Bob Billings, owner of Heat Pro Heating & Cooling LLC, services a Coleman Echelon furnace.

NORMAN, Okla. - In 2003, Bob and Ginny Billings, owners of Heat Pro Heating & Cooling LLC, Tipton, Ind., reluctantly added Coleman® Heating and Air Conditioning products to their home comfort product offering. Three years later, sales have more than doubled, the couple has moved their business from their garage to a storefront property, and Coleman has become their No. 1 product line.

"The move to Coleman was not an easy one to make," said Bob. "I was comfortable with our business at the time and the line of products we were handling, and I really don't like change."

However, the persistence of Johnstone Supply, the regional Coleman distributor, convinced the couple to try the line. Today, it's a decision they don't regret.

"Brand recognition was there from the beginning," said Ginny. "A lot of people may not know that Coleman sells furnaces, but they know the company makes quality outdoor equipment. So when people see our Coleman sign, they connect that reputation for quality to the products we offer."

The couple pointed out other advantages of making the move to a new product line. "Coleman listens to their dealers and responds to our suggestions, questions, and, in some cases, our complaints," Bob said. "For example, when Ginny and I first started handling their equipment, we noticed that the powder coating on the outside of the furnaces scratched easily. We alerted our distributor and, shortly after that, the company upgraded the coating to one that is much more durable."

In another instance, Ginny recalled problems with the knobs on the Echelon units. "They were slightly recessed, and some technicians' fingers were too big to get in and turn the knobs," she said.

"The folks at Coleman responded, redesigning the access panel with magnets rather than knobs. I'm just so impressed with how well they listen to us and respond to our concerns."

As with any good product line, the duo expected support programs and services that help them manage their business. Coleman dealers have access to a co-op advertising program that includes newspaper, magazine, broadcast, and billboard advertising. All ads can be customized with dealer tags and are eligible for co-op reimbursement.

Bob and Ginny are strong proponents of the Coleman co-marketing program. "We took advantage of the co-marketing program last year and were pleased with the results," said Ginny. "People called us looking for information in response to the program. We wanted our phone to ring, and it did. We even picked up some installations from a new market we targeted for the first time."

As a Coleman Liberties Plusâ„¢ dealer, the couple has access to a variety of other services and programs designed to help them manage their business. "First of all, being a Liberties Plus dealer means better pricing for us, which we can pass along to our customers," said Ginny. "We also like the fact that we have access to the Build-A-Brochureâ„¢ and Ad Plannerâ„¢ programs. These programs offer everything we need to create our own ads and brochures. That and the direct mail program I think are awesome marketing tools."

Ginny is also taking advantage of Net.Prophet, an online learning tool that offers training material and advice from industry experts, as well as: proven business models and processes; materials, forms, and lead generation systems; teleconference training and updates; access to other contractors; a library of HVAC solutions; and audio/video training via the Internet on key HVAC principles. "I'm really excited about this program and am in the process of entering the required information about our business, so that we can take advantage of all the material the program offers us," she said. "What's really nice right now is that I can work on it as I have time, whenever my schedule permits."

"We'd also like to get involved in Coleman's Business Training University (BTU)," Ginny said. Coleman's BTU training supports dealers and distributors with the services, materials, and training they need to remain competitive. The curriculums teach everyday business practices in workshop-style settings that increase learning potential and support execution.

"Then there's the Coleman extranet," Ginny said. "It's a major plus. I love all the information available to us there. In fact, the entire program is just full of perks that helped make the equipment switch such a good one for us."

"Customer service is also very good and important to us, almost as important as a quality product line, and Coleman and our distributor, Johnstone Supply, provide that service," Bob said. "Since becoming a Coleman dealer we've found that if you make a commitment to them, they'll make a commitment to you."

For more information, visit Coleman online at

Publication date: 10/30/2006