Selling without selling, and the salesperson’s (business developer’s) dilemina

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We’re in the process of resolving a long-term expensive home furnace rental deal. The rental locked us in for eight years; it has expired, and we have no further obligations, but of course in doing nothing, we continue to pay the full rental fee each month. In theory, we could call the furnace supplier and have them remove the equipment without charge or further obligation. However, this idea has an obvious limitation — you can live in a home without a furnace in Ottawa, Canada in the summer, but I wouldn’t think it to be wise in the winter.

Video: A contractor makes good use of video to discourage furnace rentals, part of an extensive collection of content marketing videos.

The choices: “Buy out” the rental from the furnace supplier or arrange a replacement with another vendor. And the time to do this clearly is not during the middle of the winter, but when the disruption would pose no safety risks. So, even though we could have ended the furnace deal and made the change in the winter, we’re reviewing it now.

The original furnace vendor offered a “deal” for the buyout, but it seemed quite outrageously high, considering this is a eight-year-old furnace and I don’t know what use the dis-installed equipment would be, other than for scrap and possibly parts. I pressed the point, and that was worth a $500 reduction.

Still, the question arose: What about purchasing a new unit, and so we set out to call two competing furnace providers. The obvious guideline was that these businesses needed not to have any association (hidden or otherwise) with the major supplier.

And so far, here are the results. One supplier didn’t call back at all. The second initiated the initial return call at 6:00 p.m. in the middle of a holiday weekend as I was celebrating my 65th birthday with my son, turning 21 (we enjoy the permanent life experience of shared birthdays). Needless to say this was not a good time, and I told him.

To his credit, the sales rep called back a few days later, and we set up an appointment.  I had budgeted about 45 minutes of time. Since it was “my money” my wife didn’t need to be part of the conversation, I thought.

He was convincing enough, showing me the reason for his brand recommendation, and coming up with a price that seemed comparable and rational to do business with him. And he bragged “I’m not a salesperson, I’m a technician who got promoted to be a sales rep, and under the new provincial wage regulations, I’m paid by the hour, not by commission.”

The only trouble with the presentation: He was painting the picture that suited his interests but didn’t provide a helpful apples-to-apples comparison. In this, I was saved by my wife, who showed up near the end of the conversation as I was starting to look at my watch.

“What about the air filter,” she said.  He had described a basic filtration system, not the UV-based system installed with the rental. She asked for the cost of a reasonably comparable filter — and the price went up by $1,000. Suddenly the trade-off between just buying out the existing furnace and purchasing a new one became much more evenly balanced.

My reaction, after that discovery: We really need another quote, but I think we may keep it simple by keeping our old furnace and doing the buy-out. We are preparing to travel offshore for a few weeks, so the whole issue will be deferred. (The sales rep said: “I can get this done before you leave, but we’ll need to commit right away.)

I don’t fault the salesperson in this situation from doing what he did. He presented the case for his product/service, and focused on facts and information to make his product the best, selectively ignoring or overriding other considerations. I’m confident if we had purchased from him we would have received a decent product, but I’m still troubled by the process.

What do you think

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