A Wholesaler’s View: How Contractors Can Differentiate Themselves from Competitors
Define your winning value proposition
If you want to close the sale, get the job, and have consumers choose your company, you must offer a compelling story or have an undeniable reason why you are the obvious choice. So, the real question is: How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors? If you and your sales team can’t easily define your winning value proposition, then you don’t have one.
You will need to differentiate yourself in a variety of different ways if you want to succeed in an ever-changing and competitive market. It really starts with how consumers find you. The best way for new customers to find your company is by referral. You did such an outstanding job for a friend or family member that they felt compelled to recommend you or your company. How powerful is your referral program? Do the majority of your new leads come from referrals?
I tell all my contractors that part of their presentation to any homeowner should include a detailed installation checklist that customers review during the initial presentation. This assures consumers that you will provide a top-quality installation.
You also want potential customers to know your installer or technician will conduct a number of tests to ensure a flawless installation, explain how the technician uses manifold gauges to test gas pressures, and pressure check the refrigeration line sets by using nitrogen to safeguard against any possible leaks.
You should also always leave the job site neater than when you arrived and explain in detail all of the features of the thermostat they purchased and how it operates. You need to let customers know that when the installation is complete, the installer will go through this checklist. And if they, the homeowners, are pleased with the services rendered, consumers will sign at the bottom of the checklist verifying they received a quality installation. The tech will also sign the form, and one copy remains with homeowners, and one will go on file with your company.
Homeowners today are more educated than ever before, thanks to the internet. If customers are spending $8,000-$10,000 replacing their HVAC systems, you can bet they will be doing some research online. What they will find on almost all websites, such as Consumer Reports, Angie’s list, and Furnace Review, all state the same thing — the most important thing to consider when choosing a new HVAC system is finding a quality contractor to perform the installation. There is a load of information on the internet about how paramount it is to have a professional installation done by a knowledgeable technician. I tell customers you can have equipment that has been touched by the hand of God, but if the installer kinks the line set, you will still have a inoperative air conditioner. However, a solid installation with with just average equipment can run for decades.
The quality of work by the installing contractor is everything, and an educated consumer knows this. If, for some reason, they don’t, then the contractor needs to educate them by including articles from third-party internet sites, like Consumer Reports, with proposals and installation checklists. By doing so, contractors are actually building the process of receiving a referral into the
You will be rewarded when you prove you can furnish a flawless installation, eliminate consumers’ fears of a substandard installation, minimize callbacks to their homes, and alleviate the fear that the unit they just purchased is a lemon.
Contractors should check on consumers. A phone call from your company the week following the installation is important. Ensure consumers are more than satisfied, and when you’ve identified they are, ask for a referral.
Another way to separate yourself from your competitors is by providing a personal biography, which ensures potential customers feel confident they are choosing the right man or woman for the job. This bio should include a picture of yourself with the brand of equipment you sell and bulletins stating your qualifications, including the length of time in the HVAC business, certifications, affiliations, and the appropriate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certificate number.
These formal qualifications reassure customers they are dealing with a pro and allow them to feel more comfortable with you. The first thing a customer has to buy is you.
The reverse side of the bio page should be about your company’s story and background. If your company is big enough or has been around long enough, then the company should have its bio for potential customers.
To recap, your proposal should include a personal bio, your company’s story and guarantees, an installation checklist, and internet articles on the importance of a quality installation. It should go without saying that you should not be handwriting your proposals. This is a dubious way of trying to set yourself apart from competitors as it may backfire and identify your company as one that is not technologically savvy. Additionally, proposals should always include a monthly payment option — financing should be offered on every proposal. If not, trust me, sales will drop.
Setting yourself apart is difficult. People form opinions about you within 15 seconds of your first meeting. How are you dressed? What does your outfit say about you? Do you put on foot covers before entering consumers’ homes? I hear a lot of contractors say: “I always take my shoes off.” This is not good enough; everybody does this now. If you want to set yourself apart, make a big show about taking out new white shoe covers and covering your shoes, even if it’s a sunny day. Tell homeowners it’s company policy. Homeowners might say it’s not necessary, but the extra step can’t help but impress consumers. Everyone appreciates the fact that you’re taking precautions to protect their property, and making a show of doing so is yet another point of separation.
HOW IS YOUR PHONE ANSWERED?
It’s always the little things that make the difference, so when customers call, do they hear a friendly voice saying, “It’s a great day at ABC cooling, how may I help you today?” or do your customers hear a machine redirecting their calls? You have one chance to make a first impression, correct? How would you rate your business in accomplishing this incredibly important task? Here’s another tip: Have a friend make a call and let him or her tell you what that experience was like.
The most common way for people to find a product or service is to get on the internet. Obviously, you need to show up on the first page of every type of website that might be available for someone searching for an HVAC contractor. You might need to incorporate the services of a web search optimization specialist to make this happen.
Studies show only 15 percent of people searching the internet bother to browse past the first page of search results. If your company is already on the first page, great, but so are eight to 10 other companies. It is key that your website’s home page stands above the rest. Is it cluttered with words, or does it have video testimonials letting your customers do the talking for you? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a video worth? Does it have click-through links so your customers can find third-party published information they can use to educate themselves? Does it have specials listed for internet users? Can customers purchase service agreements or schedule preseason precision tuneups? Does your website set you apart? It must if you want to rise above your competitors.
I’m only giving you the basics, the ABCs of how to separate yourself and your company. However, you should constantly be searching and exploring ways to surpass everyone in your marketplace. The moment you rest on your laurels, you’ll find that your sales will gradually decline. It is extremely difficult to become one of the most profitable contractors in your market and even harder to maintain that position. Your company will need to embrace a culture of searching for and finding new ways to outperform and outcompete your competitors in every way. You will have to do this in a manner that is very easy for customers to recognize and understand. Good luck and happy selling.
Publication date: 7/10/2017