One aspect of the HVAC industry that I believe many contractors are yet to embrace is that of utilizing comfort as a selling point. And by not doing so, they are missing out on potential business and falling farther behind the leaders of the industry. What I mean by this is that, over the past two decades, understanding of the indoor environment, indoor air quality and the interrelation of building systems has increased dramatically. Think AHRAE 55-2010, and the factors effecting human comfort, for example. A more intricate understanding of human comfort, and how customers relate their level of comfort with us, can present numerous opportunities for the contractors who know how to communicate effectively with their customers.

 

Even though it was over two years ago, I still vividly remember the customer who helped me truly grasp how important comfort can be. The appointment was for an energy audit in a historic section of West Nashville. Based on the size, age and value of the homes in that zip code, I was amped up to talk about energy savings. Very early in the process, however, the homeowner stopped me in my tracks. After telling me about his history with respiratory issues, he said to me, “I just want to be comfortable in my own home.” While he did not end up replacing his HVAC system, he did seal his ductwork and encapsulate his crawlspace. And he achieved that once-elusive degree of comfort and healthy Indoor Air Quality.

 

You see, the sneaky beauty of adding the comfort element to the sales presentation is there is no additional cost involved, either to the customer or the contractor. This presents a great opportunity to add value to proposals. Especially when comfort is often closely tied to emotions, this can be very effective. For example, a contractor may be providing a bid to a homeowner who has comfort issues in their home, but does not address these issues in their sales pitch. Instead, they may focus on other sales points such as price or efficiency. While a well-priced, highly efficient HVAC system may address the customer's comfort issues, they need to hear that in the pitch, and if they don't, they may not be motivated to buy.

 

Customers can share a wealth of information that, if they are asked the right questions, can lead to additional sales opportunities. An occupant may not understand that they have high indoor relative humidity in the summer, but they can tell you that the house feels clammy during those months. Or they may not understand airflow problems, but they can tell you that certain rooms are difficult to heat and cool. And as you gather these pieces of information, you can begin to not only get a picture of the home and its potential problems, you can hear the customer’s triggers. If they talk extensively about comfort issues and less about energy costs, this should enhance your sales presentation.

 

That, in my opinion, is a great aspect of HVAC sales. Energy Star lists these qualities of a high performance home: lower utility costs, comfort, healthy conditions, and sustainability. When asking homeowners about their concerns, their answers will typically fall under these categories. And properly sized, properly installed HVAC systems will address each of them. Heating and cooling represent around half of a typical American home’s energy costs, so a new efficient system will address energy costs every time. For customers who want to do their part for the environment, reduced energy consumption translates into reduced emissions. And with a properly sized system, the home will be able to maintain a comfortable temperature and relative humidity.

 

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Tags: HVAC, comfort, sales

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Comment by Brian Robinson on February 23, 2012 at 8:22am

Great points!  Listen, listen, listen as customers will most often tell us exactly what we need to know if we are astute enough to shut up & pay close attention.

Let's also not forget that even the best, most well designed & installed HVAC system cannot overcome many common building deficiencies such as excessive in / exfiltration, uninsulated walls, excess basement / crawlspace moisture. We owe it to our customers & industry to recommend a home energy audit or evaluation and upgrades first, if we cannot be sure that the above are not compromising the effectiveness of the HVAC system to deliver the health, comfort and efficiency desired.

Comment by Evan Mills on February 19, 2012 at 11:29am

Phil's view is one of many divergent ones.  See the heated (sorry, I couldn't resist that) conversation happening here in Home Energy Pros.

Comment by Bob Blanchette on February 13, 2012 at 7:34pm

Customers come in 6 flavors, pick the feature customers are most interested in and focus on it when selling yourself and product:

S- Safety, they don't want their house to burn down or die in their sleep

P- Performance, They want their system to keep setpoint

A- Appearance, They like "bling" thermostats, etc.

C- Comfort, Want all rooms to be same temperature.

E- Economy, They want low bills

D- Dependability, They don't want to wake up to a cold house.

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