When you market your company's services to homeowners, the size of your organization matters less than the professionalism you bring to the table. In many instances, the key to building a more profitable business lies with selling prospective customers on the advantages of dealing with your company rather than with your competition.

You want to stand out from the crowd (and not just for low prices) and win higher-profit jobs based on perceived quality of work, expertise, and reliability.

But relatively few contractors have the time to learn professional sales and marketing skills. Most owners came up through the technical ranks, either apprenticing on jobs or learning the business in the office on the fly. By the time they establish their own business, marketing presentations can be rather haphazard and may not show the company to its best advantage.

Software Solutions

That situation can be turned around without adding to the payroll through use of dedicated software that addresses the marketing needs of the HVAC professional.

Using either a generic computer solution designed for just about any small business, or a solution designed to serve the HVAC market, contractors can develop and deliver smooth-running, finely honed marketing presentations right from a laptop.

Typically, this type of sales software uses customizable templates and allows positioning of company name and logo on almost every screen.

However, off-the-shelf business programs do not speak the language of HVAC professionals, so the templates will likely require tweaking so that the language addresses HVAC concerns. Also, a generic solution may not integrate with most key aspects of running an HVAC business.

A sales and marketing solution designed specifically for HVAC contractors offers the advantage that the templates will address the kinds of concerns customers generally have.

Speaking HVAC-ese

If the dedicated sales and marketing solution is part of a modular HVAC design and calculation program, users also have the ability to design the installation, specify products, and work up costs at the same time they are involving the customer in the sales process.

Our surveys have found that contractors who provide load calculations, explain data, and enumerate benefits (i.e., energy savings or improved comfort) to potential homeowners have higher closing ratios and improved customer satisfaction.

So, providing all sales personnel with a consistent professional framework helps enable contractors to get away from selling on price and selling instead on competency, appearance of technical sophistication, knowledge, and value-added service.

Wrightsoft, for example, recently added an in-home selling module to its Right-Suite Residential. This HVAC design and sales system is mostly known for its automated design capabilities, featuring Manual J load calculations and Manual D duct designs. The new module, Right-Sales, was developed for in-home selling to the residential replacement market to automate the sales process and increase sales. It can also use uploaded data from any dealer, distributor, or equipment manufacturer.

Even the least-articulate salesperson or the newest hire on the sales staff can, by toting a laptop loaded with the software, bypass fumble and mumble and click through a well-honed sales presentation that is organized and properly sequenced, each and every time.

Because the design software is integrated with the developing proposal, it is easier to develop and alter the scope of the job on-screen, on the spot. "What-if" changes that can affect insulation values and equipment selection are all reflected immediately in the design, pricing, energy analysis, and payback reporting.

All this information helps the owner visualize the scope of the job and understand the costs from the get-go, and helps the owner gain confidence in the contractor's professional competency. This aspect of the program - being able to play what if with possible changes visible on screen - can be very effective in the retrofit market.

The salesperson can click between PowerPoint slides, product cut sheets, digitized catalog pages, videos, Web pages, load calculations, good-better-best equipment selection, and the evolving proposal, with all screens customized with the company's name and logo.

Typically, the person making the sales call requests a little extra time to do an on-the-spot load calculation to ensure the equipment is properly sized for the house and to meet the comfort needs of the homeowner.

The Right-Sales module also enables evaluation of company-wide sales and individual sales personnel in graphical or numerical format. The program compares actual sales to previously established goals, with information available by employee, date range, territory, or for the whole company. Reportable data includes closing ratio for sales and the average sales, total sales, status of every proposal, and details on all that for individual employees.

Sales and marketing software offers contractors a repeatable sales process that controls how the company is projected in the marketplace. Sending every sales representative out into the field with this type of portable high-tech tool is likely to increase sales and improve closing ratios companywide.

Bill Wright is the founder and president of Wrightsoft, Lexington, Mass. Wrightsoft is the strategic partner of ACCA and HRAI and offers fully integrated software solutions for the HVAC industry. For more information, contact the company at 800-225-8697, sales@wrightsoft.com, or www.wrightsoft.com.

Publication date: 05/30/2005