Whether face-to-face or on the telephone, approaching someone that we don’t know makes most of us feel uncomfortable. However, the first step in the sales process is finding someone to talk to about our product or service, and most of the time that person may not be interested. To discover the person who says yes, you also have to hear no.
A simple question
Recently, in an online coaching session, I had a memorable conversation with a technician. During these sessions, I instructed and encouraged the participants to ask homeowners questions while completing a tune-up (“tune and vac”) on an oil system. We have the right to ask questions, and I wanted this technician to ask the correct questions at the correct time.
In fact, I want the technician to ask a question that only demanded yes or no response, and it goes like this: Mr. Homeowner, I can see that your system is working fine but is very old. We feel that there are many benefits to upgrading to a new system when they get to this age, and in fact, many of our clients choose to do so.
Now, here comes the simple question: Would you like to set an appointment for us to come back and talk to you about your options for replacing?
Why hearing “no” is healthy
During the group sessions, the technician disagreed with this question because he knew the answer would be the dreaded no.
Still, I implored him to ask anyway and to let go of his presumptions about people and situations, which limit us and our growth in business.
I want him to hear no, because the pathway to yes is fraught with no encounters many times along the way. We must get comfortable with hearing no as an answer—everyone has the right to say no.
A scripted response to “no”
When I ask: Would you like me to come back, sit down, and talk about your options for replacing, and I hear no from the customer, I am prepared. My response is the same: Well, I didn’t think so, but I had to ask because sometimes my presumptions are wrong. I can see that I was right in this case, and most probably, you won’t replace this system until it breaks, right?
In situations like this, I take the opposite position and don’t push.
From my experience
During a ride-along with a technician, I noticed a stack of our company folders with details about the customer—an indication that we’ve been to his/her home on several occasions. Here, my presumption was that the customer had heard our service agreement talk, but always rejected it. See an example script with the customer:
Roger: Mrs. Jones, I can see that we’ve visited your home many times and that you do not have a service agreement. Please, tell me if I’m wrong, but I get the feeling you absolutely do not want to talk about service agreements.
Mrs. Jones: Yes, I have heard this many times before, and no I don’t want to hear about service agreements.
Roger: I didn’t think so; I won’t bring it up and we won’t talk about it.
In truth, we did bring up service agreements during this visit but in a negative-reversed way, and the customer never noticed it. In a later column, we’ll discuss negative-reversing and how to respond to resistance.
By moving away from her emotionally, I heard the no. I achieved this through confirmation: my presumption about the customer was correct. However, I asked anyway.
I am aware there are many other strategies to market and generate leads—methods that I agree with. However, remember, we don’t owe the salesperson and we should expect them to prospect. The salesperson has a great responsibility to carry his/her own weight, so make it the expectation.
Strategies for cold calling
I made cold calls in two ways. I would canvass an area or cold call from a list. I remember one salesperson, Rita, who sold HVAC for us in the mid-1990s, and would call from the white pages with great success.
Although the laws regarding telemarketing are different today, there are creative ways to get around it.
Sponsor a giveaway
Find a neighborhood grocery store, in the right environment, with potential systems that are approaching 13 to 15 years of age, and organize a weekly giveaway, such as a gift card for several hundred dollars of groceries at this store.
When I ran these giveaways, we would create a company display in the store and the contestant would fill out a short form with name, address and phone number. Once a week we would draw the winner and inform the manager who won and pay the store the money. Then we would contact the winner and give him/her the gift card.
Then, equipped with a strong list of prospects in the area we had targeted, we started to cold call the numbers; it’s a great way to build a database and rapport in a neighborhood. With consistency, you’ll set appointments, tune-ups and build your customer base.
Let’s take a look at the script for the cold call:
Roger: Mrs. Jones, this is Roger Daviston with ABC Heating & Air, we are the company who gives away the $200 grocery gift card at the Kroger supermarket over on Main Street. Did I catch you at a bad time?
Mrs. Jones: No, please go ahead.
Roger: Okay, let me tell you quickly why I called and then you can decide if you would like to talk further. How does that sound?
Mrs. Jones: Sure.
Roger: Thanks, I appreciate that; I’ll be quick. Two things, I got your number from the contest that you registered for. I wanted to let you know that Mrs. Smith won the drawing this week. However, we wanted to encourage you to continue to play. We’ll be holding a giveaway each week.
Mrs. Jones: Okay.
Roger: Can I ask you one more question before I hang up?
Mrs. Jones: Sure.
Roger: I am looking for homeowners in the neighborhoods around the grocery store who are concerned or frustrated with their heating and air conditioning systems. Maybe their utility bills are high; maybe it just doesn’t keep up like it used to; maybe they are in the market for a new one. Are you having any of these issues? Does this sound familiar to you?
Mrs. Jones: No.
Roger: I hear that a lot. Sounds like you are happy with the system that you have. We feel that it is important to keep your system maintained for reliability and longevity. Would you have any interest in us doing that for you?
Mrs. Jones: No.
Roger: Okay. Keep trying to win the groceries because I’ll be drawing every week.
Now, let’s go back and imagine Mrs. Jones said yes.
Roger: I am looking for homeowners in the neighborhoods around the grocery store who are concerned or frustrated with their heating and air conditioning system. Maybe their utility bills are high; maybe it just doesn’t keep up like it used to; maybe they are in the market for a new one. Are you having any of these issues? Does this sound familiar to you?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, that sounds familiar.
Roger: Tell me more about that.
Mrs. Jones: Well… (Mrs. Jones tells us about her pain)
Roger: Do you think it would make sense for us to sit down and talk about it?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, that would be great.
Roger: Get out your calendar, and we’ll find a time that suits you.
The HVAC industry does not have to be seasonal if we take responsibility for building up business and expect our salespeople to prospect. Every other industry expects it, so why don’t we?
Finally, ask yourself this question: Why do I not expect this of myself or my salespeople? Altering the way you think and shifting your expectations will help guarantee your business thrives in all seasons. ICM