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BUS | 3 Mistakes Your Reps Are Making When Discussing Financing

 August, 22nd 2017     Comments     Views

By John Harris

Stewart was baffled. After 15 successful years of running his own heating, ventilation and air conditioning business, sales were flat. He thought he was doing all the right things: generating and meeting demand, working hard and smart, specializing, and even partnering with local construction and remodeling firms. Still, Stewart couldn’t figure out why his talented team of HVAC specialists couldn’t close more sales or increase their average order size. As a result, his company’s bottom line was dragging.

Heard that before? Most likely. You might also have heard that offering payment options is one way to seal the deal or even persuade the customer to upgrade. Our experience shows that regularly offering payment options to your customers can increase HVAC sales by 30-50 percent. 

Unfortunately, some contractors tend to stick to one method of selling and servicing their customers. They may not even have a modus operandi for handling the critical questions about payment and financing, whether before or after the job is complete. Throughout the sales process, most technicians/sales reps fail to ask the question at all, neglect to ask the right questions, or ask the questions incorrectly.

Asking money-related questions in the right way is a skill that must be learned to succeed in business in general. It rarely comes naturally. As with any job—whether a car mechanic, home remodeler, or contractor—an HVAC technician must look under the hood at the financing question issue and fix what’s not working. Consider these common "asking" problems and how to fix them:

1. Not asking the question

Often when I ask a dealer if they offer their customers financing options they’ll answer, “All our customers pay cash.”

Then the conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: “Do your sales reps actually ask the question?”

Dealer: “Yes, but nobody wants to finance.”

Me: “How do you know your reps are really offering payment options?

Dealer: “They told me so.”

Me: “Let’s do a ride-along on a site visit to make sure.”

 

That ride-along usually fixes it! Accompanying a technician on a customer visit can be not only an eye-opening experience for you, but it can be a powerful motivator for the technician as well. Being with them in the moment, you can be sure they’re really asking the question. And if they’re not (or not asking it right), it presents a great learning opportunity after the appointment.

 

2. Not asking the right question

When they ring the doorbell, technicians/sales reps all too often arrive with virtually no background on the financial situation and preferences of the homeowner, and homeowners usually have no idea about the financing options. This is where your scheduler is key—beforehand. Over the phone when scheduling the house visit, the scheduler could say something like: “One more thing. When our technician arrives at your home make sure to ask him about our payment options. You’ll want to hear about how easy it is to get your project completed.”

At the same time, it’s critical that the scheduler and the technician coordinate before the house call so the technician is completely prepared. Before arriving at the home, the technician should ask the scheduler the following: Did the homeowner mention their preferred payment method? How did they pay last time? How did they respond when you brought up payment options?

If a technician is prepared not only to ask, but to ask the right questions about paying for the project, the opportunity to include payment options that can help you close more and bigger deals is significantly greater. 

3. Not asking the question in the right way

If you ask your salesperson about offering financing and they tell you, “all my customers pay cash,” chances are that “all” is not quite true. In fact, our clients say that at least 50 percent of homeowners will pay for financing if the project is over $5,000. They just need it to be made easy and to understand the advantages. They need to be given the option to do so—in the right way. 

To get the response you’re looking for, it’s all about how you approach the topic. For instance, most onsite technicians/reps will finish a job and then ask the standard open-ended question, “How would you like to pay for that?” More effective would be to bring up the topic of payment options at the start of the conversation, in the middle, and at the close. Also important is to give the homeowner a choice between two things and let them select which works best for them: “Would you like to pay for that with a true same-as-cash loan? Or a low-interest, low-monthly payments option? Here's the contact information for our financial partner to find out all the details and apply."

To increase your average order size, it pays to look closely at what’s really happening with the daily customer communication. If there’s an issue with asking the payment options question, or the right question, or the question in the right way, learn the best practices and then fix it. That’s the way an HVAC dealer can use the simple method of offering payment options to increase sales—a win-win for the homeowner and the dealer.

About the Author

John Harris is the executive vice president of sales & marketing for EnerBank USA, a specialized bank providing unsecured home improvement lending through strategic business partners and independent home improvement contractors throughout the United States.