Make customers your number one priority, and they will continue to buy from you.
Originally Published in HVACR Business Magazine.
If your company is looking for a strategy to increase sales in 2010, consider one that has worked well for my company: Offering customers more products and services to buy.
It sounds simple, but offering more to customers — and in turn selling more — takes dedication, training, and a true focus on satisfying customers. By offering your customers as many options and solutions as possible, you are providing them with valuable information and the key to success in the hvacr industry.
So what does it mean to offer more? A good example is offering customers as many solutions as possible to reduce their energy costs. More and more, consumers are looking for “green” products, and they are always interested in saving money. Whenever possible, educate customers about the efficiency benefits of your products and the service upgrades you offer that may include humidifiers, UV lights, and air duct cleaning services.
Here are some important aspects of our business that support this strategy:
Offer everything in the original proposal.
This includes potential service upgrades or necessary air duct cleaning. If a customer buys upgrades all at once, they get a discount at the time of service.
Follow up after a closed sale.
We send a thank you card after every new installation and/or air duct cleaning, along with a customer survey card. One of our comfort advisors also follows up with information about our preventive maintenance programs.
Stress the benefits of preventive maintenance.
We have been very successful in selling preventative maintenance agreements because we educate our customers about the key elements for saving energy costs. In the hvacr business, educating customers and giving them options works well because you have direct access to key decision-makers who want to pick what system is best for their home at a price they can afford. For example, staff members at McAfee talk about how cleaning coils, tuning up furnaces, and installing programmable thermostats can help save money over a long period of time and in some cases, how a few minor upgrades can pay for themselves the very first year.
We also share information about our preventative maintenance plans, and the extended benefit of having routine maintenance checks to prevent expensive repairs in the future. For example, if you fail to spend $30 on an oil change for your trucks every 4,000 miles, it could cost you a $4,000 engine. It works the same way for hvacr systems.
Train your staff to listen and observe.
Teaching strategies for really listening to customer needs and asking key questions are very important. For example, we ask if there are any comfort problems in the home, or if one room is hotter or colder than the others. We also ask about utility bills. We train our team to be educated, informed and to ask probing questions that help them problem-solve on the spot.
Additionally, my team looks for signs of problems such as multiple air vents that are closed off or dirty air ducts. They are there to offer advice, point out any problems and provide service that the customer wants.
But there is a fine line between providing service and pressuring customers too much.
Let the customer decide.
There is a subtle difference between educating customers and being too pushy, or putting high-pressure on clients to make a sale when they are not ready. Through experience in the field, you learn that putting too much pressure on any customer can be a turn-off and cause that client to never call you again. We train our team to always educate when possible, but to use common sense and let the consumer decide what is best. That is why our customers keep coming back.
Don’t ruin it with bad customer service.
One caveat of this sales strategy is that it assumes you already have outstanding customer service practices. Bad customer service will ruin any opportunity for sales growth, so it’s important to get this right.
Use unique promotional strategies.
At McAfee, we make customer service and satisfaction our top priority. We are also not afraid to invest more in marketing and advertising strategies and “think outside the box.” For example, our company has three separate commercials for specific services, versus just one that is all-inclusive. My philosophy is also that whenever possible, pay for everything related to customer service (i.e., warranty returns, added gas charges, etc.) because if you don’t, chances are that your competitors will. Customers are very smart and can research everything about you and your competition online to comparison shop. So when consumers want something from you, try to give it to them. Then, do something extra!
Additionally, our team is focused on customer satisfaction because we offer dedicated training, which really sets us apart from competitors. For example, we have developed customer scripts for everyone who answers the phone, and hold training sessions for our installers to role-play, acting as both “customer” and “installer.” This really makes a difference and helps our team learn techniques that they can use immediately in the field.
I know that our “offer more” strategy works because a high percentage of McAfee customers who receive estimates at the time of service – but don’t close at the home – actually call back to have the work done. This high return rate speaks to the integrity and trust that our clients have in our technicians, installers and other team members who interact with them.
Our sales numbers also show our success in this area. In 2008, we had a record-breaking year at McAfee. In 2009, even in these tough economic conditions, my company has increased sales by double-digits. This is an outstanding example of the success you can have with a hard-working team that makes customer satisfaction their first priority – by offering more to sell more!
Greg McAfee founded McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning Co. Inc. in 1990 when he was just 27 years old. More than 19 years later, he is a leader in the residential HVAC market in Dayton, Ohio. Greg now consults and teaches others how to succeed.