Radiant Contractors Share Keys to Success

May 29, 2000
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PROVIDENCE, RI — Some of the leading radiant heating contractors in the United States gathered for the “Radiant Heating Conference and Trade Show 2000.” They shared a wealth of knowledge about marketing and selling radiant heating.

Three contractors held court at one of the many panel discussions during the three-day conference. Attendees of “Marketing & Selling From Experience” got some inside tips from Greg Jannone, Jim Patterson, and Paul Pollets. Here are some excerpts from their seminar.

Jannone On Differentiation

Greg Jannone, owner of William Jannone & Sons Plumbing & Heating, Bound Brook, NJ, is a second-generation contractor who has been involved in the family business for more than 17 years.

He is actively involved in residential and light commercial radiant floor heating, and has been a past Top Honors winner in the Radiant Panel Association (RPA) “System Showcase.”

Jannone followed his father’s footsteps into the plumbing business. “I wanted to be like Dad and do what Dad did.” Jannone eventually “became fascinated” with radiant heating and spent a lot of time learning the technology.

“I didn’t see a future in plumbing because it was so price-driven, and the quality and care were just not there,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘What can I do to be different from my competitors — to be a step above?’”

One of the first sales tool he used was turning in company profiles whenever he made a proposal. He wanted customers to know who they were dealing with. He also began taking pictures of all of his projects, compiling a portfolio which kept growing and growing.

“We used pictures from our jobs and reproduced them for the sides of our trucks,” he said. “Our truck advertising is very important and radiant heating plays a prominent role.”

He also uses home shows to market his company. “We started out by doing all of the local shows, then narrowed it down to two or three that gave us the best results. We get a real good return from a show, as well as good exposure.”

Patterson On ‘Comfort Experts’

Jim Patterson is the general manager of Orchard Valley Technology, Haydenville, MA, a spin-off of larger Massachusetts mechanical contractor. He started his career in the hvacr trade as an apprentice plumber in 1986. He holds nine hvacr and plumbing-related licenses in New England, and is responsible for sales and design of hvacr work at Orchard Valley.

Patterson said his company started bringing residential radiant heating into the commercial market, which eventually led to the spin-off company and a branching out into the high-end residential market.

He added that Orchard Valley’s employees like the new market. “Now that we are into radiant heat, I couldn’t get my plumbers to work on a toilet if I doubled their rate.”

He likes to think of his company as the “comfort experts,” and lists four factors of radiant comfort that he sells to customers:

  1. Temperature control;
  2. Humidity control;
  3. Dehumidification; and
  4. Air quality.

“We try to sell customers a package of components that combine these factors — selling comfort,” Patterson said.

Pollets On Selling Styles

Paul Pollets is the owner of Advanced Radiant Technology in Seattle. He has 29 years of experience as a licensed journeyman plumber, steamfitter, estimator, project manager, and hydronics engineer. He is a highly visible supporter of the radiant heating industry, and has added website design to his list of credentials.

In fact, Pollets won a website design award from Inc. magazine in the category of small businesses. The site address is www.advancedradiant.com.

Pollets spent most of his business career on the East Coast, and when he uprooted and moved to the Seattle, WA area, he had to adapt to a new way of doing business. “The unique nature of the Seattle area is that there are a lot of ‘techies,’ people who work for companies like Microsoft and Adobe, and who do their purchasing through the Internet.”

With this in mind, Pollets decided to spend a great deal of time and money on developing a website that would showcase his company’s projects and keep visitors online for more than a few seconds.

“I spent 300 hours locked in my partner’s [Sheldon Balberman’s] house developing an Internet strategy with him,” Pollets said. “Now, 70% of our business comes from the Internet. After three years, we hit $1 million in sales with a 20% net profit after taxes — all with three trucks and three mechanics.”

Pollets offered some advice for dealing with prospective customers:

  • Establish a relationship with the client — ask questions. Diffuse the “price per square foot” question and differentiate yourself from the “Joe Buttcrack” contractors.

  • Learn to “schmooze” with your customers.

  • Learn who the “tire kickers” are, how to spot them, and how to avoid them.

  • Don’t spend a lot of time chasing general contractors, because they don’t quite get what you do anyway.

  • Go beyond the phone call. Take your customer to a jobsite. Pollets said he closes 100% of his sales when he takes a customer to a home he has worked on.

  • Talk to women. Pollets said he closes more sales with them than men, because they usually make the buying decisions.

  • Always think outside of the box.

Look for more coverage of the “Radiant Heating Conference and Trade Show 2000” in next week’s issue of The News.

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