What you’re missing in the furnace (or windows or solar or…) call

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missed opportunityIncreasingly contractors are sensing the tremendous opportunity to add a broader array of “home performance” services to their business. Gearing up to deliver is an investment in training, equipment, and processes that might easily run $100,000 of initial investment if one fully accounts for the time and effort. Once they’re ready to go something all too frequently happens. Silence. A common refrain is “we’re not getting any home performance leads”.

If you’re waiting for a customer to call in an say “I’d like some home performance”, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Likewise, if you’ve like this to be more than just an occasional side line of work, you can’t wait for people to call asking for a blower door test, an energy audit, or an infrared scan of their home. People generally don’t know what any of this is or why they should care. And most contractors don’t have the marketing budget to educate the wide market on this.

If that’s what you’re waiting for, you’re missing the opportunity to think bigger and to better solve problems your customer cares about. For discussion purposes, I like to use a figure of $80,000 of home performance opportunity at the average house you visit. That can include a variety of measures including the HVAC system, the distribution, air-sealing, attic, wall, crawlspace and/or basement insulation, even exterior insulation. Add window replacement. Add lighting. Add Solar. Sure, we can argue over a beer sometime about whether that’s the right number. It will be lower in some areas. It will be higher in others. If you don’t like $80,000, pick another number. It’s not $10,000. It’s not $20,000. It’s not $30,000. It’s higher. Pick your number.

Almost no homeowner calls in asking for the package of measures that are going to total $80,000. And you’ll rarely sell projects anywhere near there. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to sell a lot more by looking beyond the box to the deeper issues in most homes. To capture to full home performance opportunity, you have to stop limiting yourself to the widget the customer asked for in the initial call and look for the underlying needs of both the customer and the home. Let me use an HVAC example to illustrate.

The furnace call tees up a home performance project.

Suppose someone calls for a furnace. You generally can’t sell them attic insulation and air-sealing and a crawlspace treatment over the phone. I don’t think you should even try. The conversation at this point is all about their furnace. That’s why they called. That’s what they want—or think they want. And you have to respect that.

But you can start differentiating and teeing up a conversation. You can explain how with your 100% satisfaction guarantee, “I can’t know which furnace to put in until I verify insulation levels and how much air is leaking in and out of your home.” The conversation at this point is just about putting the right furnace in. But, you’re setting the expectation that you’ll be looking at other components of the home.

Now, when you visit the home, you can pull out some of the diagnostic equipment. You can also ask good questions to help understand what really motivates the homeowners—and often you’ll find it’s comfort, health, noise, dust, or a myriad of other things, not just a furnace. Combining your understand of what that homeowner really wants and the defects you uncover in the home, you’re now positioned to offer a broader package of the right solutions. In order words, that furnace lead is really a home performance lead…if you treat it right.

Half the time, you won’t move the customer beyond that furnace. But as much as half the time, you will! Adding $3,000, 6,000, or $16,000 to half of your tickets can have a huge impact on average ticket sizes and overall revenue. And the right solutions will fix underlying problems and deliver benefits that your customers really care about–they’ll love you for it.

Incidentally, this works in the other direction, too. Once you’re able to start marketing a broader array of services, from insulation or windows to HVAC or solar, each one of these calls has the potential to lead to a more comprehensive discussion. And some of these calls ramp up during quiet shoulder seasons, giving you the chance to sell HVAC when no one else is selling HVAC, or insulation when no one else is selling insulation.

More reasons to make the phone ring, and more to offer on every call. THAT is the opportunity that most contractors who are putting a toe in the home performance waters are missing right now.

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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+


  1. Peter Troast  November 8, 2015

    Right on, as usual. I especially agree with the final point: that the broader your array of services, the broader the opportunities for leads. Diversification of lead types is just as important as it is in an investment portfolio.


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