As we plan for a new year, I hope that by now you are all selling maintenance agreements as a staple of your organization. If for some reason you didn't get into them yet, please contact me at the e-mail address (shown below this column) for a sample of the documents we use. I promise, you will be pleased with the results. Also, by now we should all be selling 13 SEER air conditioning units as the standard.

With those issues behind us, what should we set as our goal(s) for 2006? I read an article called the "eSpending Report," a collaborative effort of Goldman Sachs, Nielson/Net Ratings, and Harris Interactive.

It reported that online holiday shoppers spent $30.1 billion during the 2005 holiday season, up 30 percent from 2004. As I thought about that increase, I recalled that this season I actually bought several things via the Internet.

That's quite an accomplishment when you consider my technical status is that of a caveman. Yet, I used the Internet to not only make some purchases, but to find out some details and information about items I ended up purchasing in stores.


It appears this Internet thing is catching on. I have been reluctant to encourage its use to our customers because of my concerns that the most unethical of contractors could spend the money for a fancy Website and look more attractive to consumers than those of us that are legitimate contractors.

But when I see those survey results and think of the amount of time I spend using the Internet, I am now convinced we need to change our thinking and use the Internet to our benefit.

I believe we will always have the advantage of having the need to visit the buyer's home to be able to make the proper recommendation regarding a change in equipment. But our potential buyers are going to be using the Internet more and more to research information concerning our company and the products we sell.

If we don't have a Website that is attractive and provides them the ability to obtain the information they are seeking, we may never get the opportunity to make the "in person call" where we know we have an excellent closing percentage.

Additionally, as busy as all of our customers are today, they are going to welcome the ability to contact us and perhaps even set up a service call on the Internet - when they have the time to make the contact, which may be at midnight.

We are not now prepared to have service calls arranged like this.


The key to a successful Website is to make sure that it is very easy for the viewer to use. In our industry, that means that our Website needs to give them the important information about our company and contain numerous links to allow the user to find other information related to our company. The site should be a "one-stop" shop for anyone seeking HVAC information.

This means including links to all of the manufacturers we use as well as to trade organizations to which we belong and even the Better Business Bureau. From our site we should provide all of the information a buyer would be seeking to make an informed decision as to whom to contact to obtain an installation or service.

We as a company are certainly not there yet. (Our Website is However, I have set as a goal for 2006 that we are going to change our Website so that it will provide everything our potential buyer is seeking when making a purchasing decision.

We as contractors, especially those of us with many years of experience (that's a nice way of saying old), have to remember that our buyers are different than we were and we have to adapt to the way they are going to be buying in the future.

Butch Welsch, Guest Columnist, Owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling, St. Louis,

Publication date: 01/30/2006