Last summer I went to the home of a new customer on a sales call. A previous company had come out and told her that the system had a bad compressor and that the air conditioning system needed to be replaced. I went into the home, and I came to the same conclusion. However, upon my inspection, I pointed out to her that the fresh air intakes for both air conditioning units were disconnected and capped off. She went into an explanation that the previous company who capped off the intakes stated this was necessary to keep from losing more evaporator coils (she had changed them twice in a short time).
While in my head I am thinking-WRONG...I politely pointed out to her that this information was incorrect, and I explained why. At this point she said, “my friends on Facebook told me that you were the guy!”. It was then that I realized how much of a role social media plays in the validation of our services.
I took you down this rabbit hole to give you the “Hughes View” of the consumer’s thought process. In my opinion, the client’s knee-jerk reaction to any purchase is summed up in three parts- education, value, and validation.
Let us discuss the education process. Stop and think about this for a moment, when you are about to hire someone to complete a task for you, what is the first avenue you choose to look at? The second question I would ask is what are you looking to gain from that search? For myself, I am a handy guy, so my first instinct is to scour the internet to see if I can accomplish this task myself. I usually resort to a YouTube video- if I can find a good one. Usually I will make this decision by comparing pricing and/or complexity of the task and decide whether I will take on this challenge myself. If the cost of purchasing the tools greatly exceeds the cost of service, then you bet I am going to reach out to my local super tech! This is where I think most of our clients begin their search.
Once our consumer has decided that the education and tools necessary in our trade are not just your average screwdriver and a wall plug fix, this is when the second start of their search begins. I like to call this portion of their research the “value” phase. You see, the consumer has just realized that the task at hand was difficult enough for them to not accomplish with a quick YouTube or podcast education, they now understand that there is significant value in this service you will provide and not just anyone will do for them. This person must be exceptional and not just anyone will do!
This web search for the consumer is usually the most painstaking and annoying part of the hunt which will leave a bitter taste in their mouth if they spend too much time in this category. This is where the noise comes from! You see, the consumer at this point wants to find in the needle in the haystack, or what I like to call “the unicorn”. They have decided that they are going to spend money, but who will they spend it on? Over many dinner chats, they have learned from their parents or friends that if you do not hire the right contractor, you could end up with your own horror story, which is every consumers fear.
This is where it gets interesting. At this point, the client knows what they want, and they have narrowed the search between a few contractors who they feel could do them justice. Here is the crazy part, depending on who answers the phone or who responds to their post on Facebook could totally negate the first two steps in the process! After all that work, the consumer picks up their phone and uses their most comfortable platform they use to stay in touch with their inner circle and the validation process begins!
I feel this part is a human instinct that us as humans must have since birth, similar to that feeling you have when you run to mom’s house to eat, you know that security blanket feeling… hopefully your wife is not reading this over your shoulder. When you call your most confident person and you hear, “Yeah, I use him, and he’s awesome!” that’s it, the search is over, and the consumers fear has been put to rest. Game on, the validation process is now over and so is the hunt. Through this referral process, you have gained the respect of another client and one you will likely have for the rest of your career. I like to call this cutting through the noise!
If you know me, I am not one for internet purchasing, however after a fun trip to the AHR expo in 2020 I met two guys (Bill Spohn and Eric Preston) who co-own an internet tools company called TruTech Tools. I got to know them and shared with them some great stories during the few days on my trip. After having met them in person, moving forward I now give TruTech Tools a first look when I am on my new tool search. I guess you could say their in-person hospitality was my validation. In these days, I feel it’s important that we not lose our ability to be sociable because deep down that is where success is born.
So, I will leave you with this, all the marketing in the world is great, but nothing beats a referral call. The client will already have a newfound respect for you before you reach their front door. This provides a relaxed environment for the technician and the client and a long-term professional relationship.
Chris Hughes of Madisonville, Louisiana is a mechanical contractor, writer, HVAC enthusiast, and co-founder of Hughes Mechanical Contractors and The HVAC Grapevine. He also writes and hosts The HVAC Grapevine Podcast. You can follow him by joining The HVAC Grapevine on FaceBook or by subscribing to The HVAC Grapevine Podcast. For any questions, he may be reached at [email protected]