Contractors Benefit by Showing, Telling Zoning

May 21, 2007
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Evolution™ Series zoning displays single-screen zone information, copying schedules to different zones. According to Bryant, the system also provides dealer-exclusive system diagnostics, including time-stamped last 10 system events and airflow noise check at each zone.

Mike Herrington will be the first to tell you that zoning is a big part of his business at Gainesville (Ga.) Mechanical. “In 2006, zoning sales accounted for approximately 10 percent of our total revenue for the year,” said the vice president of operations.

Hank Bloom will go a step further. “Zoning is about 20 percent of our business,” said the owner of Environmental Conditioning Systems, Mentor, Ohio.

How in the heck do these contractors get the business? Breaking it down, it’s rather simple. It’s a matter of show-and-tell.

“There are no secrets to selling zoning systems,” explained Herrington, who selected selling Bryant zoning systems because, in his estimation, “they sell themselves.”

“I just make sure the customer is aware of the different options offered by Bryant, and then I educate them on the advantages of the particular equipment selections they have chosen. Once customers are educated on the benefits of zoning and how it works, they are usually willing to make the investment.”

In other words, you have to at least introduce the product to the building owner, homeowner, and/or customer. “When we have more zones, we have happier people,” explained Bloom. “Usually zoning isn’t put into projects because it costs more, and most people don’t like hearing that things cost more. But it is a long-term investment and will benefit them in the future.”

It’s why he sits down with the client and provides show-and-tell. “What we like to do is get into a project in budget, and upsell the benefits of zoning,” said Bloom.

“If you have a good program, you will be able to provide the benefits of zoning. We try to help them see the big picture, the long-term benefits of zoning, which are energy efficiency, noise control, and happier employees and customers. Most of the time a customer will upgrade. Or, if they don’t have the funding at the time, they come back at a later date.”

TRAINING, EDUCATION NEEDED

It is Herringon’s belief that most contractors do not offer zoning installations because they do not have the training.

“If you are going to be successful in zoning installations, your people need to be fully trained,” he said. “Installers, technicians, salespeople, and project managers all have to have a firm grasp of what zoning can or cannot accomplish. This can be very expensive and time consuming at first, but more than worth the investment in the long run.

“Fortunately for us, most other contractors are too busy trying to be the low bidder than actually trying to solve someone’s problem.”

Truth be told, Bloom is not disappointed that many contractors do not offer zoning. That’s just more business for him. “Most contractors are used to the low-bid method, and are very cost conscious,” said Bloom. “Usually, the low-bid method causes unhappy customers.”

Like Herrington, Bloom is a firm believer that zoning generates more profit and more opportunities for service. “An example is if everyone had a thermostat in their office,” said Bloom. “They would be happier if they had a personal thermostat versus one to control three or four areas.

“Another example is a house, where the thermostat is in your living room. Because of that, the bedrooms are colder or warmer than the center. If you put a thermostat in each area of your house, you will have comfort and energy savings.”

Herrington believes his company is ahead of the curve. As zoning systems improve, look for more customers to ask for it, he said. “The old zoning systems were not very good, which gave zoning a bad rap with customers,” he said. “The new zoning systems are much more reliable and do a really fine job.”

Today’s customers are turning to the Internet to find out more about the product - and that is just fine with Herrington.

“The educated customer is a salesman’s best friend,” he said. “We pride ourselves in being able to solve any HVAC problem, and zoning systems enable us to do that on a regular basis.”

PLENTY OF BENEFITS

As mentioned before, Herrington is partial to Bryant’s Evolution Series zoning systems, as he said they are “easy to install because there are no bypass requirements.” The zoning system also has automatic duct assessment designed to measure and display airflow to each zone, he explained.

“Automatic duct assessment and airflow zoning configurations let a Bryant Evolution system adapt to more homeowner systems than ever before,” was Herrington’s assessment. “In addition, each zone can be customized for zone names and different airflow levels. Now the customer wants us to zone another property where he is having a similar problem. Like I said, they sell themselves.”

Bloom remembers helping an accounting firm with poor zoning. Environmental Conditioning Services installed a new system and it helped productivity, he said. “We found that more people were working after hours because of the new zoning,” said Bloom, a Trane dealer. “You can go into your office and set your HVAC to only your section. This conserves energy. Also, an accounting firm during tax season has higher traffic. If you have three or four people in an office, you want them to feel comfortable. This is where zoning will make them happy by providing that comfort.”

The commercial-industrial-institutional contractor, who has been in business since 1984, believes variable air volume (VAV) zoning can be grouped with VAV rooftops. “When you have zoning, you have a VAV box with a minimum-maximum flow control,” explained Bloom. “You can adjust the flow. That variable airflow will provide a more quiet temperature control and energy savings.”

Meanwhile, Herrington said his company recently sold a small school on zoning. According to the contractor who handles large commercial and industrial projects, the school had classrooms that were oriented on east-west exposures. There were four rooftop package units serving these classrooms - and thermostats were located in the east-facing classrooms.

“During the summer, they had to set the thermostats to 60°F to try to cool the classrooms on the west side of the building,” he explained. “One side was freezing while the other side was burning up.

“Rather than install additional units to serve the west side of the building, we installed zoning systems on all four rooftop units and the problem was solved.”

In this case, Herrington said he now has a real, live show-and-tell sample to prove to potential customers that zoning works.


ANOTHER THOUGHT: THINK LIKE A CUSTOMER

Mark Lomas has a different way of selling zoning. In his estimation, if a contractor thinks like a customer, you’re half way there.

“We solve customer problems, such as taking hot second stories, cold finished basements, that stuffy room over the garage, or parts of the home that empty-nesters just don’t use anymore, and make the livable space livable again,” explained Lomas of 72 Degrees® Heating and Cooling, Pennsauken, N.J.

By thinking as a customer would, Lomas said he has seen his average ticket on zoning projects leap to $4,500. Lomas’ company has already installed a dozen or so zoning systems this year and has had just as much success with IAQ solutions. Leveraging the turnkey marketing program the contracting firm received from its membership organization (AirTime 500), coupled with a Website designed for homeowners on the benefits of zoning and IAQ (www.betterairnow.com), Lomas said his company has been averaging nearly $4,000 on each IAQ ticket. According to his financial statement, this has translated into nearly $50,000 in zoning revenues and over $75,000 in IAQ revenues so far this calendar year.

“We pay strict attention to the problems homeowners are having with their comfort levels, just as they are outlined on the ‘Better Air Now’ Website, and this has had a huge impact in conveying to the homeowner that we understand what she or he has to put up with on a daily basis in her or his own home,” said Lomas.

Lomas said his team of professional technicians has the right answer for each environmental problem in a home.

“We train all of our technicians to say and do just the right things that result in sales and make the homeowner more comfortable,” he said. “We receive this specialized training from our membership organization, AirTime 500, which also provides us with deep discounts on both zoning and IAQ products that cannot be shopped by the homeowner.”

Lomas said his company’s affiliation with the Clean Indoor Air Alliance (CIA2) has also given his company a way to educate homeowners on the importance of the quality of the air inside their homes “and it backs up everything we say when in the home.” CIA2 is a group of HVAC contractors who are “committed to eliminating indoor air pollution in homes everywhere.”

According to Lomas, the contractors in this group are dedicated to installing premier zoning and IAQ products and training their technicians to become highly-skilled communicators to help solve homeowners’ air quality problems.

To get the phone to ring, Lomas said he uses lead-generation marketing pieces from the alliance to spread the word about the importance of healthy indoor air.

“The program has been a very powerful one-two punch,” he said. “We promote the program through marketing and then close the loop when in the home by relating the benefits to the most common problems a homeowner is likely experiencing.”

Publication date: 05/21/2007

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