HVAC Delusions of Grandeur

Do You Think Your Company Is Better - Different - From Others?

When traveling around the country meeting with HVAC/PE contractors, I often ask “what makes your company special, or different, or better than your competition?” What I hear used to surprise me, but now I’m not surprised any more – just very concerned!

I’m usually told something like this: “we care more”, or “we are very professional”, or “we have a better system”, or “our people are better trained”, even comments like “we have an in-house graphics person” and more of the same elusive, hard to quantify comments. Many don't realize we have a radically diffrent sales world and new culture to work within!

It is unfortunate that these same contractors think because they have nice looking brochures - extolling the great services they provide, or graphic wrapped vehicles, or matching logoed uniforms, they have deluded themselves into believing THEY are at the top of the heap in their market area. While all of these things are important, they aren’t the most important factors in being the leader in the region. In fact, every contractor should have professional looking literature, uniforms and vehicles. That should simply be the most basic of initial benchmarks, including trained and skilled technicians and a professional office staff.

As I travel around the country meeting with HVAC/PE contractors, one of the first questions I ask them is “what makes your company special, or different, or better than your competition?” What I hear used to surprise me, but now I’m not surprised any more – just concerned!

I’m usually told something like this: “we care more”, or “we are very professional”, or “we have a better system”, or “our people are better trained”, even comments like “we have an in-house graphics person” and more of the same elusive, hard to quantify comments.

It is unfortunate that these same contractors think because they have nice looking brochures - extolling the great services they provide, or graphic wrapped vehicles, or matching logoed uniforms, they have deluded themselves into believing THEY are at the top of the heap in their market area. While all of these things are important, they aren’t the most important factors in being the leader in the region. In fact, every contractor should have professional looking literature, uniforms and vehicles. That should simply be the most basic of initial benchmarks, including trained and skilled technicians and a professional office staff.

What I find somewhat frustrating and can’t tell them is that often ALL the contractors in the same market area tell me the exact same thing about the accounts they call on. Many times contractors will name clients that claim use them exclusively, but I hear the same thing from competing contractors.  If I ask the contractor “what sets you apart” they might tell me that they “have the latest and greatest Whatchamacallit machine that nobody else in town has and they are getting all the work that is available in their market.”

Somehow, so many contractors have failed to realize that it’s NOT ABOUT THEM! The property manager doesn’t care that you have the biggest, fastest, hottest, tools or the most fully stocked service van. Nor do they care that your staff is trained or certified, and they definitely don’t care about your four-color trifold glossy brochure that tells them how wonderful your company is or how much you "care" about them!

It has to be about THEM. This means learning about their business, about their industry, about their challenges, their issues, their problems (I call them PAINS), and then bring answers to them to help them overcome as many of these pains as possible. If your client is a building owner or property manager, they have unique pains to their business. If you are calling on managers of hotels, then you should know as much as you can about the hospitality industry and especially the challenges that those managers face every day.

Somehow, so many contractors have failed to realize that it’s NOT ABOUT THEM! The hotel manager doesn’t care that you have the biggest, fastest, hottest, drain cleaning machine. Nor do they care about your four-color tri-fold glossy brochures. Quite frankly, nobody cares – except maybe you and possibly your ego. Yes, you need great brochures, but for the right reason.

Many of you are probably saying right about now “how in the world can I possibly learn that kind of info?” The reality is that the internet has millions of pieces of useful information about almost everything. Including things you don’t want to know about! If you Google “hospitality industry” you will get over 11 million hits (in less than one second) - from White Papers, to Blogs, to Photo’s, to Video’s, History, Statistics and more. Google and other search engines have made it easy – to know all about whom you are trying to do business. There is no valid reason to remain uninformed about your prospect and certainly no reason to call on them if you are uninformed because they deserve to do business with a company that knows and understands their business issues. And, if you don’t intuitively know this, another company IS going to take the time to become very familiar with their prospect’s business and take the opportunity away from you.

If you are still puzzled about why it should be about THEM, the fact is that they care about themselves – not about you. That is perfectly normal and like it or not, it is the way we are wired. When the copy machine salesman calls on you and tells you that his company is a member of the Toner Cartridge Association or that they have the cleanest repair vans of any of their competition, you would probably throw them out of your office. On the other hand, if the salesperson knew about your company, how you might use the proposed machine, understood what kind of work you did – and for whom, or was able to demonstrate ways to make your business more successful, you would be far more impressed and likely more willing to give the rep an opportunity.

Some companies like to “fly under the radar” as they are growing, and others like to make a huge splash and shout their services from the rooftops. Either way is quite acceptable, depending on your business strategy and plan. Most important though, is to make sure you don’t get lulled into a false sense of security of thinking your company is miles ahead of the competition because one day, when you least expect it, you may get blind-sided by that quiet under-the-radar company that crept up on you while you thought you were king of the hill.

The HVAC, Plumbing and Electrical industry is unique and often misunderstood. Service call fees and hourly rates are the highest they’ve ever been, people are facing tighter cash flows than ever before, and your opportunities can be dramatically reduced if you are not prepared.

Author:  Dick Wagner    HVAC/Plumbing & Electrical Marketing Consultant