Selling the brand name product you install rather than your company's name is the single biggest reason you aren't making the profit you should. I am sure you have heard this story many times from people who don't sell a brand name. You have always dismissed this explanation as a way to convert you to their not-so-known brand. I've been there. But now after 10 years of talking to contractors like you and working with them creating a selling presentation, I know from experience the problems of selling brand names.

Before we go too far and to set the record straight, brand name manufacturers and suppliers are not the ones at fault here. It's people who try to sell only the product name because it seems like the easy way out. The one thread in the fabric of selling that continually comes up and seems the most difficult to answer is pricing.

The question is how can you sell this product when the competition has the same brand and model at a lower price? The answer is easy when you are selling the differences between your company and others. It is almost impossible to unless you begin to see the value in selling your company and how you install your selected equipment.

Not all contractors are created equal, but there area lots of retail salespeople that give customers the impression that all contractors install the same equipment and with the same quality. If this is true, then why can't we sell the difference? I think the answer is simple: we are lazy. Selling is more work than many of us want to put into it. Because of this lack of effort, we reap the rewards, which is a lack of money. We need to show bottom line profits.

There is a way to make money in a competitive market: sell low and offer little value or quality in your workmanship. Or you can sell at a competitive price, do quality work and take home less money than you need. Even the contractors who feel they are making money could do better if they learned the value of what they do.

This problem is the hvacr contractor is not making the profits he or she needs to grow and prosper. What is the solution?

A. Learn to sell you and your company.

B. Concentrate on how you install rather than what you install.

C. Learn how to calculate overheard and labor so you can price a job properly. (What good is knowing how to sell if you can't price a job properly?)

D. Select the best equipment that meets your quality standards.

Now let's agree on a few things before we proceed:

1. Most equipment lines available are well-designed and when installed properly they will perform equally based on the specifications shown.

2. The job of manufacturers and suppliers is to sell you the features and benefits of their products. Keep in mind that they are not selling you finished goods; only you sell finished goods.

3. No two contractors have the same overhead or costs, so how can you all sell for about the same price?

Let me make my point another way. Suppose you were in a town where all the products sold by every installing contractor were the same. We'll call this town a one brand town. Could you exist in that town? If your answer is yes, you've got the right selling method. However, if that situation would scare you to death or out of business, then listen up. Why do you get upset when a supplier sets up a new outlet near you? What is the fear?

Former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That is especially true in selling. The fear we all have was expressed in a class recently. A contractor told me he wanted to change suppliers but was afraid because he would lose customers and might have a tougher time selling in his town. His problem was simple: if he had been selling himself and his company, he wouldn't have had this fear. The products he now installs are sold as part of his comfort package. His brand, while well known, is not the center of his proposal. His strength comes from within his company and from a manufacturer where he has no control.

Think about this - have you ever switched manufacturers or brands? Did you have any problems selling the new equipment? Where did the problems come from - the prospect or your employees? When you put all your eggs in one basket, is there always a fear they might break?

If you want to reduce or even eliminate the problems with brand names, if you want to know how to sell your company and get off the pricing merry-go-round, then read next month's column.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone 800-447-7355; fax 717-698-6555.)