Presenting the best option first will make the sale more profitable for you and your contractor customers.

The trouble with the supply-house business is that your annual sales volume is totally in the hands of your customers, HVACR contractors. So, if they have a bad year, due to weather, the economy or other factors, your company suffers. And there isn't much you can do about this, other than to pick up more dealers, get larger-volume dealers, or help those you have to become better at selling. It's this last item that I want to discuss with you.

Personally, I like to be the master of my own fate - and income. And although many in the supply-house business like to maintain their distance from customers, that's not the best way for them or you to thrive. So, some active programs are vital to help your dealers to grow, and this requires sales assistance and training.

In a column that recently ran in this magazine ("The power of because," April 2001), I mentioned a sales-training program I recently attended. One of the tips that the presenter, John Young, made for selling more profitable jobs was offer the best system first.

Young's research and presentation proved that in most cases, customers will buy more expensive systems, and more sales are closed, where they are given a choice and the best option is presented first. Everything presented after that is compared to the features and benefits of the best. Do most of your dealers understand this? No! Travel on sales calls with them. You'll find that most simply offer a low-ball price and hope they'll be lower than any competitors. No sales, just a bid. And remember, it's your sale they're making.

The superior choice

Now, consider what happens when potential customers are offered a choice based on the best, not so good, and lousy technique (my own terms for it). The best is the top-of-the-line offering, such as a 16+ SEER cooling unit. It can include options such as electronic air cleaners, humidifiers, set-back thermostats, etc. Prepare a four-color, single-side sheet with an attractive photo and a list of features and benefits in a vinyl cover to show the customer. Include comparative annual operating expenses (a justification for the higher price), noise levels, allergy alleviation, comfort and reliability.

Talk about features such as no short cycling during power outages, no drafts, less dust in the air, etc. Then offer a price.

Next, I would offer something in the intermediate range. It could be a 12-SEER cooling unit. Again, it needs a nice photo and page showing fewer features and benefits, plus a higher annual operating cost. Then give a lower price.

Finally, I'd offer the down-and-dirtiest thing I could. In fact, I would suggest a low-ball competing brand. Don't worry, they won't sell many of them. The only reason for contractors to present this is to show that they can do the job as cheap as anyone else. No photo is needed, and the sheet shows few benefits and a much higher annual operating cost. Then have your contractors give as low a price as possible.

Which will customers choose? Well, there are lots of automobile brands available. What do you drive when you're given a choice? You see, hard sales tactics aren't really required. All that customers want and need is a choice and a justification for the difference in price, and most will buy something better when they understand the difference.

Most competing contractors only offer one system and price. When you offer three choices and prices, you've covered everything the competition is doing, and you are telling the customer you think they have the sense to make a wise decision. It makes for a friendlier sales atmosphere.

To help your dealers, buy or prepare some sales sheets and show them (in a class, a meeting, or in person) how to use sales sheets to close more profitable sales. Send your salespeople along with them to help with presentations if necessary. But for your own sakes, don't allow your equipment sales to all be made based on the lowest bid. That isn't the best thing for you, your dealers or their customers. Bring the quality of all your sales up to a higher standard by improving your customers' sales skills.