My experience with the HVAC sales guy...
I have been trying to select a contractor to install an HP unit. I figured I would go with a Lennox since I have been very happy with my Lennox furnace. So I called 3 companies, all Lennox dealers, 2 are Premier Lennox Dealers. I would have to say my experience has been very unpleasant - so much so - it almost wants to make me just forget about it and do it "some other time". Firstly, let me say that I am a techincal guy (engineer) and I am very involved in techincal sales (I have a small high tech company so I know what it is like to run a small business and to sell). So, I thought I would write this since I know a lot of HVAC company owners are on this site and maybe you would like to here from a home owners perspective. Now, I don't mean to pick on the HVAC industry in particularly, clearly a lot of industries have bad quality sales guys - but I expect a little more when spending the kind of money that is involved and when there are a lot of technical issues to be considered. From my experience, car sales guys do better than what I experienced.
I hope I don't offend anyone, but this was my experience.
1) The first call (and first impression): I called 3 companies, left messages - only 1 called me back, the other 2 I had to call at least 2 or 3 more times to talk to the sales guy. Ok, I understand that HVAC companies probably get lots of calls from people just tire kicking - but once in a while a real customer calls - see the thing is - you don't know until you talk to them!
Suggestion #1 to the HVAC Sales Guy: When a customer calls and leaves a message that they plan to install a system and would like a quote, at least call them back and discuss it with the prospect!
Suggestion #2 to the HVAC Sales Guy: Hire a polite receptionist, please. Answering the phone with a "yah" and chewing guy with "unhun's" is really, like, um, a turn off.
2) The first "conversation": Ok, once I actually reached the sales guys and spoke with them, the first responses I got (not it all cases, but 2 out of 3) were something like:
a) You know an HP costs $XXXX, can you afford that? (offensive)
b) Why are you calling me, this is not my territory? (ok, the secretary gave me your number, so I'm calling you)
c) I can't meet you Friday since I am going camping and I need to leave early! (ok, this makes the customer feel unimportant, I can't hold this against the guy, everyone needs a vacation, but the professional way to say this is "I'm terrible sorry I can't meet you on Friday since I have other commitments, however, I can meet you at ...." By the way, the guy did come on Friday afternoon - when I asked him about his camping when we were chatting he said he was not going, he did not want to come downtown on Friday afternoon because of the traffic - ok, now I realllly like the guy!
Suggestion #3 to the HVAC Sales Guy: Go to a sales training course on the basics of speaking with prospects - you never know when that call at the wrong time to the wrong person is your next customer.
Now, you would think I would clue in here and not want to meet this guys, but, the problem is, last time I called 3 other HVAC companies and the response was pretty much the same, so I figured, ugg, this is the way the industry is, I just gotta live with it. Maybe that is not fair, but it was certainly my experience.
3) The visit: Finally, after much negociation around the various sales guys holidays and their disinterest in actually visiting my house to quote me, they came, they saw, they "did the pitch". The "pitch" generally consisted of:
a) "this and that is crap", don't buy that, buy this other (much more expensive) unit - the justifications for this were not technical, or based in any way on my requirements, they were things like "that is last year's model" (wrong actually), "this unit may have the same dB noise rating but it sounds squeeky" (ok, this is a joke right!), you need a two stage HP cause you have a 2 stage furnace" (ummm, ok), etc
b) "selling extras", such as new electro-static air cleaners, "because the HP cloggs up unless you have a good air cleaner" - this is after I told the guy I change my filters regularly and the furnance I have now has always been very clean (I open it up and look once and a while)
c) "don't by from ABC company because" - "I have heard they install reconditioned coils with their systems" - referring to a Lennox Premier dealer, or "how is my price", I bet it is lower than THAT company... etc
Ok, as a sales guy I can tell you, NEGATIVE SELLING DOES NOT WORK! So, here are my suggestions:
Suggestion #4 to the HVAC Sales Guy: Don't negative sell, don't put down a lower priced piece of equipement over another, and if you must, do it with facts, such as "this unit is a $XXXX less, but it is a lower SEER which will add $XXX to your annual energy bill, or it is 6dB noiser, which means it will sound twice as noisy and you may not be happy with that, etc". See, this is based on facts and intelligent decison making - maybe the homeowner does not care about a certain feature - and if they "need to care" then you need to explain to them in a sensible and intelligent fashion. However, very often people choose lower priced equipment not because they want the cheapest thing that will do the job - often they are working within budgets and simply can't afford to spend a lot more. Help the home owner make an INTELLIGENT choice based on their ACTUAL NEEDS and their budget. Let me tell you, if one of the sales guys actually sat me down and said - here are your choices, here are the trade-offs - I would have signed a contract on the spot. This is called "consultative selling" - it works - and it makes you the preferred choice.
Suggestion #5 to the HVAC Sales Guy: Don't put down your competitors, firstly negative selling makes you look bad, not your competitor - besides, if you just told me a bunch of crap, do you think I am going to beleive this? Forget about your competitor, do your job well, inform the home owner of their options, pricing, tradeoffs, and sell your own experience and skills - trust me, that works.
Suggestion #6 to the HVAC Sales Guy: If you see other needs that the home owner did not identify, or you might want to offer something like a fancy aircleaner -then do it with facts. Maybe ask the homeowner - I noticed you have a basic filter system (notice that this does not offend the home owner), would you be interested in having a cleaner air environment in your own home, particularly since you have small children and live in the city, for example - this sounds intelligent, and caring. Next, if the home owner says, I'm not interested, drop it, don't keep pushing it, don't use crap excuses and don't "just quote it anyway" even when the home owner has said they don't want it. Now, I am not talking about something that you may spot that you deem essential, let's say there was no filter on the furnace (unlikely, but you never know) - in this case, make it very clear that this is essential and should be done regardless of other work - ie, help the home owner prioritize if there are problems - BE A PROBLEM SOLVER - not a headache maker.
4) The quote: Finally, it is important to do a proper quote, I had guys give me one price verbally, then another (of course higher) in writing. Ok, mistakes happen, but then call and apologize, some thing like "I know I told you X, but I made a mistake, the price is actually Y, etc". Not hard. Secondly, don't include those optional extras the home owner told you they were not interested in - from my perspective I think "hmmm, this guy does not listen, not good". Lastly, follow up your quotes with phone calls (or maybe even another visit) to explain the quote and go over the options. If even one of the companies sent me a quote, then visited me the next day, went over the quote, discused the options, I would have signed, even if it was 5%, 10%, 15% more than the competitor. Most consumers are not out for the cheapest price - most try and make intelligent decisions based on price, features and quality. Obviously if one guy is 50% more for the same job than another guy then their is something wrong - there should not be that much difference. If there is then probably one contractor is including things the other is not.
Suggestion #7 to the HVAC Sales Guy: When you prepare a quote, quote the equipment that was actually discussed and the home owner needs - don't throw in "all the extras" hoping for a bite.
Suggestion #8 to the HVAC Sales Guy: If you made an error in pricing, call and apologize.
Suggestion #9 to the HVAC Sales Guy: Follow up your quotes with calls, within 24hrs. Out of the 3 companies that I called, only one had called back within a week of quoting. Ok, you just spent several hours visiting the customer, preparing a quote - you spent all that time - you would think a phone call to follow-up would make sense right?
Maybe this has all been discussed before, and I'm not trying to be a smart-ass. I just have to say, my experience with the HVAC folks I have dealt with from a SALES point of view has not been impressive - actually it has been off-putting - and I am a technical guy and I hope, a reasonably savvy consumer who does their homework. I can just imagine if it was my Grandmother trying to deal with this lot!
Now, on a positive note, I LOVE THIS SITE, filled with an immense amount of knowledge and experience, it has been very helpful to me.
So, to all you HVAC company owners out there - do you train your sales guys?