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Are HVAC and home improvement contractors missing the “elephant in the living room”​ by not emulating auto financing?

January 25, 2021

My millennial daughter just bought her first car. Before she dove headlong into choices of brand, model, efficiency or color she asked: “How much per month can I afford in my budget?” She knew this was her biggest hurdle, her “elephant” in the purchase process. Her primary concern was a guaranteed, affordable fixed monthly payment with an acceptable interest rate. It was the first thing she asked the car salesperson. Fortunately, she was working with a seasoned, sales professional who “listened and heard” his customer and who was able to build a plan and a price point around her budget and quickly close the purchase. Because the monthly payment was so affordable the salesperson was even able to bundle in some add-on warranty products with just an incidental impact on the monthly payment. A win-win for everyone.

Why are so many HVAC and energy home improvement contractors missing the “elephant in the living room”? That, for many customers, regardless of income level, monthly payment affordability may be the single biggest purchase influencer. Contractors are selling systems and upgrades for 10, 15 or 20 thousand dollars – the price of a used car – yet often times they just drop the cash price bomb on the customer or lead with short term “no interest” programs. Many never address the issues of peace of mind, budget and monthly payment affordability – the herd of elephants. When is the last time you bought a car and were not offered a fixed monthly payment option? Contractors are often reactive and will only offer a financing option if the customer brings it up it and then it may be only some promotional or short term low interest option. These types of plans work for some customers but we know that there is a lot of smoke and mirrors, with a potentially high cost to contractors that can’t be legally passed on to the consumer and certainly doesn’t address monthly payment affordability. No wonder HVAC contractor closing rates can be less than and 40% – leaving 60% of all potential buyers “on the fence.” They have haven’t listened to the consumer.

Don’t ignore the elephant. Contractors need to think more about emulating the auto sales process and design their proposals around providing what’s best for the customer inside the framework of their monthly budget. This approach will help broaden the contractor’s market, increase closing rates and build customer trust and loyalty toward a responsive, empathetic contractor.

The National Energy Improvement Fund (NEIF) was created specifically to provide high-integrity, energy-expert contractors with low, guaranteed monthly payment, no-dealer-fee customer financing options (vs. “promotional” programs). As the nation’s only Certified B Corp™ lender committed to the highest standards of compliance and integrity, NEIF’s transparent fixed rates and terms are more like auto financing than credit cards. NEIF’s EnergyPlus Loan program is a great example.