PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Mark Olinghouse has an extensive background in helping commercial service companies grow. His resume is what made him an ideal person to speak with Aire Serv franchisees about the commercial service program that is available to them.

Olinghouse, founder of SDCorp and co-founder of HVAC Estimator, said the first thing that contractors must know about commercial service is this: "You need to have the right price for the service and know where the hours and money are coming from for the service."

Olinghouse listed some of the Aire Serv commercial program highlights, including sales tools, training/operator manuals, coaching, strategic planning, and software.

He said that manuals were available for people of all different skill levels, including a sales manual designed for people who know very little about the HVACR trade. But he added that manuals can only go so far; there has to be an understanding of the importance of a dedicated service team.

"You need to create a good management team who will understand what service management is," Olinghouse said, adding that there are other benefits to having a commercial service program. "The beauty of having commercial service is that it is a career path for service techs. They can see the longer road ahead of them."

Selling Service Agreements

Olinghouse said selling commercial service agreements differentiates contractors from the rest of the pack, producing higher revenues and higher profits.

"If you want to sell custom programs, you must be different from anyone else and not treat service agreements as a commodity." He stated that it is up to the service techs to create a "sense of urgency for the agreement."

"You have to be able to get new customers and keep these customers, all the while remaining profitable," he said. "So you have to ask yourself, ‘How can all of this be possible without a service agreement?'"

Olinghouse suggested that service techs educate customers to help them understand the importance of efficiency and filtration. "These factors affect building occupants - potential customers," he said.

He offered some sales tips. "Don't be like everyone else," he said. "Sell agreements during the busy time of the year. If everyone else calls them ‘maintenance agreements,' change the verbiage to something like ‘reliability-centered plan.' Don't use someone else's paint and paintbrush because your picture will just look like everyone else's."

Olinghouse told franchisees it is a good idea to discuss customers' needs with them, even if it is hard to reach an agreement on how to solve these needs.

"I want you to argue with your customers because argument produces logic," he said. "The end of an argument is an agreement. Both sides can win.

"You have to find something you can solve - something you can deliver a promise on."

Publication date: 12/22/2003