I was recently talking with a contractor who was lamenting how hard it is to sell high-efficiency equipment in his market. It seemed like he was constantly selling units that barely met the minimum when it came to efficiency standards.
This contractor had attended countless seminars on the topic, but, inevitably, his customers did not want to pay the higher first cost on a product that would save them money every month. At least, according to him, they would not buy a higher-efficiency product.
I immediately thought of a scene from one of my favorite television shows, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In it, Larry David and his manager Jeff Greene were driving in Larry’s Prius.
Larry: I waved to a guy in a Prius and he didn’t wave back.
Jeff: I don’t wave to people in the same car as me.
Larry: We’re Prius drivers; we’re a special breed. You know what? I want to see what is up with that guy.
There is some truth to that encounter. Toyota has built up a brand that is about more than just the product — people see purchasing the car as a statement. In 2007, CNW Marketing Research found that 57 percent of Prius buyers said their main reason for buying the car was that “it makes a statement about me.” Only 37 percent of the buyers bought the car because of fuel economy. Of course, it did not hurt that celebs such as Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tom Hanks owned the car.
Compare that with how your customers look at you when you’re talking about anything more than a 13 SEER air conditioner. I am guessing there is not that same twinkle in their eyes. Is their purchase of HVAC equipment making a statement? I am sure many contractors think the statement consumers are making by buying low efficiency is that they do not value indoor comfort and they are a bit on the cheap side.
But, why shouldn’t consumers feel just as good about a high-efficiency furnace or air conditioner purchase? It’s the same concept. They are paying more initially for a product, and, in return, they are saving money and the environment every day they use that product.
Now, not everyone is going to buy into this, just as the Prius is not for everyone. Some people would rather roll in the Ford F-150. That is not the point. The point is the HVAC industry needs to create a culture where it is grabbing the people that make purchases for a cause.
This means every contractor should not be embarrassed about offering the best of the best or worried the bid coming in behind them will be so low that they can’t offer the high-end efficiency. They need to showcase how much energy and money will be saved over 10 years of using this product. They need to show it is OK to climb the SEER ladder.
It will obviously be harder to create a buzz because, unlike a car, family and friends will probably not be yearning to ogle that new furnace. But, increase their comfort and lower their utility bills — this is a good place to start. If they are completely satisfied, they will probably be talking about it at the next neighborhood party or family gathering.
Why shouldn’t the tree huggers get just as big of a kick seeing their furnaces get installed as they do seeing a Prius on the lot? When I attend HVAC tradeshows, I often hear grumbling about the political left when contractors are having discussions about regulation, taxes, and health care. It is time for the industry to start making money off the bleeding heart liberals in this country.
Publication date: 1/12/2015