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HYDRONICS HYDRONIC MUSINGS


Efficiency needs to be conspicuous to sell


BY ERIC AUNE PLUMBING & HYDRONIC HEATING CONTRACTOR S 68


elling efficiency can be one of the hardest tasks undertaken by contractors in today’s economy. Explaining the benefit of installing an ODR


(outdoor reset) control on an existing cast iron boiler can be daunting, to say the least. First, we, as the “expert,” have to be aware of our language and terminology when explaining how the device works, being careful not to lose our customer along the way. I know when I see the “deer in the headlights” look that I have to rein it in a little. Most likely, I have forgotten that I am no longer in the classroom, talking to my students, but rather to the homeowner, who has not reached the same level of


“boiler-trekkie” I boast about to the guys at the Will-Call desk. They question everything I say, wondering whether the information is useful or whether it even has any meaning to them. My first reaction to a question by a potential customer


about upgrading their heating or plumbing system is often be to start talking about saving money. After all, isn’t that why they are asking? The answer: It depends. I have been around this business and in and out of these conversations enough to know that the answer to that question is not as simple as it seems. When giving my reason to the homeowner as to why an ODR control would benefit them, the conversation could easily go in the direction of comfort. I have also, on more than one occasion, worked to find a solution for customers who would like to conserve water in their home or business. This is not always done solely to cut operating cost; sometimes it’s because the customer feels that is a good thing to do for the environment. Energy plays a huge role in the overall market for


selling efficiency. Not the only role, but a large one. Energy prices are rising continuously throughout the country, but the varied costs of heating a home are relative to its geographical location. For example, here in Minnesota, where I reside and operate my business, the heating season can average an astounding seven months.


One reason why new customers are talking with you in the first place might be because of recommendations from your past customers.


Compare that to the tepid climate of the better part of the West Coast, where spring turns to summer much quicker and tends to stay around a while longer. This comparison would lead one to assume that it must


be much more expensive to heat a home in Minnesota than in Washington State. The variation in weather patterns, from Minnesota to the West Coast, is not the


This is not always done solely to cut operating cost; sometimes it’s because the customer feels that is a good thing to do for the environment.


bottom line factor in the cost. Utility costs play a major role here. That may account for the success of high efficiency upgrades and may be why an overall successful push for hybrid heating systems has taken a stronger hold the closer you get to the West Coast. It may be too simple of an explanation to say that


higher energy costs account for more upgrades, but there is, and always will be, the wish to keep more of our hard earned cash in hand. So what does that mean for those of us in areas where energy costs are relatively low? One reason why new customers are talking with you in


the first place might be because of recommendations from your past customers. Psychological research suggests that people do good deeds as a strategy to attract mates. I’m not suggesting that we are running a dating service here, but, when our customers are happy, they will often tell someone about it. In my own business, I have drawn on the success of past modular condensing boiler upgrades and used utility bill comparisons to show potential customers the value in upgrading to high efficiency systems. The same can be done with the benefits of installing a low water usage faucet or replacing old, worn-out water distribution systems and installing PEX as a solution. Selling our customers on the real value of high


efficiency systems and putting that value out there for all to see can be a successful strategy. Displaying thank you notes or positive customer comments in the office or on our website/blog is a great way to get the word out. Be conspicuous. After all, I think most will agree that it is great to receive a call from your customer’s neighbor looking to have an estimate drawn up on a job similar to that of the Joneses. Comfort and solutions will always be your best sellers in the high efficiency game. ;


Eric Aune is the owner of Aune Plumbing LLC, Zimmerman, Minn. Contact him at eric@auneplumbing.com.


phc december 2011 www.phcnews.com


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