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Commercial Service Sales: The First Meeting Qualification

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Commercial HVACR service sales is all about the face-to-face meeting and an introductory interview for qualification. As we have mentioned in previous articles, a thorough sales process provides solid differentiation, keeps you on track, and has a positive impact on your prospect. In order to avoid the “price only” conversations with prospects, we understand the importance of words, positioning, direct marketing efforts, setting appointments, and now we would like to discuss the first structured meeting, or first meeting qualification interview. Setting a structured appointment with multiple decision making levels in a business is certainly the best way to position your contracting company and begin the sales process. There is a very specific format that we have seen very successful sales people utilize across many industries to help them gain a solid “plan of action,” and initiate a schedule to move forward.

The multiple stages of the first structured meeting would include, but are not limited to: rapport building; questioning and active listening; introducing capabilities and the associated benefits; and summarizing needs, hurts, and business objectives along with gaining agreement on a schedule. That seems like a lot to cover in such a brief meeting, and it is. Which is one of the points that we would like to make: the First Structured Qualification Meeting is NOT a five, or even fifteen, minute meeting! The reason for setting up appointments that are a half hour to forty five minutes (as discussed in previous articles) is that we want an amount of time for qualifying the opportunity, and learning about the prospects needs, pains, and business plans. The less talking that we do, the more sharing the prospect does, and the better the results are of this very important meeting.

Scripting is a great way to help “internalize” information we want to share about our contracting company, and why we are the best option to help our prospects. Scripting is simply writing out HVACR commercial contracting capabilities, specific benefit statements, stories of successes, and positioning questions. The scripts help us “internalize” the benefits of working with our contracting businesses, our specific competencies, and stories or case studies that we want to share. When we internalize the capabilities, benefit statements, and examples of how we help building owners and managers, we now have the freedom to ask great questions and concentrate on the prospect. An example of a general benefits statement would be, “We help building owners and facility managers reduce or control costs, and even improve cash flow within their business, while improving the overall indoor environmental condition of the facility.”

Once we know what we want to say, we can concentrate on the great questions that we want to ask. Questioning and active listening must be the majority of time spent in the first structured meeting. If this meeting is a half hour, 20 minutes should be concentrated on questioning and listening. If the meeting is 45 minutes, the questioning and active listening should take about a half hour.

Great questions are positioned as learning more about the prospect, their business, their building, the financial impact of the HVACR, and how recommendations might get approved. We believe in “Levels of Questioning” that allow the sales person to “earn the right” to ask the hard qualifying questions about how and when the prospect will purchase.

Levels of questioning include:

  • Questions that relate to the prospect’s responsibility and business
  • Questioning that reveals the issues and problems with the HVACR systems
  • Questions that tie the HVACR issues and concerns into the budget or financial information (Building Ownership & Operating Costs)
  • Questioning that helps us understand how and when recommendations are approved by the business we are working with.
  • Using open ended questions that lead to probes such as, ”Tell me more about that, explain that to me, describe that situation in more detail please,” and the, “Who, what, where, when, why,” follow up probes.

By summarizing the discussion and verifying information, we use the questions and in-depth probing to reveal the needs, hurts, and business objectives of the prospect in order to gain a “plan of action,” or schedule to move forward. Taking notes in the first structured meeting is imperative, and we will access those notes not only in this meeting, but throughout the sales process to confirm and verify the most important areas of concern for the prospect.

The conclusion of a wonderful First Structured Qualifying Meeting is the agreement to, and scheduling of, future meetings. The physical survey will need to be performed, some financial information should be collected, and we need to schedule the Confirmation-Verification of Information Meeting. The most important future meeting to schedule at the conclusion of a First Structured Meeting is the meeting to discuss recommendations and explore options (the Confirmation-Verification Meeting). The collecting of several categories of financial information and the building assessment can be set up tentatively, but the Confirmation-Verification Meeting must be agreed to with a specific date and time as a plan of action.

This formal first meeting to launch the sales process is a critical step in the selling cycle, and sets the stage for everything else to come. We also know that this is a differentiation, and proves to the prospect that you are serious, you have a plan, the desire to help, and want to be thorough!

James Graening

Posted In: ACCA Now

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