NOVI, Mich. - Mack Heaton has a solid resume in HVAC replacement equipment sales, but he gives all of the credit to his customers.

"I didn't sell anything. People bought it," explained Heaton, who recorded $2.5 million in equipment sales in 1992. "Selling is allowing the customers to buy. We are all buyers, and we have things we don't even need."

At the recent annual convention of the Michigan chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (MIACCA), Heaton stressed the importance of the HVAC industry and advised contractors to use that fact as a selling tool.

"Contracting is the backbone of America, but we just don't communicate that," said Heaton, who works with No Secrets Training Systems, Fort Myers, Fla. ( "HVAC is four times larger than Microsoft and larger than the long distance telephone business."

Despite the large numbers, Heaton believes contractors don't always use the best avenues for marketing their businesses.

"We are ninth in Yellow Pages spending, but not even in the top 150 in results," he said. "And 77 percent of HVAC contractors advertise in the Yellow Pages!"

Part of the problem, said Heaton, is that less than 50 percent of contractors have a business plan. "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there," he said.

Mack Heaton offered many helpful sales hints to attendees at the MIACCA convention.

Solutions For Contractors

Heaton suggested that contractors should do the following:

  • Develop business systems.

  • Know the break-even point.

  • Price labor and equipment correctly.

  • Study profit-and-loss statements before the 10th of each month.

  • Measure cash flow weekly.

  • Chart the organization.

  • Coach and train.

  • Market and budget.

  • Adopt goals.

  • Build your organization.

  • Have fun.

    Heaton also offered MIACCA members the following six helpful hints:

    1. "Never arrive in a dirty truck. And put out orange cones and turn on your emergency flashers while on the jobsite. It attracts attention."

    2. "You can waive a diagnostic fee for your customers if they sign up for a service agreement. You want them as service agreement customers because they are your only customer. Active and inactive customers are anyone's customer."

    3. "Having an organizational chart showing the leadership is very important. People need to be told what to do. Ninety-nine percent of the population wants to be told what to do."

    4. "You need to get out of the truck and run the company."

    5. "You need to hire people who will tell you that they want your job."

    6. "Customers don't know what they don't know. You need to tell them that you sell replacement equipment. Otherwise, they may think that all you do is service."

    Before concluding, Heaton acknowledged that the No. 1 problem facing contractors is the shortage of skilled labor. He put some of the blame on contractors, especially those who don't have well-defined job descriptions or career paths for their employees.

    "Employees want to know what the score is," he said. "Would you go to a football stadium that didn't have a scoreboard?"

    Publication date: 05/24/2004