A Totaline distributor stands behind the products he sells and makes sure that his dealer customers have what they need each time they visit the distributorship, such as Carrier Great Lakes, Troy, Mich. (Photo by Brendan Ross Photography.)

In the highly competitive HVACR aftermarket product business, there are many giants - distributors that spend a lot of time marketing to and educating their contractor customers. It stands to reason that building a solid aftermarket business is key to the survival of not only the distributors, but their customers as well.

That type of thinking is on display each day in companies such as Totaline, which has typified why aftermarket branding is so important today. And it isn’t just branding that plays a key role; it is the commitment to helping each customer grow his or her business with quality products backed by quality service.

Time is money. That’s not a profound statement, but distributors know the importance of saving their customers’ time by having everything each customer needs - or making sure they get it as soon as possible.

“When a contractor comes into a place of business that offers a full line of aftermarket products, he’s best served when he can come in and get everything needed for the job,” said Ken Hurst of the Habegger Corp., Indianapolis. “Dealers used to go several places to get everything needed for a job, from caulk and wires to sheet metal and HVAC equipment. Now, dealers can go to one place to get everything needed for the job, saving time and money.

“In addition to offering the customer convenience, other items outside of HVAC equipment have a much better profit margin, allowing the distributor and dealer more opportunities for profit.”

With the high cost of gas cutting into profit margins, a one-stop shop is more important than ever.

“Contractors are very conscious of high fuel prices; they do not want to drive around to several different stores to get everything they need for a job,” Hurst said. “Additionally, dealers only have to process one invoice rather than six or more, saving time and paper in their accounts payable. When a dealer can get everything in one place, they save time, valuable resources, and money.”


As with any changes, it takes a while to adapt to and embrace a new concept or way of doing business. Totaline distributors are seeing their efforts pay off in a big way.

“There was a learning curve of what the Totaline name stood for,” said Brad Harrman of Yeoman’s Distributing Co., Peoria, Ill. “Now our customers know it is quality products at competitive prices.”

“Contractors are pleased and look for the quality provided by the extensive line of Totaline products and supplies,” said Maria Uccino of Carrier/Bryant Northeast, Syracuse, N.Y. “We have 26 locations offering a complete line of parts and supplies, and we are open in most areas six days a week.”

Hurst said that his dealers don’t have to jump into purchasing with both feet - they can give their aftermarket products a test run first, which the dealers appreciate. “We allow dealers to sample the products to compare to other aftermarket brands and we’ve found that our customers are very happy with the results and secure with the quality they receive,” he said.

Besides reacting favorably to the entire product line, dealers are also enjoying the expertise that goes along with purchases. Having well-trained and educated people can make a big difference, especially when there is so much quality aftermarket equipment on the HVACR market.

Uccino said, “Our sales associates have the technical expertise to solve a contractor’s worst problem jobs. In several of our stores, we have an outside parts manager who works with our contractors on stocking plans that take away the need for a contractor to worry about what parts or supplies he needs for his jobs. The outside parts manager, in essence, becomes an extension of that contractor’s business and works to ensure he has all he needs on a daily basis to complete his jobs.”


HVACR distributors are facing even more competitive pressure in a down economy. There just isn’t as much money to go around as dealers and their customers find the best ways to stretch their budgets. That’s why so many distributors see the importance of having everything in one location.

“In this slow economy, when consumers are buying less total replacement systems and new construction is down, we can bring new products and technology to keep our dealers on the cutting edge,” said Hurst. “We see a lot of movement in the area of IAQ and retrofitted dual-fuel systems that help consumers improve indoor air quality and save energy. We also have the ability to demonstrate products and get the new technology in the dealers’ hands, helping them bring it to market more quickly and more effectively.”

Harrman said, “We strive to constantly help our customers become more profitable in their business by offering them competitive solutions to their parts needs.”

Uccino said that in a down economy, it is important to offer more than just parts and supplies. Beyond products, we have a vast array of programs that help our customers,” she said.

“We provide both technical and sales training to keep our contractors on top of their game. Special promotions on selected products, primarily those that are key to their business, allow us to pass savings on to our customers. We also help with marketing and advertising of the dealer’s business, and partner with them to generate leads.

“As a full-service distributor, we bring the talent and resources of our organization to the table, and truly partner with our customers to help them grow,” she said. “If our customers are profitable, then we are profitable.”

Sidebar: What It Means to Distributors

It’s obvious that HVACR contractors are the beneficiaries of complete aftermarket equipment, parts, and supplies from Totaline distributors. But how do being Totaline distributors affect each of their own bottom lines?

“It has positively influenced our business over the years,” said Hurst.

“Aftermarket products have more of a profit margin for us and for our customers. By being able to handle and move through the distribution channel, the distributor and the dealer have a better opportunity for profit margin.”

“As we strive to be the one-stop source of all HVAC product and supplies, it helps to have a solid brand like Totaline,” said Uccino.

“By having the right product, at the right time and for the right price, we have been able to grow our business and capture more share of our customers’ purchases.”

“The aftermarket items have definitely helped our customers come to realize that we are not just an OEM supplier,” said Harrman.

“In fact, we have a good selection of parts and supplies at competitive prices, which make the contractor come to us for a majority of his HVAC needs, which in turn means more profit for us and more profit for our customers.”

Publication date:08/18/2008