Marketing Indoor Comfort: Ask And You Shall Receive (And Learn And Improve)
"It was eat, sleep, and go to boot camp," said Viviano.
Never mind he did not get to visit Caesar's Palace, Bellagio, or any other of those famous, world-class casinos in Sin City. There was no time in those three days to sightsee or gamble. It was class, work, class, work, and even homework. The Marketing and Lead Generation program is designed to help participants define their marketing plans and become familiar with the marketing materials available to help them execute their plans.
It all paid off, in Viviano's estimation.
"I was floored on how much I needed to learn," he said. "I am not a business person. I've been running my business for 16 years, but I really did not know the financial side of things. The boot camp gave me the tools to financially turn things around and departmentalize the company."
Viviano appreciated all of the help. He even followed up by attending another boot camp held in St. Louis in late March.
"I went to renew some of the ideas that were taught," he said. "Every dime I spent was worth 110 percent to my company."
Like most HVACR manufacturers, York UPG offers many training and promotional marketing tools for contractors and distributors - efforts all designed to help a company improve on its bottom line, as well as improve in selling comfort, rather than on energy efficiency alone. With 13 SEER being the norm for 2006 and beyond, Andy Armstrong, director of marketing - North America, York UPG, believes contractors today can use all the help they can get from manufacturers.
"The York Unitary Products Group remains steadfast in its commitment to traditional distribution: independent distributors, branches, and independent dealers," said Armstrong. "We have been actively communicating with distribution about the changing dynamics in our market: homeowners who are design-savvy and have access to more information via the Internet, greater competition from mass-market retailers, and now 13 SEER."
In his estimation, the new 13-SEER standard brings these dynamics into sharp focus. In the first half of 2006, inventories of existing 10- and 12-SEER condensing units will be depleted, according to his research, and contractors will have to sell 13-SEER and higher products.
"In the critical add-on/replacement segment, homeowners will see higher equipment prices and installation costs to upgrade or replace because higher-efficiency systems cost more to build and contractors must match, and in most cases replace, the indoor coil and refrigerant linesets as well.
"Premium systems won't offer the attractive energy payback vs. initial cost as in the past. Contractors need to know how to sell up, to sell systems, to sell value beyond an energy rating. In other words, comfort."
York's InvolvementIn York UPG's case, it advocates a 15-step sales process (see sidebar, page 6), which it translates through its dealer sales training programs. According to Armstrong, a contractor's ability to successfully demonstrate product and systems' values depends to a great extent on the actual sales process.
"A carefully defined process that takes a comfort advisor or technician from a lead, through the sale and installation, to the after-sale follow-up call, eliminates the guesswork involved in the process and instills confidence in those who are involved in the sale and installation," he said.
Support materials can enhance the sales process, too. They can be as simple as a business card, a door hanger, or a satisfaction rating and referral request form, or as compelling as a credibility booklet that includes testimonials, installation photos, and certification (technical, insurance, and licensing) information.
"A customer questionnaire is another important component of the sales process," said Armstrong. "By asking the correct questions and listening to the answers the customer provides, a technician or comfort advisor is in a better position to provide options - including higher-efficiency units - that address the specific concerns or needs of the customer. Only 11 percent of all consumers buy on price alone. That leaves 89 percent of the market that will purchase equipment based on your value proposition."
Developing the proper value story for homeowners is why proper training and selling tools are so important. In York UPG's case, it offers an array of technical and business training programs and business marketing and promotional tools. Virtually every aspect of its training programs and marketing tools has been updated to address the advent of the minimum 13 SEER standard. Here are some of the highlights:
York UPG has offered these Success Week boot camps to dealers:
1. Marketing and Lead Generation, designed to help participants define their marketing plans and become familiar with the marketing materials available to help them execute their plans.
2. In-Home Retail Selling, designed to examine the principles of in-home retail selling, including developing customer rapport, assessing customer needs, the in-home technical assessment, delivering the homeowner presentation, and closing the sale.
Meanwhile, service and financial operations are the subjects of six contractor boot camps under way this fall. They include:
1. Service Operations, designed to address a number of topics intended to help participants develop a profitable service business plan.
2. Financial Operations, designed to look at the principles of company planning and financial management, including the establishment of a corporate vision, goal setting, defining action plans, financial planning, service department better practices, and lead generation and marketing.
The Mission 13 theme has carried over to a comprehensive launch to distribution of 2006 programs and tools.
1. Business Evaluator function, which allows Net.Prophet to create a profile of the business, provides tips for improvement, and directs users to the Learning Center.
2. The Learning Center's informative business modules provide downloadable articles and templates on a variety of business-related topics.
3. The Ask the Expert function puts participants in contact with some of the most successful people in the HVAC industry.
4. The Keyword Search option is set up like an Internet search engine, allowing contractors to type in any topic they want to view, click on the "go" button, and scan through all related articles and templates.
In most cases, the local comarketing program is powered by pre-season consumer promotions, offering cash-back rebates and special financing, all geared in 2006 to the higher-efficiency York Affinityâ„¢, Luxaire Acclimateâ„¢, and Cole-man Echelonâ„¢ product lines.
"The strategy behind UPG's comarketing and promotional programs is to drive planned sales, which generate over 60 percent more revenue than sales driven by equipment failure," stressed Armstrong. "The programs provide incentives for both dealers and consumers, and are supported with key creative and point-of-purchase materials aimed at generating consumer leads."
Last, but not least, UPG offers extranet accessibility and more tools, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"UPG is committed to best e-business practices for its distributors and dealers," said Armstrong.
The York, Luxaire, and Coleman extranet sites (www.upgnet.com) are the center for a variety of business transactions and up-to-date information on orders, inventory, shipping, warranty registration, etc. Upg.net is also the portal for online training (e.g., Net.Prophet) and many additional marketing programs and tools. For example:
Lennox's OfferingsAt the start of this year, Lennox Industries rolled out HVAC Learning Solutions, a new and expanded training department designed to help its dealers become more successful in retail sales skills, technician-homeowner communication, and customer service/dispatch; technical excellence, which includes installation, service, and maintenance; and business management skills and best practices in HVAC bookkeeping.
According to Alicia Bradshaw, brand manager at Lennox, the sales skills courses include Lennox Comfort Advisor Boot Camp, which teaches the Encouragement SellingÂ© process; Sales Management; Technician Communications (for nonselling techs); and Customer Service workshops. To supplement these instructor-led courses, dealers can also access an extensive array of online and video training courses that teach and/or reinforce selling and customer relationship skills.
"The Encouragement Selling process is an approach wherein comfort advisors conduct a thorough review of comfort issues in the home," said Bradshaw, noting that hot and cold spots are explored, in addition to drafts, humidity issues, stale air, and indoor air quality (IAQ).
"They also conduct a technical review of the house, which includes square footage, layout, windows, doors, ductwork, et al. They educate homeowners about the unique HVAC requirements of their houses. They present best-better-good options. And, they guide homeowners to selecting the total home comfort solution that truly fits their needs and will provide lasting comfort throughout the home and for the duration of the useful life of the equipment."
The Lennox product courses are a combination of instructor-led and computer-based classes. For several years, every significant new product release has been accompanied by an interactive training course on CD.
About four years ago, Bradshaw said Lennox determined that in-duct IAQ solutions would be a key differentiator for its dealers. In 2003, it introduced its Healthy Climate line of continuous comfort IAQ solutions. A year later it introduced independent, third-party IAQ testing and monitoring equipment, designed to allow dealers to perform scientific analysis of a home before recommending a solution, and after installation to demonstrate for the homeowner what improvements their new system provides.
In 2004, the manufacturer also conducted science-oriented training sessions for dealers to teach them about IAQ issues and solutions. This year it conducted business-oriented training sessions for dealers to teach them how to incorporate IAQ into their business and create marketing campaigns and offers "that use IAQ expertise to differentiate our dealers from non-Lennox dealers," said Armstrong.
This year Lennox introduced IAQ and IAQ testing and interpretation courses for dealers at Lennox's district offices, and onsite at the shops of dealers who implemented significant residential IAQ testing programs - otherwise known as the Lennox Healthy Advantage Program. This program is designed to enable the dealer to provide the consumer with an independent analysis of the quality of the air in the home, identify IAQ problems in the consumer's home, and confidently recommend complete solutions to those problems.
"The Healthy Advantage Program provides our dealers with the diagnostic tool and process, the diagnosis, and qualified solutions to improve the comfort of consumers' homes," said Bradshaw. "Lennox Industries has an unwavering commitment to performance accountability and product integrity, and truly believes that the best consumer is an informed consumer. Due to the amount of IAQ marketing hype, there is a tremendous need for consumer education. We are committed to preparing the best possible educators - our trusted, expert dealers."
And the help does not stop there. Consumers who visit www.lennox.com are invited to subscribe to Lennox's e-zine, Comfort Matters. This electronic magazine is delivered quarterly to online subscribers and focuses on information relating to total home comfort. Meanwhile, its unique The Smart Home Magazine is a tool dealers can use to deliver IAQ information and sales messages to customers and other consumers in their service areas.
Rheem DevelopmentsIn the world of Rheem and Ruud, each has developed a Top Contractor program - and the manufacturer is more than happy to help each. To be included in this program, contractors have to meet, among other agenda items, a minimum purchase criteria.
"These are the best of the best," said Gary Wehunt, brand manager, Rheem. "Everything we do, we give these contractors special attention. We want to help them in any way possible."
Among other items offered, the manufacturer supplies these selected dealers with marketing and advertising tools, all customized to their respective market. In its Ad Maker System, dealers can select their own newspaper ads, develop them online, and pick-and-choose available options.
"We help them become more customer orientated," said Wehunt. "We can supply them bounded copies of what's available."
Steve Driskill, owner of Kendall County Air (KCA), Boerne, Texas, is pleased with the Ruud Reliable Top Contractor program.
"It brings credibility to our company in the consumers' eyes," said Driskill. "Kendall County Air was recognized the past three years as being one of the Top 10 sales-producing Ruud Reliable dealers in the country. This association allows us to leverage the long history of the Ruud brand with being recognized as one of the best contractors in the United States. Consumers view this as a positive, knowing that KCA is an established, reputable company and not a fly-by-night operation."
Rheem also has a training network, having modules on selling comfort. This is important, Wehunt believes, in the post-13 SEER world.
"Once in the home, the idea is that you do not want to leave the house without the sale," said Wehunt. "We try to help them [contractors] with proper pricing and the sales skills to tell the homeowner about comfort. When you give them [customers] the benefits, chances are they will listen. All these things we do to create an environment for selling."
Rheem also can supply a group of selected industry experts to help them through the process. They can be contracted out to help the dealer.
In regard to television advertising, Wehunt and his crew have actually gone to some of its top dealers and produced commercials for them. Enough footage is shot so the contractor can create a commercial for local television.
"Others, we can give them a template to follow," said Wehunt.
Rheem recently produced a series of pamphlets, designed to explain the new 13 SEER standard to various audiences. It said it has a guide for consumers, contractors, wholesalers, and the homebuilder.
"Again, these are designed to help tell the story," said Wehunt. "For instance, in the consumer guide, we tell how they may have to change out the outdoor coil. It explains to the homeowner what needs to be done. This is all designed to help the contractor tell the story."
According to Wehunt, the most help contractors need are in the areas of pricing goods and services, plus being able to sell higher-efficient equipment to help their bottom line. "They don't need to get stuck on selling 13," said Wehunt. "That is just the new base, the new floor."
In regard to training, its new Comfort Technology program focuses on the changes in the industry and is designed to make the contractor more aware of selling comfort, according to Raymond Granderson, supervisor of training services and products, Rheem.
"It provides the nuts and bolts on how the new products operate," said Granderson. "It also encourages the contractor to ask homeowners what they want."
The program comes in four modules, each addressing a different issue. A contractor can attend a class or purchase the CD to learn on his/her own.
"It's about a half a day of training," said Granderson, noting that the new program kicked off in March of this year. "It was our view to be proactive, rather than reactive."
Rheem is also looking to partner with a few consultants to supply more on-site training for its dealers.
Bryant, Carrier ContributionsBryant Heating and Cooling Systems said it is working diligently to prepare its entire distribution network for the post-13 SEER world by providing educational opportunities well in advance of the regulatory changes. First of all, it is using numerous webinars - virtual meetings held using telephone and Web connections - to educate dealers on how Bryant is meeting the new higher standards. The webinars are designed to minimize dealers' time away from customers and serve to communicate and educate in a timely manner.
The regulatory changes are just one of the topics of Bryant's webinars. Other focuses include IAQ and new product information. Bryant also hosted a meeting for sales managers and territory managers recently. It presented a comprehensive overview of Bryant's proactive initiatives for the 13 SEER movement and to help prepare them for their future within the industry.
In regard to marketing literature, Bryant Beyond is the company's monthly new platform update newsletter, which lists scheduling for the company's training, webinars, dealer programs, and factory communications. It was launched in the spring. Bryant also created an informative consumer brochure focused on meeting the higher 13 SEER standard and how it will affect consumers.
In Carrier's camp, it is building on its Comfort Options program. Alexis Bevington, manager, communications, Carrier, described the program, which is still in its infancy, as a type of builder upgrade arrangement. According to Bevington, the online program shows the distributor and dealer how to work together with the builder to offer the homeowner the choice of up-grading a system at the time a house is built, rather than installing a base unit.
"Often it means only a few extra dollars in the homeowner's mortgage payment, but the upgraded comfort, humidity control, etc. are huge payoffs, in addition to the energy savings," said Bevington.
Nordyne NotesWith the 13 SEER regulation on the horizon, Nordyne said it would provide its contractors with the appropriate tools to help them work with consumers to determine which indoor comfort products are most appropriate for their needs and to identify solutions to provide customers with improved IAQ.
"While consumers are usually aware they have problems with dust, humidity issues, or room temperature, they often don't realize heating and cooling professionals understand these problems and can provide viable solutions," said Drew Fitzgerald, vice president of marketing, residential and light commercial, Nordyne.
"At Nordyne, we will provide our dealers with tools to determine if a homeowner has issues with their indoor environments, specify the correct products, and offer a whole-home comfort solution. Sometimes, homeowners just don't know how much better their indoor environments can be. It's the responsibility of heating and cooling professionals to make consumers aware they have choices."
According to Fitzgerald, Nordyne will provide solutions that will help its contractors' customers lower their heating and cooling bills while providing healthier and more livableâ€‚environments.
"Using ourâ€‚proprietary onlineâ€‚tools, our contractors will be able to prepare in-depth, customized indoor comfort proposals for their customers," he said.
With its new expanded product offerings, Fitzgerald said Frigidaire, Tappan, and Westinghouse dealers will be able to offer the IAQ that their customers seek and have the opportunity to help consumers make significant savings with some of the new ultra-high efficiency products it will be introducing.
"When compared to the 10- or even 8-SEER products that our contractors will be replacing over the next several years, our new whole-home solutions will offer significant energy savings as well as provide a safe, clean, and comfortable environment," said Fitzgerald.
According to recent industry research, 46 percent of homeowners believe there are opportunities to improve their home comfort systems. When asked, the homeowners believe the areas most in need of improvement are energy savings, more even room temperatures, better air purification, improved airflow, reduced noise, better humidity control, and faster heating or cooling.
"These are problems that our industry can solve now," said Fitzgerald. "The problem is that contractors are often reluctant to ask. We've found that when our Maytag, Frigidaire, Tappan, and Westinghouse professionals spend time with their customers in a nonthreatening, helpful manner to determine their comfort problems, consumers respond very positively."
Sidebar: York UPG's 15-Step Retail Sales Process1. Sales lead dispatch - Getting the technician to the job.
2. Greet customer and develop rapport - Building the relationship.
3. Customer assessment - Conducting a needs analysis and asking questions.
4. Technical assessment - Defining the job and onsite requirements.
5. Presentation - Involving the customer and presenting the options; positioning.
6. Closing - Attempting one call close, asking for the business, getting the sale.
7. Complete customer paperwork - Completing the administrative paperwork.
8. Call production coordinator - Scheduling the installation immediately.
9. Assemble leave-behind package - Creating the customer package, materials, forms, and financing.
10. Conclude call - Taking care of final relationship touches, saying thanks for the business.
11. Complete other paperwork - Writing a thank you card, completing internal company paperwork, and obtaining commission.
12. Assemble customer package - Assembling warranties, guarantees, and supporting documents.
13. Call lead coordinator to debrief - Reviewing sales calls, debriefing form and data, and next sales call.
14. Mail thank you card.
15. After-the-sale follow up - Doing a quality walk-through, making a referral request, and presenting a thank you gift.
Sidebar: Consumer Education About Upgrades And ReplacementsBecause 13-SEER and higher condensing units have a coil surface area up to 50 percent larger than their predecessors, the higher-efficiency units require more refrigerant - up to 40 percent more refrigerant, compared to a 10-SEER unit. So, new condensing units must be properly matched to other system components, in order to perform at peak efficiency, while providing savings and comfort.
York UPG recommends that contractors must:
UPG has published a white paper for contractors, with technical detail supporting these points. In addition, a consumer educational package will be available for dealers to use with homeowners who are considering a cooling system upgrade. A video/DVD and companion brochure will explain in lay terms the importance of matching the indoor and outdoor components of the HVAC system.
These educational materials will show how a qualified contractor can help homeowners avoid a number of risks associated with any condensing unit that is not properly matched to the indoor coil. These risks include loss in system performance and efficiency, premature compressor failure, increased energy costs, reduced comfort and reliability, and void of manufacturer warranty.
Publication date: 10/31/2005