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Mid-winter sales strategies

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By Mark Parliament and Alexandra Wennberg Parliament

Around this time each year, with early season installs and retrofits pretty much wrapped up, it’s not unusual for sales to seem to flatline for contractors, so the focus goes to sales strategies that will help keep the business profitable during the mid-winter season.

For some, winter home shows are the holy grail for gaining new leads. Others may focus on data mining of their current customer base. Both are good options as part of a broader sales strategy. Sadly, few contracting companies take advantage of the most productive sales tool in their arsenal, their own technicians.

Your customers look to your technicians to be subject matter experts and to offer solutions to maximize their overall energy efficiency and comfort. Not all technicians will like the idea of being part of the sales process, but any that you’d want on your team will help educate customers and direct them to HVAC options that will address the homeowner’s concerns.

As the owner or manager, you will have a better idea of the structure that will allow those recommendations to translate into sales for your team, but finding a pathway that both technicians and sales team members can buy into will only spell good things for your company’s bottom line.

Broadening the vision



Ask an HVAC student or someone new to the trade what business we are in and common answers will be ”heating” and “moving heat.” Both are good answers, but there’s much more to it than that.

Technicians need to understand their role as indoor comfort specialists. When there is a problem, homeowners will ask their technician what they would do if it were their house. Customers rightfully view technicians as industry experts, and that trust and relationship offers the technician an opportunity to discuss equipment upgrades and service options without the sense of pressuring a sale, and that’s a good thing for business.

Even technicians and companies that do not believe field staff should take on any kind of sales role can still have techs discuss features and benefits of various equipment so that they can help the homeowner make the right choices when it comes to their comfort.

The trick is to have a process in place so that the information the technician has shared can be relayed to the sales team to close the sale. This allows the customer to deal with the technician with whom they have built a relationship rather than having to schedule a separate meeting to discuss the options with a member of the sales team, but any actual selling is done by a member of the sales team.

Any sales, direct or indirect, are contingent on getting technicians into the mindset of looking beyond the immediate problem they are called in to address. A tech that goes to a home to fix an issue without talking to the customer about their indoor comfort is potentially missing the low hanging fruit that can add comfort for the customer and additional sales for their company.

And don’t assume that this will come naturally to all technicians. It can be a wise business investment to conduct specific training to help technicians look at a customer’s building from a different perspective. The customer, and your business, will be healthier when the building is looked at as a whole rather than as a series of piecemeal systems and projects.

When in business, everyone is in sales



A company’s technicians truly are that firm’s strongest business weapons. These equipment installation and service experts are invited into a customer’s home to fix problems, and it’s the front-line experience with these technicians that will most influence a customer’s opinion of the company.

Some technicians may say things like, ”I’m in service, not sales,” or, ”I fix them, I don’t sell them.” To a customer, however, their interaction with a technician is part of the sales process. All interactions with your company start as a business transaction, so we need to do a better job of training techs on sales techniques and getting them to buy into the fact that they are members of the customer service and sales teams.

Some will be comfortable with direct sales, others will not, but as long as you are in business, all members of a company influence sales at some level.

Start with a conversation



One of the first things almost every tech does when they enter a customer’s home is turn up the thermostat, but shouldn’t we check the thermostat settings before turning it up, and talk about them with the customer?

If the thermostat is set higher than 21°C, ask the homeowner if it is set so high in order to be comfortable. If the answer is yes, the technician should begin looking at low indoor humidity levels in the home.

Increasing humidity levels could reduce temperatures and energy consumption, so the technician could discuss the benefits of a humidifier with the homeowner, informing them that it could reduce the energy bill.

The opposite can be true as well. Some homes have large water deposits on the windows, black mould growing in the basements and overall poor indoor air quality. Technicians trained to identify problem issues other than the system error they were called out for could sell an HRV or ERV.

Set up an agreement



Gaining new business when it is +35°C or -35°C outside is like shooting fish in a barrel, but what about the slow seasons? Maintenance agreements are a product that could easily be promoted by technicians while they are troubleshooting a problem

It costs five times more to gain a customer than to retain one. Unfortunately, business owners looking to make the phone ring often focus all their efforts on attracting new customers all the while losing out on the guaranteed repeat business of the maintenance agreement customers.

Maintenance contracts guarantee to put your company in front of your customer at least twice per year and also keep technicians busy during times when business slows down, all of which is reflected in the company’s bottom line.

Scheduled maintenance calls during slower periods provide the perfect opportunity to increase sales as technicians are not running from one call to another putting out fires and can therefore spend more time with customers discussing their needs and potential solutions.

Never forget: We can’t force the homeowner to make the right decision, but we should always ensure that they make an informed decision for all their HVAC needs.