Implement Suggestive Selling and Increase Your Close Rates

Originally published
Originally published: 9/1/2013

An action plan for capitalizing on in-home service calls

In the hypercompetitive HVAC contracting market, especially operating in a stagnant economy, it is vital to make the most out of
each and every service call. While there are many issues to discuss about the inhome call, I am going to focus on only one important one: suggestive selling.

I remember my very first job at the local McDonald’s when I was 16 years old. Back then, McDonald’s put a great deal of emphasis on training in order to achieve consistency: not only from one employee to the next, but also from one location to the next. One of the most important lessons about taking orders was to always “suggestive sell” at the end of the order. Yes, I mean that somewhat annoying moment when you’ve just finished placing your order and the teenager across the counter asks you if you want an apple pie. Now, from my perspective, if I had wanted an apple pie, I would have ordered one. But we need to be careful to not assume the rest of the world thinks the same way we do. Don’t make the mistake of using your own personal preferences or experiences as a basis for determining how others may, or may not, act.

What I discovered way back then was that the power of suggestion works with a lot of people. In fact, it works wonderfully well. Not everyone would take the suggestion, but enough of them did that it significantly impacted the average sales per ticket. Let’s apply this lesson to your HVACR business.

Suggestive selling is even more critical in the HVACR business than in fast food. Why? Because when I eat out, I know how hungry I am, I know what I’m in the mood for, and unlike the person taking my order, I know that I don’t like apple pie. In your business, however, the homeowner does not know their home comfort system needs. Their central system is foreign to them. What they really need — and want — is a home comfort consultant. But you cannot be that consultant if you are only there to fix what is broken.

In conducting the recent American Home Comfort Study, I had a front-row seat to understanding what goes on in the home from the perspective of the homeowner. One thing we know is that homeowners are increasingly receptive to suggested improvements to their home comfort system. Here are a few facts to think about.

In the study, recent HVAC buyers were asked if they were offered several additional/optional products. (see chart) The first statistic to pay attention to is that the most-offered additional item was a programmable thermostat. Recent buyers reported they were offered this product just over half the time. Yet, when it was offered, we see that the homeowners bought it a whopping 66 percent of the time. When we look at
the other items listed in the table, we see they are offered to fewer than three in ten customers, despite the fact that they also have strong closing rates.

Now, I understand every situation is different and, of course, not every homeowner will buy what you suggest. However, if you make sure your sales team and service technicians are suggesting something during every call, the law of averages says you will increase your sales.

Here is an action plan for implementing suggestive selling into your business model. By executing this plan, you will find:

  • Your average sales per call will increase.
  • Your sales team and technicians will be well-trained, knowledgeable experts who are able to be that in-home consultant the homeowner wants.
  • Your customer retention will improve.


Suggestive Selling Action Plan

1. Make suggestive selling a focus in your training and in your operating procedures. If you work on it now, suggestive selling will become entrenched and be a part of your culture by the time the next season begins. If this action is established now, it has a better chance of not being cast to the wayside when you are doing most of your business.

2. Train your technicians to be observant while in the home and to ask questions. Not every technician is a polished salesperson, but they can be trained to reach a minimum level of competency. Even if they are not able to sell at all, at least they can report back to you what they learned or observed so a sales professional can bring these issues up with the homeowner during a satisfaction follow-up call.

3. Make selling additional/optional products or services a companywide initiative. Pick a product or service each month or every two months. Provide training on that particular product or service. Give your sales team and technicians specific questions to ask and follow up to make sure they are participating on every call.

4. Most importantly, make sure this practice continues when you get busy. Suggestive selling needs to be a permanent element of your business model. If you start and stop it, or let it slide during the busy season, it will not yield the best results for your business.

As you assess how you did during the last season and determine what you want to accomplish in the next year, make sure suggestive selling is a staple in how you run your business. If you don’t ask, you lose the opportunity to sell that additional/optional item to the homeowner. More importantly, you miss the opportunity to solve a problem for the homeowner.

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Implement Suggestive Selling and Increase Your Close Rates

This action plan for implementing suggestive selling into your business model will help you increase close rates.