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The House Whisperer’s Dilemma

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Hi, my name is Bill, and I am a recovering House Whisperer. Used to be, give me any address and I could coax the house to reveal its secrets to me. Then I would go tell the client what I learned using my wonderful tools and technological brilliance. Then, more likely than not, I would hear the client say, “That’s an awful lot of money. I have to think about it” as they showed me the door and then declined to answer my follow up calls and emails.

On the way to the car my mind would be screaming; “Think about it? What is there to think about? I just dazzled you! I proved to you that your home is a wheezing geriatric mess, but I can make it sing opera! Open your *&@% checkbook!”

Houses are so messed up, and fixing them does so much good for people. However, usually a big canyon stands between what the house tells me it needs, and what the people who live there actually want and would be willing to buy from me. If the house would just tell me, what its family wanted I could close that gap and this job would be so much easier.

My recovery started at an ACCA Home Performance Conference when I heard a speaker from Dr. Energy Saver say: “We have never had a house write us a check.” In a moment of clarity I realized that I was doing the right things, I was just doing them backwards. If I first focused on getting the homeowner to reveal their secret list of what they want to be different in their house, the house itself would be powerless to stop me from discovering exactly how to get the owners exactly what they want. Brilliant! Like beer in a bottle!

The problem is that whispering to houses is a heck of a lot easier. You see, the house does not really care what order you follow, or where or how you choose to poke, prod, peek, and pry to learn its secrets. People on the other hand are entirely different. They get confused if you do not follow a logical path. They generally object to poking, prodding, peeking, and prying. But once they tell me what they really want, like ‘make the upstairs warmer’, ‘please stop the ice dams’, ‘make my heating bills lower’,  I can always figure out exactly what I can do to make that happen. They are thrilled to learn the truth about what was keeping them from what they wanted. When you compare that to the often-sobering kitchen table experience of my earlier House Whispering days, delivering my comprehensive list of discoveries that the ‘audit’ revealed, there is no question about it: talking to people first and houses second pays a lot better!

This sounds a lot simpler than it turned out to be. Developing a sales process for one product or service that meets one problem or need is easy. Nevertheless, every home performance project is a complex puzzle of both problems and solutions. In addition, since home performance is built upon the solid premise of building science, where the house-as-a-system causes each separate assembly to affect other parts of the house, it is dangerously easy to over-sell the results that theory indicates may be achievable.

As an owner of a recovering House Whispering business, with a team of former House Whispering disciples, I knew this was going to be a hard change to make happen. Every part of our marketing and sales culture needed to be retooled and retrained. Fortunately, for my employees, and me the systems and processes that have been developed and proven by Dr. Energy Saver are a perfect fit for us.

After 55 years of heating and cooling, and nearly 10 years trying to master home performance as a way to expand my HVAC company’s reach into our customer’s homes (and wallets), my company is now finally evolving into my ultimate vision. We are becoming the respected home performance authority in our community and we are now a home performance contractor that specializes in making homes more comfortable with a multitude of products and services that happens to include heating and cooling products. Before my recovery, we were an HVAC company that offered free audits so we could go have a hopeful chat with your house.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have to admit, when nobody is watching, I still love getting houses to tell me their secrets. And I always will. Now the questions we are asking and the diagnosis and prescription process we are following is creating many more sales of much bigger and more profitable projects. We are changing the lives of the people in those houses and making a lot more money doing it. I did not stop listening to the house, but I did start listening to the people who live in them first. In addition, I learned how to tell them what the house told me in a way that feels a lot more like friendly advice than the high-pressure sales techniques we were trying before.

Recovery is a good thing!

Bill Alber
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Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

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