberately walk away from an opportunity. Just because they won’t go for the “whole enchilada” in one shot doesn’t mean we can’t do business.

I don’t force my opinions on others. My duty on every call is to enlighten the customer. I know I won’t necessarily gain a convert during every sermon. If they don’t convert, but still buy a Bible, I’m grateful just for that. On the bright side, once they’ve invested in a Bible, there’s a good chance they’ll read it. If they read it, and I maintain a relationship with them, there’s still time. Maybe they’ll convert at a later date, like when I return to do their maintenance and repairs.

If your closing ratio is low and you never go for the whole enchilada, I suggest you start doing so. You’ll never make the big sales if you don’t quote them.

If you’re consistently going for the whole enchilada, and your closing ratio is low, I suggest that once you’ve made your point, and it’s obvious they’d like to do business with you, consider seeking a smaller commitment by reducing your offer.

‘Up-Selling’
Up-selling refers to increasing the size of an existing sale. Down selling refers to reducing the size of your initial recommendations in order to accommodate your prospect’s desires and reach an agreement. While it’s true that it is easier to sell down than it is to sell up, Up-selling is not impossible, in fact, it’s relatively easy. The easiest time to sell someone an additional product or service is just after they’ve gotten used to spending more money with you.

It Still Could Happen
If they decide to buy the equipment only, but don’t decide to go with all the upgrades on that visit, all is not lost. They may change their minds once they’ve had a little more time to talk, arrange their finances, and get used to the whole idea.

Make a note on their sales form that they can get all the upgrades for only $X when done as part of this installation, as well as the higher cost to do them at a later date. Inform them that, if they change their minds and want it all done at once, all they’ve got to do is let you know, and you’ll make it happen.

Even when you don’t receive that phone call, if you go out with your installers at the start of the job, you can still give them one more chance to make the right decision before your installers get too far into the job. I’ve always preferred something to nothing. I’ll talk more about reducing your offer, or down-selling, in the September 2008 issue.

Charlie Greer is the creator of “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD” and “Tec Daddy’s Service Technician Survival School on DVD.” The Fall, 2008 dates are set for “Charlie Greer’s 4-Day Sales Survival School,” with separate sessions for HVAC service techs and salespeople. For information on Charlie’s schedule and products, or to request a catalog, call 1-800-963-HVAC (4822) or go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com. Email Charlie at charlie@ charliegreer.com