When asked what I do for a living, I always say, “marketing for HVAC companies in Chicago.” Today’s catch phrase is: “business development,” but let’s call a spade a spade. What we do is telemarketing. Doesn’t sound too glamorous, does it? Regardless how many times we marketers have been hung up on, you can’t deny we play a crucial role in a company’s development and the growth of the HVAC supply chain, as a whole.
Without us, there are no opportunities. It’s much like the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart when he finally realizes what an impact his life had on everyone around him.
Without our input, many sales would never have occurred. Several HVAC companies’ bottom lines would look a lot more dismal without us. And, our skills should be much more prized today than they were in the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s. People today don’t want to speak to one another — they’d rather send you a text message or sell you something from their blogs. We have elevated people skills into an art form. My people skills have brought me to where I am today. They have given me my career, and I love it.
This is not to say that prospective clients haven’t turned me down more times than the ugly girl at the Bunny Ranch. I love finding out what makes people tick, that’s what makes it fun for me.
Manufacturing companies, hotels, property management firms, high-rises, condos, hospitals, nursing homes, and universities are great places to start on your marketing endeavors. You can get lists off the Internet at a cost of $100-$125 for each category. You can also contact me and I’ll connect you with companies that have lists.
Aim to connect with engineering directors, chief engineers, facility managers, directors of operations, regional managers, and property managers.
Sometimes it can be pretty hard getting past the gatekeeper, but, never say never. High-rise condos or apartment complexes tend to play their cards close to their vests, but you usually end up getting the name you’re looking for.
Hospitals and universities have many contacts. Just ask to speak to the person who handles HVAC or construction and the head of the maintenance department. You may talk to a lot of people, but continue asking the people in charge of construction and maintenance who to talk to. Manufacturing companies, if they’re large enough, can be tricky, also. Treat them the same way you would a hospital.
I’ve been working in the Chicago area for quite a while. Northwestern University and Northwestern Hospital each have 15 or more contacts to deal with. It’s like a maze, and I’m still figuring out who the proper players are. These contacts have taught me so much over the years. They lead you to other people, and, before you know it, you’ve accumulated a list of valuable contacts.
NEVER GIVE UP
I called Medline — a huge medical equipment company — three years ago. While calling the eight or so locations they have in the Chicago suburbs, one of the engineers told me, “Everything goes through Ron at corporate.” For a marketer like myself, Ron’s existence seemed like a closely guarded secret.
Eventually, I got ahold of “the man.” When I called him, he was downright rude — he hung up on me. Three months later, I called back, and he said to call back in August. This time around, he was very nice. When I get people like him on the phone, I like to set up a dog and pony show by asking if we could please meet with him to introduce our company.
I learned early on from being in this industry that UPS is a primo account. Contact information for its warehouses and hubs is not listed anywhere. I somehow found a number and called.
I spoke with a girl who gave me all sorts of names and numbers. You have to be on a list to get in there, it’s like getting into the White House. She promised they’d try us out, and, six months later, we got a call to do some maintenance work.
When establishing these contacts, always ask for their direct phone numbers and email addresses. This way, at the end of the year, your company can include them in an annual email campaign. Also, when they need a bid, many ranking reps prefer to email the RFP directly to the marketing contact. These contacts tell me everything — how many children/grandchildren they have, where they live, what they like to do, etc. At least twice a week, I talk with someone for at least an hour, and I love it. Ninety percent of the people I deal with are so kind and fun. That’s why I love what I do, and so should you.
THE APPPOINTMENT QUEEN
Sometimes, getting in touch with the proper people can be next to impossible. So, when you have them on the phone, get them to commit to a time and date. Otherwise, it may be three or four months before you’re able to connect with them again. I’m now recognized as the queen of the appointment.
Don’t walk into these appointments unprepared. I walk into these meetings ready for war — like I’m in the trenches of a World War I battle. I’m more knowledgeable than their general — I know who the key players are, which players left the company, which new property management company came in and took over that building, and who they use for HVAC.
I focus on building a relationship from day one. And, I make sure the follow-up is damn good, too.
A lot of times, the harder I try, the more I struggle, but it’s important to remember that even Reggie Jackson — Mr. October, himself — struck out more often than anybody in history.
When you’re constantly throwing leads off the wall, something has to stick. It’s a numbers game, and it doesn’t get any easier with time. In 1990, it was much easier to get in touch with my contacts. I blame it on the advent of the Internet. Fasten your seat belts, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Smile and dial.
Publication date: 7/6/2015