Speaker, motivator, entrepreneur, and NYT best-selling author Weldon Long shares tips on how to sell home services like a pro.
Spending 13 years in prison changed Weldon Long for the better. It’s where he finally discovered the man he wanted to become.
“I was a ninth-grade high school dropout. I was a loser. I was a punk. I was a thug running the streets for most of my adult life in my 20s and 30s,” Long says. “When my father died in June 1996, I decided to change the course of my life. I’m going to be a productive, honest, and hardworking person.”
Long spent the rest of his time in prison reading and learning from all of the great thinkers—from “the Bible to Tony Robbins, and everything in between”—and ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree in law and a master’s degree in business.
When he left prison in 2003, Long landed in a homeless shelter. He spent the next six months knocking on doors, finally securing a sales job with a small HVAC company in Colorado.
“When I got in this industry, I was living in a homeless shelter. I was 39 years old and I was flat busted,” Long says. “Finally after six months, I walked in the door of a little heating and air conditioning company and they asked me if I could sell air conditioners.
“Turns out, I was good at it,” says Long, who sold $149,000 worth of air conditioners in his first month. “That was summertime and it’s easier to sell air conditioners when it’s hot, but I made myself $13,000 to $14,000 in commissions and I’ve never looked back.”
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, Long now makes his mark as a successful entrepreneur, a sales mindset expert, powerful motivational speaker, New York Times best-selling author, and owner of Peak Home Performance LLC, a $20-million HVAC company in Colorado Springs.
Selling home services successfully, Long says, comes down to two things: Changing your mindset and following “the kitchen-table process” of consistency selling.
In a recent ServiceTitan webinar, we explored Long’s fundamental selling strategy and how it motivates other home services companies to sell like a pro.
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People also buy from people who like them. We spend so much time getting our homeowners to like us, we forget they want us to like them. It’s one of the most misunderstood concepts in sales.”
Learn how to navigate the sales hallway
When selling home services, Long advises companies to navigate the “sales hallway” with the right mindset and the right words.
It’s your job to guide the homeowner down the hallway and answer all of their questions about your company, your products, your guarantees—and most importantly, your price.
“When they receive that last piece of information about the price, they want to do the most natural thing on the planet, which is postpone the pain of spending money,” he explains.
“They don’t want to go through that last door…they set up little escape routes, little doors on the side of the hallway. When they get ready to postpone the decision, they sneak out of one of those doors,” Long says.
What’s behind those doors? Reasons to not spend money.
“Sounds great, but it’s too expensive.”
“I need three bids.”
“It’s cheaper on the internet.”
“I need to think about it.”
Next thing you know, the customer is telling you to call back next week and the sales lead ends right there.
“The reality is, if you want to get good at this game—if you want to be the very best—you’ve got to learn how to close those doors,” he says.
Close those doors and convert more leads with a proactive approach
Today’s consumers are much more sophisticated and less likely to be pressured into buying on the first visit, Long says. They conduct vast research online before ever calling your company for HVAC service.
“In many cases, they may be as knowledgeable about a piece of equipment as we are,” he says. “The internet has changed everything. The old-school days of the one-call-close—yeah, it still happens from time to time, but not nearly as frequently.”
In his book, “Consistency Selling: Powerful Sales Results. Every Lead. Every Time,” Long explains in detail how to improve the probability for sales success. It starts with understanding the concept of the consistency principle.
Before you walk into someone’s house to sell HVAC services, it’s important to know they’ve already engaged in conversations about how to handle the interaction. They may decide they’re not buying on the first visit, they want a cheaper price, and they’re going to get three bids—before you even arrive.
“There’s a concept out there called consistency principle that says public declarations dictate future actions, which means people tend to take actions consistent with their words,” Long explains. “If I say I’m not buying tonight and I’m getting three bids, that’s what I do.
“When we walk into a home, we have to be aware of these conversations and do everything in our power to change their minds,” he says. “We’ve got to get them to make additional public declarations that are consistent with buying from us.”
Long leads the conversation with proactive questions and third-party validation. He shows the customer Department of Energy and Consumer Reports articles that say finding a trustworthy contractor and proper sizing of your HVAC system are more important considerations than price.
He also uses the example of choosing between buying two brand-new GMC Yukons. One is priced at $70,000, but built by GMC engineers. The other is $60,000, but assembled by the local high school 4-H Club. Which would you choose?
“It’s not about the piece of metal, it’s not about the parts. It’s about the assembly of those parts,” he says. “It works the same way in our business. The parts are the parts. Most of the equipment is of comparable value, comparable quality.
“But the real key to assess the effectiveness of that system is the magic you put in there,” he adds. “It’s the talent, skill and craftsmanship—the artisan you are that designs and installs that system.
“That’s what makes it work properly. It’s not the name on the equipment, it’s the name on your shirt,” Long says. “It’s about your creativity, your skill, your professionalism.”
Now, you’ve just given that homeowner permission to change their mind and make a new public declaration.
Practice 4 selling fundamentals to master the sales hallway
When it’s hot outside and easier to sell air conditioners, some HVAC companies think they can skip over the basics of good selling practices.
Just don’t ignore these four fundamentals of HVAC sales, which Long explains in detail in his second book, “Power of Consistency: Prosperity Mindset for Sales and Business Professionals.”
Relationship: Engage homeowners in a relationship by asking questions, investigating, and listening.
Investigate: Diagnose all potential problems with a homeowner’s HVAC system and recommend solutions.
Sell your company: Once you’ve identified the problem, design the solutions.
Conclusion: Get a simple yes or no.
With relationship building…
Long says the old saying, “People buy from people they like,” remains true today. But, the flip side is also true.
“People also buy from people who like them,” Long explains. “We spend so much time getting our homeowners to like us, we forget they want us to like them. It’s one of the most misunderstood concepts in sales.”
How do you do that? Ask the homeowner for opinions or advice. For instance, if they own a Harley motorcycle or a speed boat, ask them for advice on how to buy the best one.
“Who do you ask for advice and opinions from? You ask for it from people you trust, people you like. This sends a very strong message to your homeowner that you respect and like them,” Long says. “People buy from people who like them.”
Each HVAC call requires investigation…
Even though a homeowner reports one specific problem, further investigation by an expert gives them a complete picture of their home’s HVAC operating system.
“They think they know what’s wrong. Your job is to investigate and find out everything going on in that house,” Long says. “In this industry, your job is to diagnose problems and recommend solutions. Your homeowner’s job is to buy the solutions or not.
“Let them do their job and you stay focused on your job,” he adds. “You’ve got to look for every problem you can solve and let people know about it.”
Selling your company and your solutions…
Once you identify the problem, design the best solution to fix it.
“Sell your company, show them why you’re better, and sell your solutions,” Long says.
Concluding the sales call…
This means conclude, not close, Long says. Bring every call to a logical and reasonable conclusion.
“You’re not going to sell 100 percent of your leads, but you can bring every call to a conclusion, a simple yes or no,” Long says. “Yes is best, but no is a perfectly acceptable answer.
“My objective is to get the homeowner to make a final decision about me and my company with me sitting right in front of them, and not with me sitting across town somewhere,” he adds. “If I can get them to make a decision about me sitting right in front of them, it’s probably going to be yes.”
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When the answer isn’t yes, follow up and rehash
Some customers don’t say yes on the first try, but that doesn’t mean you should just give up and move on.
“The best companies obsess on the rehash,” says Long, who even developed his own Rehash Leads app to help contractors capture lost leads.
The average comfort consultant runs 400 leads in a year, based on an average of eight calls a day. They might convert 160 leads to sales, or 40 percent. That means they lost 240 deals to a competitor, who probably followed up.
“People are not following up to the degree they should,” says Long, who advises dedicating a person to work those old leads. “What you’re going to find is there’s as much business in the lost leads as there is in your sold leads. It’s crazy.”
At his HVAC company, Long says an experienced tech who knows the rehash process closed 33 percent on 45 lead calls, and then another 23 percent on rehash, for a total of $164,000 in revenue. A less experienced tech had a 32 percent close rate for $84,000 in revenue.
“The rehash process is fairly simple. Hire someone and train them to call back customers,” Long says.
Rehashing with ServiceTitan
While ServiceTitan field management software allows customers to automate the process of following up on open estimates, similar to his Rehash Leads app, Long says the two companies are not competitors.
“We are not a CRM. We are not a ServiceTitan,” he says. “ServiceTitan is the Star Trek Enterprise, and we’re like one little cubby hole.”
Rehash Leads also doesn’t integrate with ServiceTitan, but it doesn’t really need to because that conversation would ordinarily be happening offline anyway.
“Once they sell it, it goes into ServiceTitan. We’re just improving the quality and consistency of those conversations,” Long says.
He built his HVAC company with ServiceTitan software, because of one important lesson.
“What gets measured, gets done. And what doesn’t get measured is total chaos,” he says.
ServiceTitan allows Long and his managers to pull customized reports with relevant, timely, and accurate information so they can make informed business decisions.
“You’ve got to have accurate information to measure your business,” he says. “If it’s not relevant, you’re wasting your time. If you’re looking at it a month too late, it doesn’t matter. If it’s not accurate, obviously you’ve got a real problem.”
Other tidbits of HVAC-selling wisdom…
What’s the best number of leads to assign to each technician or comfort advisor?
Two a day is ideal, sometimes 3 during a busy summer, Long says.
“When a person gets too many leads, they start cutting corners and, frankly, they won’t work as hard,” he adds. “Your leads are like your children. You’ve got to know where they are, who they’re hanging out with, and what they’re doing.
“That’s one benefit of ServiceTitan. You can extract all of that stuff and know what’s going on with it.”
How would you advise a service tech when answering a call from an informed consumer?
Respond like a lawyer and build a wall of evidence to support your case.
“It’s layer upon layer, that’s why it’s important to not skip steps,” Long says. “You want to get them to: I am the obvious choice. But, you’ve got to build that case brick-by-brick.”
What’s your best advice for starting an HVAC company?
“This is a great little industry. It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous. But, I’m telling you man, I’ve gotten a life of wealth and prosperity that I never expected as a result of this industry,” Long says.
Changing your mindset is so critical to success, he adds.
“The thing that took me out of 25 years of prison, poverty, and homelessness is not my mouth,” Long says. “It’s my brain, my thoughts.”
He compares a person’s thoughts to cars driving on the highway, taking the same route day after day.
“The funny thing is, we tend to have the same thoughts over and over again. If your thoughts are not getting you to where you want to go, you have to build a new highway system,” he says.
“Change your thought patterns,” Long emphasizes. “Your thoughts drive your emotions, your emotions drive your actions, and your actions drive your results.
“That’s the core of everything.”
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ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.