Closing more sales is the goal of just about every HVAC contractor, which is why many are starting to use sales apps as a way of making the process more engaging for consumers. Apps are inherently more interactive than the old pen-and-paper method, as they encourage customers to participate in selecting the best system for their situation — ultimately selling themselves on it along the way.

That is how it normally works for Charlie Ward, owner, Higgins Heating, Bemidji, Minnesota, who has used a sales app since April. “It always starts out with me showing customers the options, and it doesn’t take long for them to grab the iPad from me and start building their own system. And I encourage that, because it gets them involved.”

That involvement pays off as Ward noted his close rate has almost doubled to 80 percent since he first started using the app. And, he is selling a wider range of equipment and accessories than he ever did before.

Closing the Deal

As a self-proclaimed “non-computer guy,” Ward was a little scared about trying out a sales app, but he decided to take the plunge at a dealer meeting he attended last February. “My son was with me, and he kept pushing me to do it. So, I thought, what the hell — it was only $350. And he was right — buying the Add2Cart app was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Setting up the app took a fair amount of time, as Ward had to price every piece of equipment individually and then upload the pricing to the app. “This is not something you can just turn on and run with. My son and I spent about 20 hours getting it all set up, so, initially, it’s fairly labor-intensive. But, once everything is uploaded, it’s really easy to use.”

In order to feel comfortable with the new app, Ward practiced using it with his kids and staff members before trying it out in the field. He was encouraged by the positive response he received from the first customer he tried it out on, and he has been using it ever since.

Ward uses the app for new equipment sales only, noting it has helped him sell a wider range of products, from filtration systems to humidifiers to thermostats. “Before I had the app, I never sold one of those Wi-Fi thermostats. Since I started using Add2Cart, I’ve probably sold about 30 of them. It’s really easy to offer options without having to write them down because customers can flip through everything in just seconds.”

What Ward likes most about the app is that it helps him close more sales on the first visit. “I don’t care what you sell; you want to make that sale before you leave the house. You want to close the deal, which is why I want to give customers as many options as possible. The beauty of this app is that it allows them to build their own systems based on how much they want to spend. I’m sold on it — I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Simplified Sales

Brad Mann, owner, Comfort First Heating and Cooling, Lansing, Michigan, started using a sales app about a year ago to transition away from having a technical sales staff configure systems for customers. With the JobFLEX app, Mann is able to hire salespeople who have strong people skills and understand the benefits of the equipment, but may lack technical backgrounds. “This was our first real go-round of having a nontechnical sales staff, and it has worked quite well because they’re better at sales.”

Transitioning to a nontechnical sales staff was necessary, said Mann because it was becoming harder to find people who had the technical knowledge necessary to sell the products his company installs. “I think everybody faces that challenge in this industry. There is a huge labor shortage that comes from a lack of skilled people out there, and that forced us to evaluate what it takes to make a sale. We found we could move to a system that was still effective in terms of making the sale, but that was easy to use and did not require a person with a background in HVAC.”

Mann evaluated several sales apps but decided on JobFLEX primarily because it can work offline.

“We serve a city market, but we also serve a lot of rural markets, and there are areas where you can barely get your cellphone to work. I didn’t want our salespeople to go into a customer’s house and be unable to pull up the program because there was either no access to the Internet, or the connection was too slow. With JobFLEX, our people can work offline to create the proposal, and that information is uploaded automatically to our office once they have connectivity again.”

Using the sales app has increased revenue for Mann’s company, and the average ticket price for one salesperson has jumped to $9,200. “That’s because the salesperson can spend more time focusing on the customer instead of sitting there working with an estimating tool for 30 minutes before cranking out the proposal. You lose a lot of interaction with the homeowner during the time you’re working with your head down.”

The new app offers the added benefit of being goof-proof as salespeople cannot select equipment or piping that is the wrong size. For example, Mann’s company sells generators, which require the gas piping to be a specific size. “That is a critical calculation, but, with the app, the salespeople just select the generator. It won’t let them select piping that is undersized. Previously, salespeople had to know the gas piping charts for the generators as well as the wire-sizing guidelines. Now, the app takes care of all of that, which is a big advantage.”

Proprietary Proposals

After Bronson Shavitz, owner, Shavitz Heating and Air Conditioning, Skokie, Illinois, looked at how much time it took his staff to create a proposal, he decided a change was needed, so he had a sales app built especially for his company.

“We used to have a very cumbersome sales process that took almost two hours,” said Shavitz. “You had to spend 15 or 20 minutes creating the proposal, calculating it in Excel, and building it in a Word document, which ate up a lot of valuable time. We weren’t spending time with our client, we were sitting in front of our computers; there had to be another way.”

As a result, Shavitz had an app built to his specifications, called HVAC Proposal Maker, which takes three minutes to create a proposal. The app offers many good/better/best equipment scenarios, as well as thermostat and IAQ options and company differentiators that the sales staff can offer to customers. The built-in PDFs, marketing information, and technical data are a big help for sales staff in the field. They no longer have to lug around piles of marketing documents. “The app has also improved accuracy, especially where financing is concerned, as two financing options are built in. The best part, though, is that it allows us to spend more time with the customer, rather than sitting in front of the computer typing away.”

Once the app was built and in use, several contractors started asking if they could use it, so Shavitz partnered with Intelligent Mobile Support, which will be offering it as part of its Axon app in early 2015. “The app is so helpful because it lets customers make the decisions. We still explain everything, but the customers are now more involved. They love it.”

Publication date: 12/29/2014

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!