Ask the Experts

Dealing with the Comparison Shopper

Ask the Experts: How should we respond when we are called out to a sales call and there are three other companies lined up in front of the home waiting to give a price?

Weldon "Wally" Long (HVAC Sales Academy): I refer to this as the Priceline.com mentality. Unfortunately for us, people have been conditioned for multiple bids. My philosophy with my sales guys – and this is why I’ll be so interested to hear Gary’s and Drew’s perspectives – was that we deserve a higher level of respect. We need to maintain our dignity and our self-respect, and I thought that was a real violation of our dignity and self-respect; that we should be so minimized in terms of our value that we’re just some number to drop off a cheap number. We’d never go line up three doctors or three surgeons or three of any other profession and say “just give me your cheapest number.”

So I always advised our guys to make contact with the homeowner and simply explain, “Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner, I see you have a number of our competitors here. We see this more and more, this mindset that it’s just about a cheap number. But the reality is that we’ve learned through our years of experience, these are complex mechanical systems. They’ve become more and more technical over the years, and they need to be designed, installed, measured and serviced by well-trained experts. It’s not like it was in the old days. So really it’s virtually impossible to give you the information you need with these other guys in and out of the house. What I’d like to do is to offer to come back another time at your convenience, and we can take as much time as we need so that I can really give you the thorough education and what’s going on with respect to efficiency, technologies, proper sizing, proper installation; there’s just a lot of variables to consider. So with your permission I’d like to find a time to come back out and have that conversation.”

Drew Cameron (HVAC Sellutions): I agree 100% with what Wally said. I would offer, if my schedule allows, to kind of say, “Hey, I understand you have these guys here. Take your time with them, do whatever you have to do with them. I’ll be waiting outside in my vehicle across the street and we can chat when they’re all done.” Or, like Wally said, schedule a better time.

I agree, it is disrespectful to us, but you get what you tolerate. If you don’t stand up for your professionalism, then who else is going to? You deserve respect. Their time is important, but so is yours. You have to honor that, honor yourself. I’m not going to demand professional treatment, but I’m going to hold myself accountable to that standard, that’s the standard I set for myself. I’d be dishonoring myself and my profession and my company if I played the game the way everyone else played the game. I’m going to find a better time or wait ‘til they’re all done. And I love when there’s three other companies, because that just tells me the customer’s in the mindset of comparison shopping, and that’s the one thing I know they can’t do with this. They think they can buy this like a television, an appliance, a car, electronics – comparison shopping. That’s the one thing we know they can’t do.

But until a true professional shows up – like Wally did with his company, or I do with his company, or Gary with his company – and realizes “my job is to teach the customer that that’s not how they can buy. My job is to teach them how to buy this.” Because you can’t buy based on a comparison shopping basis. So the fact that they have three guys in there willing to play that game, I can go in there and completely dismantle them without discrediting them in a dishonorable way. I can say, “My job is to teach you how buy while making good decisions.” So I agree, I’m 100% in line with what Wally said.

Gary Elekes (EPC Equity): Totally agree with these gentlemen 100% so, rather than reiterate, I’ll just maybe add two things. Lead coordination – you know, setting up the appointment – is the part how you can deal with this as a process. So we’re going to make sure we ask the client if they have the correct time to do our survey, our load calculations, our software platform. That’s going to vary company by company but for us that’s at least an hour and a half, usually it’s two hours. So we’re going to set an expectation, to Drew’s point, you sort of get what you tolerate.

And then the second part of that is, upon lead generation, we’ll usually drive an email with a couple of documents that explain the expectation of what we are going to be doing, and what we expect the homeowner to be able to do. One of those expectations, from their point of view, is the amount of time and the need to have privacy in front. So decision-makers – who’s present, who’s an influencer in the decision – those types of things, and then the documentation we send out is PDF-driven. It’s basically by design to explain to the client what our process is going to be, how we’re going to work with them, so we’ve hopefully been able to put the homeowner in a position to realize when we get there that, if we have to say something like, “We’ll be back at a later time,” or “We’re going to need a couple hours of your time,” we haven’t surprised them. So that’s how we’ve handled it in the past, and that’s how currently we do it when we set our leads.

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