It was not long ago that those selling heating and cooling systems relied on pen, paper, and a calculator to determine what size or type of equipment would work best for a particular application. With the advent of mobile apps, those days are gone, as comfort advisors can now tap the necessary data into a smartphone or tablet, and within minutes, they have the information needed to help end users select the proper system for their home or office.

There is no question that apps are changing the way the sales process works, for both comfort advisors and customers. As Gabriel Weiss, interactive marketing technologies manager, Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating Division, noted, “Apps take convenience to the next level by making it easier for contractors to educate their customers on system benefits that simply cannot be shown on paper or through product specs and numbers. It tailors the sales process to each individual customer’s space, which, in turn, makes selling the product that much easier.”

Augmenting Reality

To make life easier for its dealers, Mitsubishi Electric offers a variety of apps they can use as sales tools. The latest, meVIEW AR™ (available for free through the meSync™ custom enterprise app program), launched in July 2013 and was created to provide contractors with an easy way to answer one of the most common questions heard from potential customers, “What will a ductless unit look like in my room?”

Available for use with the iPad, meVIEW AR works with a custom-printed, large Post-it® note sheet that contractors use to mark the location where the ductless unit would be installed. The app then translates the marker into a scaled 3-D model of the indoor or outdoor unit on the iPad screen. This takes the guesswork out of the equation, as homeowners can see a customized, augmented reality of how the product would actually look in their homes, noted Weiss.

“MeVIEW AR makes it easy to showcase and sell Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems in that it lays to rest the uncertainty about the appearance of the units within a space,” said Weiss. “With this app, contractors can give homeowners a solid understanding of how the unit will blend into their space. Contractors can email the image to the customer directly from the app, use it as part of the provided estimate sheet, and then give it to the installers, so they know exactly where the customer wants the unit installed.”

The app also features an interactive interface in which users can select various unit styles and sizes in order to find the most appropriate and aesthetically pleasing solution for their space. “MeVIEW AR provides potential customers with the comfort of knowing exactly what they’re getting before they buy, and that confidence in the product is what helps close the sale,” said Weiss.

A MAP for Success

Trane’s Mobile Application for the Professional (MAP) app, which is available for free to Trane Comfort Specialist dealers, is designed to help comfort advisors design, present, and sell Trane home comfort systems at the kitchen table. Available for use on the iPad, MAP is an interactive tool that allows homeowners to compare the various options available that meet their home comfort needs.

“While flipbooks can be effective sales tools, Trane MAP allows comfort advisors to take their presentations to the next level,” said Adam Jones, MAP and Raleigh DSO sales leader, Trane. “It’s fast, professional, easy to use, and gives the homeowner the opportunity to select the best system in just one sales call. Comfort advisors who use Trane MAP report that the application helps them close a higher mix of equipment and improves their closure rate, while increasing customer satisfaction by ensuring homeowners get exactly what they expected.”

Primarily designed for system replacement sales, Trane MAP features a customer needs analysis section — called the Comfort Checklist — a thorough home survey, a load calculation module, and an Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)-matched system tool. To assist with closing the sale, the app includes a presentation with 12 videos that highlight the features and benefits of Trane systems. Digital sales proposals can also be created, which the customer can sign directly within the application and receive via email for their records. The contractor can then use MAP to send the work order to the installation coordinator with a complete description of parts, equipment, installation notes, and illustrations needed to install exactly what the customer was promised.

“While sales apps will never replace contractors or salespeople, they do help facilitate a conversation with the homeowner and provide a consistent, professional customer experience,” said Jones.

Become a Sales Pro

Bryant’s® Pro app (available at Bryant’s dealer Web portal) provides dealers with key selling tools in one place with an easy-to-use format, said Lisa Townley, brand manager, Bryant. “The app is designed to complement the selling process and to help the dealer organize information into an effective presentation that covers best/better/good options. Dealers who use this app have found that it helps them effectively improve their sales.”

Currently available in iOS format for iPad tablets (Android compatibility to come in the future), Bryant Pro includes furnace sound lab comparisons; Evolution® Extreme™ heat pump heating hours calculator; and seamless links to Wrightsoft’s Bryant Mobile Consultant™ app (subscription required), which provides an operating cost calculator, load calculations, reports, and proposals. In spring 2014, the app will be updated to include an easy-to-use homeowner Q-and-A survey with interactive tools to help dealers sell Bryant Evolution systems.

Bryant Pro is primarily designed for new equipment sales, but it also covers IAQ accessories and financing. “The app assists dealers by providing easy access to comprehensive product information, which is effectively organized so that it is easier for the homeowner to understand,” said Townley. “It also allows dealers to easily demonstrate product capabilities and reports for the homeowner — especially the new Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats and controls. In today’s high-tech environment, the app sets our dealers apart.”

Conveniently Located

Rheem’s iPad app (available free to Rheem and Ruud dealers at and helps Rheem and Ruud contractors educate homeowners about energy-efficient equipment while increasing their credibility. “We designed the app so that it gives our customers a sophisticated and engaging way to talk to homeowners about HVAC and water heating equipment — hopefully making it easier for consumers to understand the different choices available and the features and benefits of each,” said Bill Alderson, senior Web and creative manager, Rheem.

Rheem’s app focuses mainly on new equipment, giving contractors access to all product information in one convenient place. From the app, they can also use a number of tools, such as DesignStar™ software, which is an online program that helps Rheem contractors specify customized HVAC systems for their customers. The app also contains information about replacement parts, provides an overview of financing options, and offers a contact form so that the contractor can get in touch with Rheem directly, if more assistance is needed.

“We suggest that contractors use the app on visits with homeowners, because it helps them present a polished image to customers. Not to mention, homeowners are already familiar and comfortable with iPads, so it’s easy for them to follow along while contractors are going through the app,” said Alderson. “Sales apps such as ours are great tools for contractors, because they provide much deeper, richer information than anything they’ve ever had in the field before. And, all of this information comes in a slim, consumer-friendly device — not a bulky product catalog or even a laptop.”

Toolbox in Your Hand

Emerson Industrial Automation launched the Browning Toolbox Technician app, in early 2013, which is a complete redevelopment and expansion of its Efficiency Calculator app. Available for download on Apple and Android devices, this app provides contractors and maintenance personnel information needed to select, install, troubleshoot, and maintain belt-drive and bearing products common in HVAC applications.

“We call the Toolbox Technician ‘a lifeline in the palm of your hand,’ because it was designed to be an indispensable lifeline for HVAC contractors and technicians on multiple levels,” said Don R. Sullivan, marketing manager, Emerson Industrial Automation. “Contractors and technicians told us they needed general information on product installation, maintenance, identification, and troubleshooting. We took all that data and built an easy-to-use navigation platform that allows the quick retrieval of information.”

The app also provides intuitive calculators that compare efficiency options, giving contractors the ability to instantly calculate payback and offer solutions to building owners and managers. This gives contractors an information edge they can use to set themselves apart in a competitive bid situation, noted Sullivan.

Finally, the app offers where-to-buy functionality, so users can either input their geographic location or, if they have GPS-enabled devices, the app will display the closest authorized HVAC wholesalers and product retailers. “The display also lists all related retailer contact information, such as address and phone number, so the technician can call and check stock without ever leaving the job site,” said Sullivan.

Sales apps will never replace comfort advisors, but, as seen here, they can certainly make their lives easier. With everything they need at the push of a button, advisors can select the right systems for customers, educate them about their benefits, and most importantly, close more deals.

SIDEBAR: Distributors Get in on the App

Manufacturers are not the only ones offering sales apps — distributors are beginning to roll out apps designed to make contractors’ lives easier as well.

Johnstone Supply’s app gives customers access to real-time pricing and availability, helps them locate stores, and provides access to their order history. An integrated cart feature allows customers to browse and shop on one device, then view the cart and place the actual order from another device later on. Designed to work with Apple and Android devices and tablets, the free app can be downloaded from Apple iTunes and Google Play.

“Our app is ideal for contractors out in the field who are on-site with customers,” said Brian Klaus, director of eCommerce, Johnstone Supply. “With the app, contractors can log in and, within seconds, see if their local Johnstone Supply store has the inventory they need and what their price is in real-time, right at the point of sale. That means the contractor can be freed from having to actually travel to a store or even talk to Johnstone on the phone, giving them more sales options, and getting more service calls completed in a week.”

While not every customer is armed with a smart device, many contractors do embrace this technology, and it is fundamentally changing the way they do business, said Klaus. “Apps are providing never-before-possible access to incredible amounts of useful information. Without ever having to leave a job site, they can use smart devices to find product answers, troubleshoot problems, access technical information, see product availability, and place orders. Our mobile app has definitely made it easier for those contractors out in the field who have these devices, and forever changed the way those contractors do business with Johnstone.”

WinWholesale also recently introduced a mobile app called Pros Like You, which can help customers find a store location, request a quote, and have access to field and business tools. It was necessary to create the app, said Steve Edwards, vice president of marketing, WinWholesale, because “Mobile accessibility is becoming critically important for our customers, as smartphones and tablets become more common.”

Available for use on Apple and Android devices and tablets, the free app can be downloaded from Apple iTunes and Google Play. Using the Pros Like You app, Edwards noted that contractors at the job site can use field tools to help scope what products are required for a job and then use get a quote to obtain prices from a Win or Noland location. “Or, if preferred, contractors can use ‘find a location’ to determine the closest store location, so they can pick up what’s needed for the job. Being able to save time with field tools can mean more sales and repeat business.”

While sales are ultimately about building customer relationships, having the right products, and providing exceptional service, mobile apps definitely enhance the process, said Edwards. “By providing information to contractors faster and on the spot, they can sell more products, as well as advise customers about the right solutions for their needs.”

Publication date: 12/30/2013

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