By Gord Cooke
I have been promoting new technologies for the building industry generally and in the mechanical realm more specifically, throughout my career. New technologies present new benefits to clients and thus new opportunities for all of us. Integrating those benefits into your sales process, however, may require some modest changes.
On occasion, there are circumstances or events that highlight new technologies and opportunities. The pandemic is a prime example, having prompted a surging interest in ventilation, filtration and other indoor air quality options. Heating and cooling companies were encouraged to offer a broader range of indoor environmental control solutions. And now the rapid rollout of heat pump programs along the path to electrification presents a unique opportunity over the next 10 years. This opportunity employs a technology that is two to three time more energy efficient than the fossil fuel fired heating options currently being installed and yet does not always result in immediate energy cost savings for clients. In each of these circumstances traditional sales processes that focused strictly on cost, energy savings and paybacks can be de-emphasized to allow for a broader spectrum of client benefits to be illuminated, benefits that can appeal to the emotional needs of customers and not just the logical financial concerns.
Adjust your sales process
I am already noticing a change in HVAC marketing campaigns featuring available incentives from different levels of government, utilities and manufacturers for heat pumps. As these campaigns get the phones to ring, consider some modest adjustments to your sales process to help your customers avoid the “it’s too complicated, I’ll do it next time” cop-out. From the first contact, engage with your client in a deeper way by asking a few more questions to elicit their experiences with and interest in the new technologies you offer; questions such as “What has prompted your call today?” and “In your research so far, what solutions sound intriguing to you?”
As you prepare for your visit to their home or business, encourage them to prepare as well by bringing out previous energy bills. Giving them an “assignment” prompts a deeper level of interest and commitment while empowering you to have a more timely and comprehensive discussion about energy use patterns and optimization opportunities once you are face to face.
When at the client’s home or business and just after a friendly meet and greet, be sure to take gentle control of the balance of the meeting by setting an agenda. Allow for a little more time to understand the client’s needs and more time to demonstrate the new technologies you have.
An agenda can be a statement as simple as, “Thanks for the opportunity to meet today. If it’s OK with you I would like to ask you a few questions about your home. Then I would like to take some measurements and I am sure you will have some questions for me. That should allow us to find a system that meets your needs over the next 45 minutes to an hour. Is that OK with you?” Letting clients know what is going to happen allows them to relax and engage with you more freely.
The agenda allows you to springboard into the deeper understanding of their needs that can be solved by the new technology you are offering, but it requires some homework. The marketing materials for all HVAC equipment outline how each offers high quality, durable, efficient, quiet, comfortable operation. These important marketing phrases are best described as advantages that need to be developed into compelling benefits for individual clients, benefits that solve problems and improve the lives of clients.
It is best to go right back to the basics when introducing a new technology into your sales portfolio. If you were to physically or at least virtually take apart the heat pump or energy recovery ventilator you are introducing you would undoubtedly uncover 30 to 40 specific features within that equipment chosen specifically by the engineering team to address and resolve specific performance requirements or installation challenges. Knowledge of each of these features can be explained as to how they work to reduce noise levels, improve efficiency or extend the service life.
Each of these advantages can then be expanded out to imagine what problem they could solve for a client. For example, the multi-layered rubber acoustical blanket on the heat pump compressor allows your client to enjoy a peaceful evening on their backyard patio. The multi-stage MERV 13 filter on the fresh air supply of the ERV allows for continuous fresh, filtered air to the bedroom of their asthmatic child. Each of those 30 features may offer two or three advantages and each of those advantages can resolve two or three problems your clients’ experience
The final homework exercise
Design five or six questions that would encourage your clients to talk about the challenges they experience in the home or workplace. The most helpful questions start with phrases such as “Tell me about…,” “What have you heard …,” “What’s been your experience with … .” Add simple subjects such as “your family,” “plans for your home,” “your business,” to the end of these phrases.
Putting together these simple phrases encourages the longest possible conversation with your clients. Within that conversation you are likely to hear them talk about the challenges they face that can be addressed by the features of the equipment and services you offer.
The preparation has the added value of breeding enthusiasm and enthusiasm is infectious within your team and with your clients. That enthusiasm helps them trust both you and the technology such that they can make the right decisions in a timely manner. The switch to a heat pump centric heating and cooling solution needs that preparation and resulting enthusiasm to ensure our clients don’t put off the decision. Commit your entire team to exploring the compelling benefits your clients can experience with all of the technologies you offer.
A helpful partnership
In as much as the heat gain through windows account for 50 to 60 per cent of cooling loads, the next time a homeowner asks you what size air conditioner is needed for a 2,000 sq. ft. home, ask them to measure the size of the windows in their home by orientation as you make the appointment to visit. It sparks interesting conversations while you are at the home about comfort and problem areas in the home and builds a sense of partnership between you and the client.