The comfort industry has matured. That’s another way of saying it’s getting tough to make a sale. Having been in this industry all my life, I have seen it grow from an infant willing to accept anything called “heating and cooling,” to a mature, demanding adult. Likewise, we have seen the market change from one of supply and demand at the price asked to a market that can enter the Internet and begin to understand the requirements of a comfort system. Now we have customers who understand what they want and how they want it delivered. Yet I find we are trying to sell to these people the same way we did in the 1950s and 60s.

We need to begin to think of our companies as the brand or product we sell. Every salesperson worth their weight, will tell you what they dream of selling is something no one else has or will get. This product must be something the customer wants and is willing to pay the right price to obtain. For years, we’ve heard manufacturers say — if they advertised their brands — that you should sell an established, advertised brand that customers are familiar with. If the manufacturer didn’t advertise, we were told brand names mean very little, because “most people don’t know the name of the equipment in their basement.”

The fact is neither advice was totally right, but the second statement comes closer to the way we have to sell in a mature market. In a mature market, the manufacturers still need to grow. The question is, how will they choose to grow? Consolidation? By buying their own dealers? Saturating the market with competing contractors or dealers? Selling through multiple wholesalers in a market? The answers to any of these questions should not concern the contractor if they have been selling their company and value-added services they offer. But the fact we still have dealers in the market establishes that our industry is selling in a mature market with an outdated marketing approach from the contractors' standpoint.

The ‘price problem’

You can still be a manufacturer’s dealer without using a 1960s selling method. There are still contractors who sell the manufacturer’s features and even combine them with customer benefits without thinking of their company’s importance in the equation. These are the same people who come to my classes and hope to find the answer for the PRICE PROBLEM.

The answer to the PRICE PROBLEM is to find an exclusive product or service that no one else has or will ever get. That product or service is you. The brand name is your company name. Think about how unique you are. It works.

Take a minute and begin to think of your company name as the brand name you are selling. What are the features of your “brand name”? How will these features benefit the customer you are selling? Can you see the benefit of this type of approach to selling in this market?

While the hvacr components are very important to you and your customers, they are only pieces that make up part of the total package offered to the customer. Your customers must feel confidence in the fact that you are selling the right components to meet their comfort requirements. Your “brand name” is more important than the manufacturer’s.

Let’s take a quick look at the impact this would have in your market:

1. Manufacturers can develop one brand name because the contractor cares more about their own brand.

2. If you are selling against a manufacturer’s dealer or an independent contractor, your selling approach is the same: you are selling your own brand and how unique you are.

3. If the supplier you are buying from falls down on the quality or delivery of the product, it’s not the end of the world — you are not selling a manufacturer’s brand name.

4. The local market benefits because the consumer is buying the contractor’s expertise and reputation.

5. Selling manufacturers’ brands is often “bait and switch” because not all contractors install the product with the same quality and expertise.

6. Manufacturers can save the money spent on consumer advertising used to pull their product through the supply chain.

The list is endless, but it all boils down to starting to learn how to create, promote and sell your own brand name.