Last month (CB Mar. 2008, pg. 76), I wrote about an e-mail I’d received from a salesman. Shortly after receiving his e-mail, his wife forwarded an e-mail to me she’d received from a prospect he couldn’t close, who happened to be the one the salesman complained about in his e-mail to me.

This month, we’ll take a look at what his prospect had to say, and what we can learn from it.

The Prospect’s Side
“Your salesman came by to give us an estimate for a new system on the 29th of January at 7 p.m.

“He left without giving me a formal estimate. When he arrived at my home, I told him exactly what I wanted an estimate for. He proceeded to check my thermostat, the air coming from my vents, and then looked at my outside and inside cooling and heating units. He then said he would go to his vehicle and come back with an estimate. When he returned from his vehicle, 25 minutes later, he came back with notes about what I wanted on a plain, lined note pad. No official logo, no equipment specifications.

“He told me that before he wrote an ‘official’ estimate, he wanted to make sure he understood what I wanted. I told him I thought that was what he was writing an estimate for the last 25 minutes in his vehicle.

“I asked him a couple of questions, and then requested that he give me two formal estimates, one with the least expensive A/C unit, and one that is Energy Star compliant.

“He stated that that would take some time and he could do it in his vehicle. At this time, he had been at my house for an hour. I told him that his time was up, but he was more than welcome to bring the estimate by at a later date or call.

“He said he was not going to do that because he needed to go over the estimate with me. I said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’

“Bottom line: I would not recommend your sales representative. Although courteous, he was uninformative, a poor communicator, and was not willing to meet any of my expectations. Because of his representation of your company, I will not be doing business with your company.”

Withholding Information
I don’t necessarily offer the make, model, size and/or efficiency rating up front. I do that as a way of “taking their temperature.” I want to see how little I can say and still make the sale. If you can close a sale without saying something, don’t say it.

Some salespeople have misinterpreted this as my recommending that you never provide that information, even when specifically pressed for it, which is not my position.

I’m just careful to keep the entire presentation focused on how my competent staff and I will solve their heating, cooling, and indoor air quality (IAQ) problems, as opposed to hard-selling them on a specific model of equipment. I feel that, if they buy the salesman first, everything else is just details. When it’s focused on the equipment, but they don’t know why they should buy it from you, all you’ve done is made a sale for the manufacturer, distributor, and some lower-priced competitor, because they’re going to start shopping for the exact same thing, but for the lowest price.

Paperwork Issues
The prospect was unimpressed because the salesman didn’t provide make and model numbers, used a plain piece of paper to quote the price, and basically refused to provide a couple of options on the spot.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with using a plain, lined sheet of paper on which to write up a brief description of your recommendations, prices, and a couple of payment options. In fact, it’s what I do. The thing is, once they’ve got your written proposal in their hands, you’re done, so I save it for later.

If you’re getting along, the plain sheet of paper works fine. If you’re not getting along, nothing works.

There are sales instructors who will tell you never to leave a written proposal unless they buy. You didn’t hear that from me. About two years into my career, I went through about a six week period of no new leads. During that time, at least one person per week, who I’d quoted up to two years prior (and had written off as a lost cause), called in to buy. I realized the more written quotes I had floating around, the more people were going to call up and buy just when I needed a sale the most. Therefore, I want as many of my written proposals floating around as possible.

The 25 Minutes
The customer had a serious problem with the 25 minutes the salesman spent in his car writing up his initial offer.

When I’m running replacement sales calls, I do the load calculation, the operating cost comparison calculations, and the pricing right at the kitchen table, and it usually takes me about 25 minutes.

Your willingness to do it in plain sight demonstrates to them that you’ve got nothing to hide.

Never Give Up
The salesman admitted he was only pretending that writing up a proposal and providing a few options would be too time-consuming to do on-thespot because the prospect was a real jerk and he just wanted to get out of there. I covered the “jerk” aspect and establishing rapport in last month’s installment.

Once I’ve gone to the time and trouble to drive out to a call and get things started, I don’t see the point in bailing out. I never give up on a sale until the customer has bought from someone else and it’s been installed. Until that happens, the job is still up for grabs.

Additional Recommendations
At my request, the salesman sent me a photograph of himself.

I suggested that he get rid of his glasses and try contact lenses. I wore glasses most of my life. When I went to contact lenses, my sales took an immediate upswing. I believe this happened for two reasons.

The first is that people could see my eyes better, so the eye contact had more strength and, as you know, I believe good eye contact is more important than a good sales pitch.

The second reason is that change is good. When you’re in a slump, try something different. It keeps things fresh.

I also suggested that he get rid of his mustache. Aside from the fact that mustaches are kind of a no-no in sales as it is, I’m also just looking to freshen things up for him.

When I was selling full time, I did my fair share of experimenting with facial hair. I tried a thin, well-trimmed mustache (primarily to look older) and, for a short time, I wore a well-trimmed goatee (for a few months following an auto accident which prevented me from shaving in that area).

I don’t know if it was the facial hair itself, or lack thereof, but when I shaved it off, I usually saw an immediate improvement in my closing ratio and the way I was received by my prospects.

Now you’ve had a chance to read both versions of a sales call — the salesman’s side and the prospect’s side. Hopefully, you’ve learned what went wrong and how you can use it to correct any problems you’re having.

Thank you, Mr. Salesman, for sharing this experience with us.

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.” For information on Charlie’s schedule and products, or to request a catalog, call 800/963-HVAC (4822) or go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com. E-mail Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.

Tec Daddy’s Solutions to Customer Problems
Salesman Complaint . . . Tec Daddy Says . . .
“My market area is full of jerks.” Personally, I like jerks. Most sales people cut and run on jerks, making it infinately easier for other salesmen to make a favorable impression
“Our areas of common interest isn’t creating rapport.” Areas of common interest, humor, and compliments are the least sophisticated ways to build rapport. Instead, you should copy them, then lead them. People tend to establish rapport with people that are most like themselves.
“The prospect insists on knowing the make, model, size and efficiency rating of the unit I am quoting.” If you can close a sale without saying something, don’t say it. Some have misinterpreted this as my reccomending that you never provide that information. When specifially pressed for it, give the prospect that information
“The prospect isn’t impressed with my use of a plain, lined piece of paper for my quote.” If you’re getting along with the prospect, the plain sheet of paper works fine. If you’re not getting along, nothing works.