Last month, we discussed having a mid-year sales strategy or course correction. I suggested one should start to plant the seeds to provide a better product at a better price from a team rather than simply sell commodity products to HVAC contractors.
Now someone might say the “product” hasn’t changed. It’s still the same piece of manufactured equipment, but my thought on a better product is to approach the HVAC contractor with the suggestion that this pre-selected contractor consider teaming up with the equipment representation and get out in front of clients’ HVAC needs. Instead of bidding to these contractors, consider becoming a partner with a select few contractors. Heck, they’re trying to get work, too, so why not approach a contractor with the suggestion that you and his or her firm team up together to get work. As a rule, contractors don’t call on design engineers to discuss projects in the design phase, but sales professionals do, and they have the inside tract on what is being engineered for each project.
To create this difference, the salesperson should consider what resources are available beyond simply providing a discounted service or sale. One such strategy may be, if the opportunity is to sell an HVAC contractor equipment for a project, offering a contractor-equipment manufacturer a solution that will also help position this contractor to possibly differentiate his or her HVAC firm from the other competing contractors, e.g. remote monitoring of the equipment the first year of operation to assist the building owner with becoming familiar with the new equipment/system.
This engineered solution may not win the job for the sales representative, but the HVAC contractor may still be awarded the base job. Still, the sales approach could generate a conversation between the HVAC contractor and the equipment representative that could generate an interest in reaching out to building owners with antiquated equipment that needs to be replaced. This sales-contractor team could raise awareness to new, replacement equipment that will improve existing system performance while saving energy using the new equipment. There may even be utility rebate funds available for such a replacement venture.
So why wait around for a capital project to come along so that you continue to be a commodity in the equipment manufacturer representative business? By rethinking the process and the building owner’s needs when it comes to equipment reaching the end of its useful service life, one can get out front and create an equipment replacement program in partnership with preselected HVAC contractors who serve building owners on a regular basis.
Sure, equipment representatives must still be in the commodity business of quoting HVAC contractors, but a creative engineered team approach to all this aging equipment could have a cost-effective solution. All it takes is “thinking outside the box” and investing in an HVAC contractor interested is considering this approach and then, together, sit down and analyze the following:
Identify potential building owners who know the contractor and possibly the equipment manufacturer;
Complete a Kawakita Jiro (KJ) brainstorming initiative (http://bit.ly/KJMethod), which is an affinity diagram process for organizing ideas, problems, and solutions into related groups after this brainstorm session;
Based on the results, do further research on these ideas that have been grouped into potential solution plans; and
Formalize the solution plan into a contractor-equipment representative action plan to help targeted building owner-operators.
With an action plan comes a timeline and assignment of responsibilities to implement this energy-efficient approach to prospective clients, one client at a time. What one has going for them, whether it’s the HVAC contractor or the sales professional, is the network of contacts, existing business relationships, and their reputation in the HVAC industry. Next is getting buy-in to try this approach to generate sales while still recognizing an equipment manufacturer representative must still stay involved with the commodity market but now with a possible option to rethink and reshape the sales strategy.
Of course, if you are skeptical of investing the time necessary to be a creative thinker who can help a select few HVAC contractor-partners, and subsequently help building owner-operators, then go ahead and stick with your current time-consuming sales strategy, which is to provide prices to multiple contractors each day of the week.