How to Design a World-Class HVAC Sales Process

ServiceTitan ServiceTitanJune 9th, 2020
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In our experience working with hundreds of HVAC contractors across the country, business owners and sales managers who are frustrated with their system replacement sales numbers tend to attribute their troubles to three main factors:

  • Not having enough high-quality leads

  • A lack of consistent sales results from technicians in the field

  • Competition from online HVAC sales and low-ball pricing from other contractors

It goes without saying that good leads are vital to any successful sales team. And vying for customers with online sellers and price-cutting local competitors is inevitable. But at ServiceTitan, we’ve found that HVAC contractors who aren’t selling as many new systems as they’d like often have more than enough leads to hit their targets.

Too often, the real problem is they don’t have an effective, well-defined sales process in place—one that enables their team to convert more of the leads they already have, and which ensures they’re not leaving any money on the table.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what an effective, well-defined process for HVAC sales looks like, and provide concrete advice about how to implement one in order to maximize your system replacement sales.

Specifically, we’ll go over:

  • The importance of delegating the right jobs to the right techs

  • A step-by-step breakdown of an ideal system replacement sales call

  • How following up with homeowners after sales calls can produce tons of additional revenue

  • Why tracking results and tech-generated leads is essential

Along the way, we’ll also explain how an HVAC software tool like ServiceTitan can help managers and owners implement best practices for HVAC system replacement sales.

Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our software can help you grow your business.

Delegating The Right Jobs To The Right Techs

In order to close as many leads as possible, HVAC contractors need to have a sales process in place that begins before there’s any actual selling to do. It starts with making sure that the techs who are assigned to the highest value calls—the calls most likely to result in system replacement sales—are the ones who are best at communicating with homeowners to demonstrate the value of their company’s services.

We call this approach Dispatching for Profit. It sounds straightforward enough: for optimal results, the techs with the best sales skills should be assigned to the most potentially lucrative sales calls. (Some companies prefer to call their technicians Comfort Advisors; we’ll use the terms interchangeably in this article.)

In the to-and-fro of running a business, it’s easy to stray from this guideline, especially without a well-defined process in place to ensure that it’s followed. And the consequences can be serious. Just a handful of missed opportunities to close system replacement sales could easily mean tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue—if not more.

How to Dispatch for Maximum Profit

(A simple example of how you could organize your techs based on their skills in Google Sheets.)

To avoid that possibility, we suggest that HVAC contractors carefully assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of all their techs, and give each of them a rating that indicates their technical and sales ability.

We’ve found that numerical and color-coded rating schemas work well. But whatever the case, the system should be simple, an easy point-of-reference for the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) who will generally be responsible for deciding which tech is assigned to each call. For example:

Blue: Excellent sales skills, less proficient technically Green: Reasonably sound at both selling and fixing, superlative at neither Yellow: Excellent technical skills, less proficient seller

With a rating system like this one, CSRs can quickly and easily decide how to divvy up each day’s calls in order to maximize profit. To the highest-value calls—from potential customers who need to replace their HVAC system or who have systems nearing the end of their lifespan—they’ll send Blue techs. Yellow techs will take warranty and general repair calls, particularly if they promise to be complex. Green techs, meanwhile, can be deployed as utility players, covering a range of calls as necessary. (It’s worth pointing out that in addition to optimizing sales, a system like this will often improve an HVAC company’s technical performance—and reputation.)

How a Tool Like ServiceTitan Helps You Organize a Profit-Maximizing Dispatch System

An HVAC software tool isn’t essential to dispatch for profit as described above. Particularly at a small company, a system like the one in the previous section can be implemented with a whiteboard, a few telephones, and a sharp, nimble customer service rep with access to Google Maps.

But in our experience, HVAC contractors—and the technicians, sales managers, and CSRs that work for them—find it vastly more efficient and reliable to bring a software tool into the equation. With ServiceTitan, for example, contractors can input their tech rating system, allowing their CSRs to reference it instantaneously in conjunction with the software’s Dispatch feature, so they can quickly and seamlessly match techs to the right jobs, accommodating scheduling changes over the course of a day.

ServiceTitan also has a variety of Alert options, which owners and sales managers frequently use to fine-tune their dispatching-for-profit initiatives. These can be particularly useful when implementing a new sales process. Decision makers can arrange for an alert, for example, whenever a potentially high-value call comes in. That way, they can track their company’s response, making sure the best possible tech is assigned to it.

Anatomy of a Sales Call: Breaking Down an Ideal System Replacement Call

Once a contractor has evaluated and ranked all of their technicians, the next step in optimizing their HVAC sales process is to create a template for HVAC system replacement sales—and to implement a structure to ensure that template is followed on each and every call. No matter how skilled in sales, a tech isn’t going to do their best work by winging it. And although there are no hard-and-fast rules, we’ve found that our most successful HVAC contractors use a sales call process that looks something like this:

How to Prep for a System Replacement Sales Call

A tech should know as much as possible about the facts on the ground before getting to a potential customer’s home. To prepare, they’ll want to review (to the extent they have the information):

  • Any previous work their company has done at the home

  • The notes from the CSR’s most recent call with the owner

  • Any outstanding estimates

  • The age of the homeowner’s existing HVAC equipment

  • Any other salient details

That way, they’re both equipped to proceed efficiently upon arrival and prepared to make an informed, professional presentation to the potential customer.

This is another area where an HVAC software tool can be a great resource. ServiceTitan, for example, allows techs to access a complete work history for every one of their company’s existing clients, as well as to refer to their CSR’s call notes. They can even listen to a recording of the homeowner’s conversation with the CSR, just to be certain they don’t miss any key details.

To decrease the chance that a tech will encounter a no-show, ServiceTitan will automatically send an alert to the homeowner in advance of the tech’s arrival at their property. It’s worth noting, too, that ServiceTitan alerts are a great tool for limiting customer wait times.

For contractors, this has important implications beyond customer satisfaction. If a homeowner has been waiting around for hours by the time a tech gets to their home, chances are their patience—and their receptiveness to a sales pitch—is already wearing thin, putting the tech at a significant disadvantage. By providing a more exact, definite window for appointments, ServiceTitan helps put homeowners in the best possible frame of mind when a Comfort Advisor arrives to address their HVAC needs.

How to Proceed After Arrival

Establishing a rapport with the homeowner is crucial. On arrival, the most successful HVAC contractors that we work with generally have their techs knock, take a couple of steps back from the door, and put on a pair of shoe-covers. (The latter ensures that the owner’s floors are protected—and that their initial impression of the tech is of a thoughtful, considerate professional.)

To foster pleasant relations, many HVAC contractors instruct their techs to use an icebreaker; they might compliment the home, or try to establish some common ground by noting that they have children of the same age, or share the owner’s interest in cars, gardening, hunting, etc.

Of course, becoming friendly with a homeowner doesn’t mean they’ll buy an HVAC system from you. And having a well-defined framework for conducting an inspection of the home and creating an estimate is no less important than it is for the earlier steps in the sales process.

Successful contractors often find it best to structure that framework around a pair of forms or checklists that their techs go through on each sales call:

The Comfort Survey

The first of these is what’s often known as a Comfort Survey. Essentially, it’s a set of questions that ask the homeowner about their air quality concerns. A Comfort Survey has two major benefits.

Most tangibly, the answers should provide the Comfort Advisor with a detailed understanding of the potential customer’s pain points—and by extension, of what, exactly, they want to get out of their new HVAC system. When it comes time to close the sale, the tech can draw on this intelligence to illustrate how their product/service will meet precisely the homeowner’s needs, and exceed their expectations. In this way, a Comfort Survey becomes an invaluable tool in overcoming cost-related objections.

Similarly, by involving them in the process, a Comfort Survey gives the potential customer a sense of ownership. Rather than being dictated to by a sales representative making assumptions about their needs and wants, they become an agent in the improvement of their family home. That sense of collaboration, too, makes a great engine for overcoming cost objections.

The Home Estimate Checklist

The Home Estimate Checklist is exactly what it sounds like: a detailed inventory of a property’s HVAC-relevant measurements and specs. In completing a Home Estimate Checklist, the tech will need to measure every room, sizing the new HVAC system; check the capacity of the air supply vents to ensure, for example, that the new system won’t create hot or cold spots in the home; and check the ductwork for leaks, among other things.

A well-designed Home Estimate Checklist will require a tech to be extremely thorough, providing them with the data they need to come up with an accurate estimate, and conveying to the homeowner that they’re dealing with a professional with unsurpassed attention to detail.

HVAC contractors who subscribe to ServiceTitan frequently find that having their employees use our software to complete both The Comfort Survey and the Home Estimate Checklist—usually via tablet—makes life a lot easier. For one, it guarantees that forms don’t get lost in the truck, blow out the window, or otherwise fall victim to dog-ate-my-homework scenarios. It also allows owners and managers to verify that their Comfort Advisors are following the sales process every time—dotting every i and crossing every t. The software can even be configured so that techs can’t proceed with a sales call without completing a required set of steps in sequence.

Closing the Sale

An HVAC software tool like ServiceTitan can also be a huge help when it’s time for your Comfort Advisor to close the sale. Using the completed checklists to match the needs of the homeowner and the physical particulars of their home with appropriate HVAC possibilities, we suggest that the Comfort Advisor present three options: Good, Better, Best. This approach tends to increase an HVAC company’s average ticket price—largely by encouraging customers to land on the "Better" option—and with software solutions like ServiceTitan, these options can be offered in the form of a sleek digital presentation.

In the event that the homeowner is ready to make a decision, ServiceTitan provides near-instantaneous access to financing—a common concern in HVAC sales, given that a new system can easily run north of $10,000. If the homeowner needs some time to weigh their options, ServiceTitan can also create clean, company-branded, email-ready estimates to leave behind, rendering easy-to-lose, paper-only estimates a thing of the past.

This kind of sharp, thorough presentation can help dissuade potential customers from going with a competitor’s lowball estimate. But it’s not the end of the road. If the Comfort Advisor closes a sale, a process should be in place to make sure there’s a smooth transition to production. In the event that the sale doesn’t quite go through, the next step is to follow up.

How Following Up Can Produce Tons of Additional Revenue

Some HVAC companies may include following up on unsold estimates among the responsibilities of their techs. But industry experts have suggested that less than 50 percent of all HVAC techs actually do follow up—and many HVAC shops don’t make it a priority at all. It’s not hard to understand why. With constant incoming calls, ongoing repairs and installations, and pitching new business to attend to, it’s tough to stay on top of estimates that are already out there. The trouble is that failing to follow up on unsold estimates leaves a huge amount of money on the table.

For a sense of just how much, consider that generally speaking, only 2 percent of sales—perhaps higher in the HVAC industry—are made on first contact with a customer, while some 80 percent of sales occur between the 5th and 12th contacts.

When an HVAC estimate goes unsold, after all, it’s not usually because the homeowner has decided against doing the work altogether. They simply end up going with a competitor—very likely a more persistent competitor, who made it a point to follow up on their estimate.

In effect, HVAC contractors who don’t follow up on unsold estimates are giving away a significant number of their leads. It’s no wonder they often think they don’t have enough leads in the first place.

But in recent years, to remedy this situation, we’ve seen some of our most successful HVAC contractors invent an entirely new position to specialize in follow-ups. We like to think of this person as the Follow-Up Coordinator.

Their results have been nothing short of astounding. In some cases, we’ve seen HVAC companies that bring on one or more Follow-Up Coordinator(s) increase their sales by $1 to $3 million a year.

We’ve written previously about how to hire, train, and deploy a Follow-Up Coordinator here, including tips on leveraging ServiceTitan to maximize this position’s effectiveness. But for the purposes of this article, the key takeaway is this:

An effective, well-designed sales process is a holistic framework that encompases a great deal more than the time a tech is inside a potential customer’s home. Follow-up is arguably as important as the call itself. And to get the most out of every lead, for many HVAC contractors, hiring a Follow-Up Coordinator—an employee whose duties focus exclusively on converting unsold estimates to sales—can often be an extremely valuable investment.

Why Tracking Sales Results and Leads Is Essential

Much as with follow-ups, many HVAC contractors have trouble tracking their leads effectively, if at all. As a result, they’re frequently not sure quite how those leads come in—from techs in the field on maintenance calls, from referrals, or from various marketing channels, for example. They don’t know how many result in sales. Nor do they have a great handle on their team’s performance: who’s closing (and not closing) at the highest rates.

The upshot is that HVAC contractors are often flying blind, working from a deep deficit of data. It leaves them with no good way of knowing how well their sales process is working as a function of industry averages, or of understanding their richest sources of lead generation.

For example, if on average, HVAC sales calls close about half of the time, and a shop is closing only one out of every nine calls, there’s almost surely something going wrong in the sales process. But if the company isn’t tracking their close rate, they won’t have any way of knowing it. They might even conclude that they’re simply not getting enough good leads.

At the same time, if an HVAC company is not tracking where their leads are mostly coming from, they’re in the dark as to which techs are good at planting the seed for future system replacements, which marketing channels and campaigns are most effective, and more.

When you’re trying to arrive at the best possible sales process for your shop, these kinds of data shortages place you at a huge disadvantage.

With an increasing number of HVAC industry contractors turning to technology-enabled solutions, the truth is that unless you’re running a very small shop, tracking and analyzing the kinds data you’ll need to design and maintain a competitive sales process is going to be awfully tough to do without a software tool like ServiceTitan to help.

With features like ServiceTitan’s Marketing and Reporting functions, it becomes relatively easy—an automated, seamlessly integrated element of a comprehensive sales process, rather a perennially confusing point of vulnerability.

Conclusion

Contractors in the HVAC business who aren’t quite hitting their sales targets frequently believe that what’s holding them back is a shortage of good leads. But a lot of the time, the real problem is that they don’t have an effective, well-defined sales process in place—one that enables their team to convert as many leads as possible, and which ensures that they’re not leaving money on the table.

By instituting a handful of key improvements to their business model—delegating the right tasks to the right techs; instituting a well-defined framework for sales calls; following up on unsold estimates; tracking results and leads—HVAC contracting businesses can often increase sales to significantly exceed their old targets without losing sleep about getting tons of additional leads. And with a software tool like ServiceTitan to help, many find that they’re able to overcome customer objections created by inevitable competition from lowballing local competitors and online HVAC sales.

Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our software can help you grow your business.

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive HVAC business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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