LAS VEGAS — Selling comfort in turbulent times was the subject of a talk at NHRAW’s 55th annual convention here in December.

LAS VEGAS — Selling comfort in turbulent times was the subject of a talk by consultant Steve Howard at NHRAW’s 55th annual convention here in December. Selling comfort is something every hvac contractor can relate to, and “turbulent times” is what is on the minds of almost everyone.

Plenty of people are in the doldrums about the current softness in the economy. First quarter sales are slow, tension and worry remains. But, Howard pointed out, people don’t stop buying hvac equipment and services because “comfort is a basic need. Without heat, pipes freeze – without cooling, people suffer. To set yourself apart from the crowd, don’t just sell furnaces and air conditioners for houses, offer unmatched comfort for people!”

Comfort is not an option with most people. It’s not something you can easily defer just because times are tough. Even on a simple service call, Howard said, the service technician should explain to the customer how a new unit will save them money in energy efficiency and reliability. “Give options and let your customers decide,” he said.

Offer financing 100% of the time. “Your customer can own a $6,000 comfort system for an investment of only $133 per month,” Howard said, giving an example. “When you subtract the estimated energy savings from the monthly investment, most people can own a new comfort system for less than a cup of gourmet coffee per day.”

Howard doesn’t advocate the use of high pressure sales tactics. Instead, he suggests you ask questions of the consumer, which leads them to make their own decisions. The usual first question a customer asks on a service call is: how quickly can you get my old system up and running? Ask how happy they are with their current comfort system. Are there any areas in the home that are too warm, or too cold? Does anyone in the home suffer from asthma or allergies? Is it too muggy, or too dry at certain times of the year? Have they had other repairs on the system within the past five or 10 years? Are their energy bills high?

Often a customer will say that the suggested price for a new system is too much, or that they are in no hurry to buy. Your response should be that you can take care of all their needs today; that waiting will only lead to more wasted energy and living with a marginally effective comfort system. When a customer still appears hesitant, offer them some time to think about it while you leave the room, or discuss it together as you wait. Ask them what their concerns are, and discuss them honestly.

Howard pointed out that while many are preaching doom and gloom, the highest unemployment rate this country has experienced in the past 50 years never topped 10%.