Friday, May 18, 2012

Efficiency needs to be conspicous to sell

Another from the archives, this was printed in Phc News, a trade magazine.

Efficiency needs to be conspicuous to sell.
By Eric Aune, Plumbing & Hydronic Heating Contractor

Selling efficiency can be one of the hardest tasks endeavored by contractors in today’s economy.  Explaining the benefit of installing a ODR (outdoor reset) control on an existing cast iron boiler can be daunting to say the least.  First we as the “expert” have to be aware of our language and terminology when explaining how the device works, being careful not to lose our customer along the way.  I know when I see the “deer in the headlights” look I have to reign it in a little.  Most likely I have forgotten I am no longer in the classroom, talking to my students, but rather the homeowner I am talking to has not reached the same level of boiler-trekkie I boast about to the guys at the will-call desk and everything I am saying has them questioning whether or not it’s content is useful or even has any meaning to them.
Often my first reaction to a question by a potential customer about upgrading their heating or plumbing system would be to start by talking about saving money.  After all, isn’t that why they are asking? The answer: It depends. I have been around this business and in and out of these conversations to know the answer to that question is not as simple as it seems.  If I take from my reason given to the homeowner as to why an ODR control would benefit them the conversation about boiler system upgrades could easily go in the direction of comfort.  I have, on more than one occasion, worked to find a solution for customers who would like to conserve water in their home or business.  Not solely to cut operating cost in every situation but because that is what they felt was a good thing to do for the environment.
Energy plays a huge role in the overall market for selling efficiency. Not the only role, but a large one at that.  Energy prices are rising continuously throughout the country but, the varied costs of heating a home are relative to its geographical location.  That’s to say here in Minnesota, where I reside and operate my business, the heating season can average an astounding seven months long. Compare that to the tepid climate inhabiting the better part of the west coast where spring turns to summer much quicker and tends to stay around a while longer.  This comparison would have most assume that it must be much more expensive to heat a home in Minnesota than Washington State.  The variation in weather patterns, from Minnesota to the west coast, is not the bottom line factor in the cost of heating homes.  Utility costs play a major role here and that may be why the success of high efficiency upgrades and an overall successful push for hybrid heating systems has taken a stronger hold the closer you get to the west coast.
It may be too simple of an explanation; saying higher energy costs account for more upgrades but, there is and always will be the want to keep more of our hard earned cash in hand.  So what does that mean for those of us in areas where energy costs are relatively low?  One answer might be why our customers are talking with us in the first place, your past customers.
Psychology research suggests that people do good deeds as a strategy to attract mates.  Now I’m not suggesting we are running a dating service here but, often times when our customers are happy they will tell someone. With my own business I have drawn on the success of past modular condensing boiler upgrades and used utility bill comparisons to show potential customers the value in upgrading to high efficiency systems.  The same can be done with the benefits of installing a low water usage faucet or replacing old, worn-out water distribution systems and installing PEX as a solution.
Selling our customers on the real value of high efficiency systems and putting that value out there for all to see can be a successful strategy.  Displaying thank you notes or positive customer comments in the office or on our website/blog is a great way to get the word out.  Be conspicuous. After all, I think most will agree that it is great to receive a call from your customer’s neighbor looking to have an estimate drawn up on a similar type job as the Jones’.
Comfort and solutions will always be your best sellers in the high efficiency game.
Eric Aune, Owner of Aune Plumbing, LLC.  Zimmerman, MN
eric@auneplumbing.com

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