The IAQ Silver Bullet or Not
Written by Steve Mores
I recently spoke with a contractor who asked what appeared to be a simple question: “Don’t you guys have a ‘question sheet’ that I can give my techs to ask homeowners and generate interest in IAQ products?”
Well, yes, we have specific questions to ask, but it’s not that simple. We don’t have a “question sheet”, but we train on how and when to get into the IAQ conversation with a homeowner. I’m not sure if I would create this sheet without the technician understanding when, how, and why to ask the questions. Asking IAQ inquiry questions at the wrong time could work against them. It is critical first to train technicians on the anatomy of a service/maintenance call that walks them through a process from where they park their truck and why through to the final paperwork.
Since my field of expertise is IAQ, I am going to address this from an HVAC IAQ perspective. These concepts and processes can be applied to water treatment and other accessory sales as well.
Most of the companies we have trained and worked with over the past 30 years have a similar process that the technician follows during the call. So, I won’t detail it here, but a brief outline goes something like this:
- Call preparation checklist
- Park your truck appropriately
- Meet and greet
- Thermostat conversation with a transitional question to the maintenance or diagnostic stage
- Discoveries and homeowner involvement
- Options for the fix, repair, or replace
- Final approval from the homeowner and paperwork
- Replace the part, install the accessory, and/or set the replacement lead
Yes, this varies from contractor to contractor (technician to technician), but that’s the basics. Now the question becomes, “When do I bring up IAQ and how do I generate interest?” This is where many technicians struggle. They understand the technology, for the most part, yet they typically don’t know how to take technical IAQ information and relay it to the homeowner in layman’s terms. Getting too technical will confuse the homeowner, and confused consumers won’t buy. When you bring up IAQ at the wrong time during the call, it puts the homeowner in the defensive mode of “You’re always trying to sell me something!”
It is key to your technicians’ success to train them on “how and when” to bring up IAQ challenges and solutions during the anatomy of a service/maintenance call. And it starts when the technician has evidence of a challenge. This visual evidence is best done when they pull out the blower wheel, wipe a couple of fins with an IAQ swab (baby wipe), and then ask the questions that lead to interest:
“Would it be OK if I showed you a better filter than the one you are currently using to prevent this from happening again?”
The EPA and other studies report that 1/20 of an inch of dust on a cooling or heating coil reduces its efficiency by 21%. A technician must understand that the coil doesn’t have to be caked with dirt and dust to reduce its efficiency. A light dusting will have a substantial effect that can be explained to the homeowner in layman’s terms while showing the visual evidence and explaining the studies.
Most technicians do not like to sell. Yet, they want to service the customer and fix things. Through proper technical IAQ training, a technician understands what the IAQ product is, how it works, and why we promote IAQ. It builds confidence for the technician and value for the homeowner, which gives them a reason to buy. Understanding what the product is and how it works is important so that a technician believes in the product. Promoting the why is an important value building tool that gives the homeowner that reason to buy.
So, if there is dirt/dust accumulation in the HVAC system, WHAT’S BROKEN? The filter is broken! So, train them on how not to “sell” air cleaners and UV systems, but how to FIX the problem with IAQ product solutions. When you train a technician on these studies, identify visual challenges, and involve the homeowner, it satisfies their need to fix things, while not forcing them to sell. The dividends paid here are increased average tickets while promoting IAQ solutions that fulfill the homeowner’s desire to protect their equipment and their family’s health.
Yes, IAQ product solutions can improve allergy symptoms, prevent asthma attacks, and control other health ailments as well. But that’s not what you should lead with, nor is it what a technician is comfortable discussing. Start with the equipment concerns first to fit into the initial reason for the call and stay in the technician’s comfort zone, and then ask the question:
“Who in your family suffers from allergies or asthma?”
When you ask this question before any shown challenges during the diagnostic or maintenance stage, it puts the technician in selling mode while the homeowner wonders why they would ask this in the first place. Once evidence is discovered that the filter is not doing what it is supposed to do (prevent dirt and dust inside the system), then it’s appropriate to ask the allergy/asthma question. The same dust in the system is also airborne and can be the cause of these health challenges. Then the tech can transition into the discussion of germs and gases that are in the air with UV light product solutions.
While this may not have been the silver bullet that you were looking for, I can tell you that after training thousands of technicians, the best IAQ sellers are not salesy folks at all. They just follow a process and take the fix it approach.
If you want your technicians to successfully promote IAQ product solutions, have them become a FIX IT STAR by following the process that the highest performing technicians hold themselves accountable to. This process can be summed up with this acronym: F.I.X.I.T. S.T.A.R.S. It follows the process and sequence of working the call.
F – Find the challenge (dirty blower wheel, coils, secondary heat exchanger, ducts)
S – Show them the problem
I – Involve the homeowner
T – Tell them what you’re seeing and how it affects the equipment and their health
X – Explain to them through EPA and other third party quotes how this is verified
A – Ask questions at the right time during this process
I – Improve system performance and health effects with IAQ package options
R – Review the information with the homeowner
T – Transition into the four product option packages with a fifth option which is, they can do nothing.
S – Solution options are presented to the homeowner so they can choose the one that best fits their budget and needs (or opts to do nothing)
Train your technicians on the technical aspects of IAQ products, teach them how and when to communicate IAQ, teach the WHY, and then hold them accountable to this process. These ARE your silver bullets.
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