Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Residential Contractors Forum: Building Relationships

2018011_Tom Piscitelli_Resid Forum_098Residential sales management expert Tom Piscitelli shared the techniques that residential service-based HVAC contractors do well to create the most profitable sales results during his session on the “Top Ten Strategies of the Best Retail HVAC Sales Companies.” The key is to build a relationship with the customer, he said, and trust is the foundation of that relationship.

“You’re looking for a sale to become a relationship for a lifetime,” he noted. “Building trust with the client from the first appointment is critical. Everything builds on this foundation.”

Sharing his approaches to “what’s hot and what’s not,” he advised that contractors should first start with several simple best practices when visiting a customer’s home: Be prepared. Be on time. Be properly attired. Have photo identification. “Most contractors don’t follow these fundamentals,” he said. “So, when we do just the basics, I think we’re already rounding second base in a lot of cases.”

For example, Piscitelli noted that one study showed that a consumer commonly had to call nine contractors, only to actually reach five, only to have three show up, and of those, only one would be on time. “When we follow the fundamentals, the common-sense basics, then we are lifting ourselves above others — and that’s part of our mission.”

Sell the Solution

Residential work, Piscitelli stressed, is not simply selling systems. “We have three things to sell,” he said. “We have to sell ourselves, our company, and our solution. We have to sell ourselves as individuals. Am I letting you know that I am here to serve you? Do you feel that I’m trustworthy?” he asked.

2018011_Resid Forum_097“And then we have to sell our company” he continued. “Most consumers have some defensiveness about sales people, and they are guarded about contractors. There are some rotten apples in the barrel that taint the rest, and so we have to be mindful of that and do things consciously that will help elevate our company above others. And the third thing (and this is really a shift for some SMACNA contractors) is to sell a solution to the customer’s problems.”

Selling a solution can be a contrast to the commercial contractor’s process of “bid, estimate, and quote,” he noted. Residential customers aren’t interested in that. They simply want their problem fixed. “Selling a bundled package as a solution to address the problem, is a cutting-edge way for the retail contractor to offer their services and their products,” he said.

Piscitelli noted that women make 93 percent of the buying decisions, because they are usually the ones who are at home and who make the purchasing decisions for the household.

“The best service comes from mapping out a company sales process so the company owns it,” he advised. “With management expectations, the necessary tools, and proper training, every customer should be treated the same professional way.”

His sales process includes these key precepts: Sell yourselves. Build trust. Investigate and evaluate. Create solutions. Offer choices. Close.

Sales people also can’t assume they know what the customer is thinking. “If sales people want to find out what customer’s needs and concerns are, they need to ask questions,” he noted. “And when they get answers, they should write them down. When you take notes, what does that tell the customer?” he asked. “That you’re paying attention. It’s a non-verbal way of telling the customer you are interested and that you care.”

Yet, most sales people don’t ask for the sale or even follow up, he reflected. “Instead, they say, ‘What do you think?’ That’s a therapy question, a losing question. Instead, ask, ‘Which of these three solutions would be best for you?’ This gives the customer a choice. Ask questions you already know the answer to. And the answer should always be ‘yes.’”

Tom Piscitelli Believes in “TRUST”

Tom Piscitelli’s customer-friendly “TRUST” sales approach includes these principles:

T – Tell the truth. We always tell the truth.
R – Relationship.
We intend to build a lifetime relationship with every customer.
U – Understand the customer.
Ask questions and listen.
S – Show them choices
. When given choices, people will choose.
T – Take action.
Ask for the sale with a choice.

To receive the audio and slide presentation from SMACNA’s Residential Contractors Forum, members may email Tom at