Some time ago, I read an article written by Jim Wheeler in Supply House Times (a sister publication of SNIPS) that got me thinking about the sales contractors make to their customers.

The story was about what happens to suppliers that lose a line of equipment and what impact it has on their future business. The article discussed the loyalty the contractors would have towards the wholesalers and how they feel about manufacturers.

What caught my eye was a survey he cited on consumer preferences towards brand-name HVAC equipment. I have stated many times that there are few consumers who can name brands they know and very few that know the difference between brands. If the consumers do not know the brand, why does the contractor have to be concerned with it? In the article, Wheeler says that a contractor told his salespeople to ask their potential customers what brands of equipment they preferred. Out of 1,000 customers surveyed:

4.17 percent preferred Lennox

2.87 percent preferred Trane

2.66 percent preferred Amana

2.61 percent preferred Carrier

0.76 percent preferred American Standard

0.50 percent preferred Rheem

0.38 percent preferred Janitrol

0.38 percent preferred York

0.30 percent preferred Coleman

0.17 percent preferred Bryant

0.13 percent preferred Goodman

0.13 percent preferred Ruud

0.09 percent preferred Payne

The other 84.88 percent of the consumers had no preference at all.

This really backs up what I have been saying for the past 15 years: The manufacturer's brand is important to the suppliers and the contractors, but it is not weighted the same when it comes to consumers.

Suppliers and contractors decide on the best brand available and make sure it has the qualities they want. But when it comes to consumers, they need to know who is installing the equipment and how well the company's workers are able to do their job. The equipment is no better than the contractor who installs it.

I am a firm believer in building an image of who you are and what you represent, not the line of equipment you sell. I always get a kick out of those ads that state you are a so-and-so dealer. Consumers don't care about or know the brands available and so your identification with a manufacturer has little value in the eyes of the people you are trying to sell.

Many dealers feel that as long as the customer hears the brand name, the selling will be easier. If this survey is at all correct, it doesn't matter. If you are not selling yourself, you're probably complaining about the prices in your area and lack of profits

The answer is sell yourself and what you do, not the brand.