People have really convoluted ideas about what salespeople and salesmanship is all about.

I do community theatre. I’m presently involved in a production of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play by
David Mamet, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” It’s a dramatic comedy about cutthroat real estate salesmen. They lie, cheat, steal, bribe, threaten and do everything short of killing each other, in order to hit their sales goals. In other words, they’re stereotypical salespeople.

I really hate the way salespeople are portrayed in this play and in the general media. It probably wouldn’t bother me so much if there wasn’t a valid reason for the stereotype.

Case in point: To be clear, this is the best, most pleasant, and enjoyable cast I’ve worked with in 25 years. Even then, someone is bound to say something that bugs you. When one of my cast mates learned I’m in HVAC sales, he said, “I tried selling HVAC, but I had a handicap. I couldn’t sell anything the customer didn’t need.”

“That’s not a handicap,” I calmly replied.

 

Even worse: I worked at a legendary company in the HVAC industry. It was sold and the new owners promoted our lead service technician to general manager. He decided to hold his first sales meeting. There were twelve of us in the room. Among us, was the late Tom McCart, who is an icon in this industry. The very first words out of our new general manager’s mouth were, “I tried to be a salesman, but I couldn’t make it in sales. I couldn’t lie to people.”

I couldn’t believe my ears! I stood up and demanded, “Is that what you think we’re doing — going out and lying to people every day? If you honestly believe that, how can you even work here? Your own personal ethics should demand that you quit right now yourself or fire the whole lot of us!”

Selling is not lying: Selling is selling, and lying is lying. Salespeople do lie, but that’s their decision to make. Lying has nothing to do with salesmanship.

The sales profession has a very high failure rate. I theorize that it’s not because selling is difficult; it’s because people make it difficult on themselves.

Lying is difficult. In the play, the character of Ricky Roma says, “Always tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.”

I’m always disappointed when I hear about salespeople lying. If they don’t think their products are good enough to be supported by the truth why don’t they go find something else to sell that won’t cause them to compromise their ethics?

Charlie "Tec Daddy" GreerThere is no valid reason for dishonesty: A contractor friend of mine really needed new employees. We had someone with a proven track record apply. The problem was that he had worked for two years at the local rip-off company, and we had a policy to NOT interview anyone who’d worked there. Once that came out, we were honest with him and told him he couldn’t work with us and why.

He tried to defend his record by explaining that working at that company was his only option and that he only did it to put a roof over his head and food on the table.

My buddy almost caved in when I called him aside and asked him, “Do you remember when you started this company? You’d just been fired unexpectedly and started this company on credit cards. When it was just you and your brother running calls, and you were desperate because you had a five-month old baby to house and feed, were you out there lying to people to make sales?”

”I get your point,” he replied. We didn’t hire him. Don’t hire anyone who’s ever worked at a rip-off company. I’ve given a number of people second chances and they’ve all let me down. A leopard can’t change its spots.

Someone got it right: We were working on costumes. There’s a character in the play who is not a salesman. When I asked if a certain nice pair of shoes and suit that I had would work for the part, the stage manager told me, “No. One of the salesmen should wear that. They’re salesmen, so they’ve got lots of money.” Well, at least someone got something right. Good salespeople are never out of work and are never short of funds.

Salespeople do not have to mislead people to make sales. In fact, if you’re thinking long-term, you’ve got to be honest. You can’t become successful and stay successful by misleading people.

Don’t tell potential customers you’re honest! You are the presentation. Being a successful HVAC professional is not a sales pitch. It’s a way of being. If you’re honest, people will know it. If you’re not, they’ll know it, and no fancy sales pitch or claims of honesty will change anyone’s mind about you.

So, the decision is yours to make, and you make it every time you talk to a customer. Are you going to be one of the people who gives HVAC and salespeople a bad reputation, or are you going to be one of the good guys?   

Charlie Greer can teach you how to make more sales as you drive between calls with “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales,” which has been specially formatted for use on your iPhone, iPad, smartphone, or MP3 player. For more information, call 1-800-963-4822, or go to www.hvacprofitboosters.com. Email Charlie at charlie@charliegreer.com.