Your First Visit: The Road to Success

By | 12/01/2014

As a GreenSTAR contractor, you are in the business of sales and lifelong relationships. To make a sale, you need to deliver a compelling message that makes a prospective client want to learn more—but where do you start?

All great relationships begin with face-to-face communication. If you craft your first conversation strategically, your prospective client will listen to you closely, stay a bit longer, disclose the information you need, and ultimately, award you their business.

Use the questions below as a guide to strategically outline your first conversation and build a strong, lasting relationship with your next client.


  • Tell us about your company and what you do.
  • Do you know what your energy spend is currently?
  • Do you have a feel for what you are spending on maintenance and repairs for your facility?
  • Share with me some of your most pressing concerns regarding your facility.
  • Do you currently have a plan to focus on energy?
  • Is your current service provider helping with energy conservation efforts?
  • Do you participate in the company budget process?
  • What is your responsibility?
  • If you budget for capital improvements, do you usually get everything you want/need?
  • What is the most frustrating part of your job?
  • If we could solve only one issue for you, what would it be?
  • Who is your current service provider?
  • Have you ever had discussions about energy with your current provider?
  • Have you had a water audit recently?
  • Have you ever compared or have a way to compare your energy and water usage with similar types/usages/size buildings?


  • Do you have any equipment history or maintenance reports?
  • What is your company’s 5-year plan for this facility?
  • Do you have a Building Operations Plan?
  • What is the selection criterion for a support provider?
  • Does your existing mechanical system affect your company goals in any way?
  • Please share the pros and cons of your existing service provider.
  • Would you recommend your service provider to a friend?
  • Are you aware of current energy rebates and tax incentives available?
  • Would you consider your current provider a partner or a vendor?
  • Does your current provider handle all of your refrigerant reporting and paper work?
  • Have you ever had any IAQ complains? If so, what was the issue?
  • What is your threshold for payback on energy projects?
  • Who do you report to and how do they view downtime of your mechanical equipment?
  • Are you generally able to meet your yearly budget for maintenance and repairs?
  • Is your staff ready for the phase-in of newer, more environmentally-friendly refrigerants?
  • I realize change is not easy, but have you considered the consequences of not changing?
  • What kind of training assistance does your current provider offer you and your team?
  • What types of certifications does your current provider hold?
  • What types of certifications are your current provider’s technicians required to have?
  • How many hours of training does your current provider offer its employees on average?

Remember, these questions are not asked in a vacuum. You must follow up and probe deeper into the client’s thoughts. It is your job to understand their pain and come up with solutions to relieve that pain. If you don’t know what their needs and concerns are, how can you possibly help them?



Meet Arnold “Woody” Woodall, a member of MSCA since 1988 with 40+ years of contracting experience. Recognized for his outstanding service and support to the mechanical service industry, Woody was honored with the D.S. O’Brien Award from MSCA in September 2014.

We asked Woody to help us help you by identifying the key questions he uses when scoping a project and developing a relationship with a client to deliver exceptional results. But, Woody didn’t leave it at the questions. He provided a first-hand account of his “best first visit story,” and who better to tell it than Woody himself.

“I was working for a company with three offices in three different areas, and we had a great client who had a standard plan maintenance contract with us.

From time-to-time when I stopped by to visit, there was an issue and a need for upgrades that the budget couldn’t cover. So, I spoke to the building manager and explained how we could help them reduce their carbon footprint. He set up a meeting with his district manager and me. I explained to him that everything starts with a benchmark, and asked, “What are you currently spending so we can understand how you’re spending? Then, we can help.”

The building manager agreed to let us do an audit and assessment. We came back with a list of 14 energy conservation measures (ECMs) with ROI and net-present value. We worked with the building manager to select the ECMs he wanted to implement immediately, and then added projects over time to work within the client’s budget. This created a sustained relationship, where we used two of the ECMs in the first year and then used that savings toward the next three ECMs for the next year.

I created a personal relationship with the building manager through regular lunch talks. I explained to him over one of our lunches that if he carried some of our ECM messages up the chain a bit, we might be able to save money faster. From that point forward, whenever I met with someone higher up the food chain, I made sure to include the building manager in each and every meeting—always remembering he was the connection.

My story offers three pieces of advice:

  • Building managers have planned mechanical contracts out there—they’re the people to start the first conversation with.
  • There are four major areas of questioning:

1.       What are they doing now?

2.       What would they like to see?

3.       What kind of outcome are they shooting for?

4.       How do we get there?

  • Our business is based on good, solid, face-to-face relationships.”


To continue the conversation, post a comment on our GreenSTAR LinkedIn group – we’d love to hear about your “best first visit” or other customer challenges.

The GreenSTAR program was established in 2007 by the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), the nation's leading trade association for HVACR contractors, providing education, marketing, and labor/management services to assure its members deliver quality performance, value and expertise for all building system needs.

For more information about this GreenSTAR case study or the MSCA GreenSTAR program, log-on to or contact Barbara Dolim at or 301-869-5800.




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