Tell 'em What You've Got! Part 2

July 21, 2004

By: Matt Michel

This is part of a continuing series of Comanche New Year’s Resolutions aimed at helping your company become “fiscally” fit. In this series, we will walk through the marketing mix of product, price, promotion, and placement. This Comanche Marketing tip focuses on marketing your products.

Air conditioning contractors are no better at communicating their product offering. Rarely does an HVAC technician mention electronic air cleaners, whole house humidifiers, zoning systems, energy recovery ventilators, or a range of other products from the heating and air conditioning industry.

For example, almost every HVAC contractor claims to offer zoning. A substantial number of consumers express interest in zoning when it’s described to them. Yet, the number of zoning system installations is paltry. Why?

I think three reasons account for around 90% of the problem…

1. Some contractors are afraid of zoning systems. They’ll sell one to the customer who asks about it and insists on it, but they won’t bring it up on their own. Why the fear? Maybe they tried one once and had trouble with the installation or heard a horror story from a buddy at a trade association dinner.

2. Others say, “Why bother? Most people don’t want one anyway.” That’s probably true. It’s also completely irrelevant. Most people don’t *have* to want one. If only a few people want one it can be a *very* lucrative opportunity. Think about it. Only a few people need repairs every year, but that’s hardly a reason for avoiding repair work.

3. The third problem is technician resistance to all things associated with the word “sell.” Technician resistance can stop the best intentioned contractor dead in his tracks. Techs do not want to sell; that’s clear. If they did, they would be salespeople.

Contractors can address the first two reasons with a change in attitude. The third is more difficult because it involves changing the attitudes of others. Hmmm. Pretty difficult. In fact, some would say it’s impossible. So don’t try. Try something else instead.

Create material that sells on its own. Provide the technician with educational brochures and catalogs on your company’s products and services that he can give to the homeowner while performing a diagnostic.

The technician is motivated to give the homeowner the brochure because gives the homeowner something to do besides look over the tech’s shoulder (they hate that). The homeowner is far more likely to thumb through it when the technician hands it to him or her, than if it arrives by mail. While not every homeowner will see something of interest, some will.

What happens next? The natural response is to ask the technician. If the technician has been trained on the features and benefits of the products in the catalog, he’ll share what he knows with the homeowner. When he shares what he knows, he’s selling whether he realizes it or not.

It’s relatively easy to think of zoning systems. But what about some of the more mundane products. For example, every air conditioner should have a filter-drier. Every sink should have an angle stop.

Seldom do technicians mention these deficiencies when they are encountered. Yet, the techs know and usually believe in their hearts that people should have these items. Every service call where these items are missing represents an opportunity of an add-on “repair.”

The solution here is to define the baseline system or installation. Brainstorm it with your technicians. Not only will they provide valuable input, but the process gives them a degree of buy-in.

Based on the brainstorming session, prepare a series of checklists. Honestly, it’s tough to get the techs to follow the checklists. However, with continual work and continual reinforcement, many will begin including the missing “components” in their diagnostics as a separate problem.

“Mr. Homeowner, your high side fan motor is shot. I can replace that, no sweat. I also noticed that you did not have a heat strip around the compressor. In our climate that’s pretty risky and could result in a slugged compressor. It’s not expensive and I really recommend one.”

“Wait,” you say, “That’s selling. You just said they won’t sell.”

True. It’s selling, but it’s low level selling that fills a very real and obvious technical need. It’s analogous to “selling” the car owner on the need for a rear view mirror. If they have the checklist, technicians will (probably) sell in this instance.

To enhance the fiscal fitness of your company, resolve to…

Make a list of every product your company offers.

Prepare catalogs or a series of brochures on the products you offer, mail them to your customers, and hand them out on service calls.

Prepare a checklist of the minimum and of the ideal systems, including the very mundane options.

Next… Expanding your product offering

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2003 Matt Michel

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