How much walk-away money (WAM) are you leaving on the table every day? Before I learned how to up-sell our sales, I used to leave lots of WAM lying around. The not-so-funny part of it was I couldn't see the WAM. We were busy and the business was making money.

I would think: “That's too expensive; they can't afford it; my customers would never pay that much; or I can't sell something that costs that much more than the ‘regular’ widget.” Barriers exist, and if you're the one setting the sales barriers before meeting with the customer(s), you need a checkup from the neck up. I sure did and over the years, I began to catch glimpses of the WAM I was leaving behind.

Customers would have a Mercedes in the driveway and a 78% efficient furnace in the basement! Fast-forward to today and you might see a Prius (or two) in the driveway, yet there's still a 78% (or lower) efficient heating appliance cooking the homeowner's finances - a silent thief, and you're the only cop who can make an arrest.

Well don't look to the fearless leaders we're electing because they're the ones who have set the efficiency bar so low you can step over it without lifting your foot. In 2010 they're throwing down the gauntlet and raising the bar to a whopping 80% mandatory minimum efficiency for furnaces - a great big 2% increase - no wonder we're facing the energy crisis we are in this country! As Walt Kelly's Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

As contractors, we're the ones on the frontlines doing battle every day. If you want to up-sell from a 78% knuckle-dragging efficiency to an appliance that zips along at 92% efficiency - or better - you're going to need an arsenal at your disposal to blow price-objections out of the water. Do you want the added profit percentage you'll get for the increased total or would you rather leave the WAM behind?

Here's my three-step program:

  • Determine what's bugging them. The cost to heat/cool their home is a no-brainer these days. Ask and ye shall profit.

  • Offer the cure. Once you know what's bugging them, you can sell whatever you want to sell because you've passed by the price-point objection roadblock. Not that they won't want to look back and suggest returning to pricing issues, rest assured they will, and you'll need to do your homework. Why would you buy from you? They're going to focus on the total price - you need to get them focused on the difference in cost between the low-efficiency fuel-guzzler vs. the high-efficiency sips-at-fuel models you're offering for their consideration. It's their money and their decision to make, but you get to drive the decision bus if you're prepared. “But they're on a fixed income,” you might think. So are you, pal, and the difference is you can fix the fixed status of everyone's fixed income involved in this deal and at a fixed price.

  • Close the deal. Let's start with home heating oil. Costs are projected to pass $5 a gallon by the time old man winter settles in for the coming months. If ever there was a time when opportunity was knocking on your door - it is now! Let's agree that the cost difference from low to high efficiency is $4,000. We asked and the answer was as expected - fuel costs are driving customers to distraction.

However, that 4K is a bitter pill to swallow. All they can see is the up-front wall of cash that's blocking their view. At $5 a gallon, you only need to save them 800 gallons of fuel to break even. You have three models you're offering: 78%, 87% and 93%. Their existing appliance is swallowing 1,000 gallons every year and operates at, or close to, 78%. Everyone agrees to toss out the 78% model. Let's blow a great big hole through that wall blocking their sight.

All's fair in love and war and this is war; it's time to start lobbing ordnance from your arsenal. The 87% model can be chimney or sidewall vented. It uses room air for combustion. Room air utilized for combustion equals infiltration.

A chimney sucking room air 24/7 equals infiltration. Cold, frigid air must, in turn, be heated for comfort. Why? Because it's being sucked into their home in places where they eat, sleep, bathe, watch TV or read. Now that you're educating them, they can see infiltration and now that's something that is bugging them.

Want to really bug them? Lob in this grenade: For every 100 Btus released during oil combustion, the house sees 1 cubic ft. of air infiltration! Each gallon of oil equals 1,300 cubic ft. of air that will be drawn into the home and heated. That's 3 million cubic ft. of air per year they're going to heat while the heating appliance silently sucks out the home's energy it burned to pre-heat the combustion air.

That's equivalent to heating an average-sized home from frigid outdoor temperatures to a comfortable indoor temperature 160 times every winter, and that's not taking into account any infiltration via a chimney's 24/7 draft! Now they can see, and feel, that there's more than just a 6% difference between that 87% and 93% boiler, furnace or water heater.

More ordnance for your war chest is coming next month!

Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at Dave.Yates@fwbehler.com.

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