To Close More Sales, Offer More Choices

Originally published: 09.01.07 by Tom Piscitelli


Sell more by giving customers what they want.

“I sold a job last night for over $13,000,” Roger said. “I couldn’t believe it! I was so nervous when I put the proposal in front of them, I couldn’t even say the number. Before I could ask, he pointed to the best-system choice and said they would go with that one.”

Roger told us this on the morning of the third day of our seminar. He had gone out on a call the night before and had promised to try some of the sales techniques and tools he had learned the past two days.

As a former installer (now comfort adviser) he admitted to being out of his comfort zone on his first few solo sales calls in the past few weeks. He said he was struggling with how to conduct himself, what to say, how to put together a proposal, how to present it, how to ask for the order, and how to handle objections. I told him that included everything he needed to know and do, so it was a good thing he was in this class.

When he described the details of last night’s call, it was apparent that he still had plenty of opportunity for improvement but, to his credit, he had exhibited one important characteristic that will contribute to his long-term success— courage. Roger had the courage to try something new even though he was nervous about it. His courage came from confidence in what he had taken from the training, and it came from his gut feeling that it was the right thing to do.

I talked with Roger’s boss one week after the seminar and found out that he had sold two out of three leads in one day, and the third was still undecided. Both of the jobs he sold were the middle choice. Anyone would consider this outstanding.

I had a similar call last month from Steve, who had decided that something needed to change in his marginally profitable business if he were going to survive. While attending a seminar two months ago, Steve had met other contractors who had made their own tough choices about the kind of business they wanted. Steve’s tough choice was that he had to be willing to walk away from low-profit jobs and change his approach to proposing new work. Once again, this took courage.

He said he had recently been awarded a $20,000 job where his high-end system choice was several thousand dollars higher than the next competitor. The customer had challenged his price. (Steve wasn’t offended by the challenge, he told me, because he routinely negotiated price. In fact, he told me that’s how he thought he was to close the sale.)

Recognizing that the customer wanted him to do the work, Steve held his ground and explained that his price was fair, that it included doing everything the right way, and that he and his company were the best choice. He told me he was willing to leave without the sale, but the customer accepted the proposal. Since then, Steve has consistently priced his work where it needs to be and has been happily surprised with his close rate and profit margins. He said the jobs he has lost would have cost him money anyway, and he wished he had realized this a long time ago.

We can draw some conclusions from these two experiences. First, improved results come only from doing things differently. Learning from the successes of others is your shortcut to improved success. Second, it takes courage to address the risks you face when you change something. Third, giving your customers a high-end choice will not only get you more business, it’s also the fair thing to do for them, your company, and you.

Your Customers Will Tell You

How do you know what choices to offer? Ask your customers. All sales calls should begin with your “discovery” of your customers’ needs and wants. You need to invest up-front time to ask questions, listen, and write down what your customers say is important to them. This is not a time for selling. If you start pitching your products and services too early, you could create some defensiveness that often makes customers less open and less comfortable with you. Be patient. There is plenty of time for selling later.

For example, let’s say that your customers told you they were unhappy with the upstairs being excessively hot in the summer, their system is noisy indoors and outdoors, two of the family members have pollen allergies, and their utility bills have been significantly increasing.

Here is what you should “hear” is important to them:

1. More comfort, particularly upstairs
2. Quieter indoors
3. Quieter outdoors
4. Improved health
5. Saving money

What Should You Recommend?

You should begin with recommending the best possible solution you can offer. By “the best possible” I’m referring to everything that can realistically be done regardless of your judgment of the customer’s likelihood of saying yes or your judgment of what they can afford.

Why begin with the best choice first? Because we would not be serving our customers well if we didn’t educate them about what’s available. Also, as mentioned last month, it’s a good idea to “price-condition” customers to our high-end systems. Third, you can easily come down, but it’s hard to work up. Finally, sometimes they will choose it! 

Considering what is important to our customer in the above example, what would be the best system you could put together?

If you sell geothermal systems your proposal will certainly include that, with:

• Variable speed for comfort and less indoor noise (not having an outdoor unit eliminates that noise issue), zoning for comfort, and electronic thermostats for comfort addresses Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

• Additional return air or duct work enhancements; your favorite high-efficiency air filter; ultra-violet air treatment; and duct-cleaning if necessary addresses No. 4.
• Possibly a humidifier and/or air to air heat exchanger for improved health (No. 4) and saving money (No. 5) if appropriate.

What would that system’s total investment be? Easily $30,000 or more.

If you are not a geothermal dealer, then all of the above would apply except for including a dual-fuel/hybrid heat pump system. Still a $20,000 investment or more.

Offering Three Choices

Offer a single choice if you want to, or two choices if you prefer, but by offering three choices, you’ll sell more jobs at higher average prices and at better net profits; and you’ll create happier customers who will become long-term clients. So if you don’t want more of those things, only offer one or two choices. It’s up to you. 

Now that you see how to create your best choice, how do you decide what to offer for the other two choices? Remember that your three-choice proposal is a starting point. In most cases, customers will want to create a customized solution by mixing and matching among the three. For your initial second choice, decide what can be “given up” from the best system that will have a minimal impact on what was important to the customer. (See the table on Page 24 for a sample of how to design choices.)

For example, you could step down from a dual-fuel/hybrid heat pump to a high-efficiency variable-speed furnace and your highest SEER two-stage 410A air conditioner. This would represent an “investment savings” of several thousand dollars and would give up only some of the money-saving benefit (No. 5). Then, should they have concerns about the amount of investment you are suggesting, you can offer them a several thousand dollar “discount” if they agreed to give up a little on the efficiency of the system. You can offer this as a choice, their choice, and whatever answer they give you is a yes!

By the way, whether you refer to your choices as “Best-Better-Good” or “Platinum-Gold-Silver” or anything else, I think it’s fine. Choose whatever you are comfortable with.

You can find sample Best-Better-Good Proposal forms on the HVACR Business download center. 

Until next time … Good selling! 


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