MILWAUKEE — Johnson Controls has graduated the inaugural class from year one of its new Trusted Advisor program. The 40 graduating students received an extensive education that goes beyond product knowledge, making them prepared to support contractors. The graduation event was held at the Ducted Systems Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in August 2022 and included student presentations, a factory tour, and the graduation and award ceremony. Students begin year two in January 2023.  

The Trusted Advisor program — an intensive distributor training program that builds territory managers’ sales skills — began in August 2021 with 38 instructional weeks. The program includes a combination of in-person and virtual classes in operations, sales, and communications led by Johnson Controls, as well as vendor classes led by Service Business Evolution (SBE), Grandy and Associates, and industry expert, Scott Ritchey. Students must be nominated by local distributor owners or management throughout North America.  

“At Johnson Controls, the success of our partners is directly correlated to our success,” said Joshua Coaten, director of business development and sales opportunities, Johnson Controls. “The overall goal of the Trusted Advisor program is to provide new or established territory managers with the education, guidance and support for them to enrich their relationships with contractors. The program goes far beyond product knowledge — it makes them better consultants and separates them from their competitors. It’s another example of how Johnson Controls invests in the continued growth of our partners and their businesses.” 

Students focus on various categories throughout the year. The five main class categories are:  

  • Soft skills: Develops work ethic, integrity, honesty in communications and emphasizes the importance of ongoing teachability 
  • Sales conversation skills: Defines communication skills that resonate with contractors, respects social styles and time frames, promotes value propositions, and creates mutual accountability 
  • Product knowledge: Promotes proficiency in product lines, features and benefits, and how products provide advantage in each contractor’s market 
  • Market knowledge: Learn market strategies, and territory planning and management as well as what customers create the best business portfolio 
  • Account management: Understand and leverage the best company provided programs for each contractor, define time management systems, and become a Trusted Advisor to best assist contractors in maximizing their profit and growth 

Students are tested on their performance to provide benchmarks before, during and after each year of participation, which is featured on a performance dashboard to show how the program is helping distributors move the sales needle. 

To demonstrate this growth, all graduating students from year one prepared a 15-minute presentation on two of the categories of their choice as well as an impromptu topic for the graduation event. The program has had very high engagement, with a 75% retention rate. Year two, which begins in January 2023, will build on what graduating students have learned in year one and involves in-depth training on critical success factors. In addition, two new classes of students will begin year one of their Trusted Advisor program in January 2023. With these new participants, the program has tripled in size. 

“This training program is my favorite of all the trainings I have engaged in,” said Kyle Zimmerman, territory manager at Bellevue, Washington-based Johnstone Supply and Trusted Advisor student. “Taking us on the journey to learn the difference from being a Territory Manager and becoming a true Trusted Advisor is huge. I now want to do everything I can to become a Trusted Advisor.”  

The graduation ceremony took place at the Ducted Systems Academy, a 30,000-square-foot training center that offers world-class commercial and residential HVAC training. The Trusted Advisor program is managed in a partnership between Johnson Controls Business Development and the Academy.