I was a scout leader for years. At one of the first meetings where the boys were introduced to the wonders of camping, one of the scouts carefully made his way to my side of the room. He signaled for me to bend down so he could ask me a question. I reached eye level and heard him carefully and deliberately ask in his scratchy, little voice, “Hey Mister, when do we get the weapons?” I learned then and there that we were in for a long summer. However, it got me thinking as a business man. It’s easy to teach young boys who are already filled with wonder and ambition how to use tools to benefit them out in the wilderness. How can you bring that kind of enthusiasm and excitement to an older, struggling, and frustrated service contractor? Maybe that scout is right. Maybe we need to, “Bring out the weapons.”
I remember the first time I saw the Honeywell Prestige Thermostat. I was at a trade show a few years ago and remember noticing it from a distance. Prestige was bright, clear, and quite an attractive piece of equipment. As I was admiring it, I didn’t consider how important this new product would eventually be to my company.
How exactly could a small piece of equipment become a “weapon” in my arsenal? Shortly after the tradeshow, I met an outside territory salesman from Ferguson Supply Co. located about 50 miles from my shop. I had ordered a gas powered, 16-horsepower industrial vacuum cleaner with 100′ of 6-inch vacuum hose. That will pull the nylons out of your dryer vent! But, my service company intended to use it to suck out old insulation from attics to seal the plumbing and electrical penetrations, cracks, and crevices to increase the IAQ in the home. That process stopped the infiltration of dust-ridden, dirty, hot, humid air into the home. It was a big market for us at the time.
The Ferguson dealer decided to introduce the idea of the Honey Prestige Thermostat. The representative arrived right on time and we helped unload the heavy vacuum off the back of his truck. He then gave the standard pitch, “If you need anything, I’m a phone call away.” Two weeks went by and the Ferguson representative called to find out how our new vacuum was working. He then asked, “Rodney, have you seen the new Honeywell Prestige Thermostat?” I shared my trip with him that involved the recent tradeshow. He insisted in presenting me with a few thermostats. Again, he arrived on time as promised with the entire new Honeywell Prestige line up in tow including, the outdoor sensors and remotes. He also brought pre-wired transformers and powered them while he explained the features.
It’s great technology but let’s face it, contractors have had more thermostats move off van shelves due to damage than to add-on sales. We have attempted the, “Programmable saves 10% on your bill” approach with mostly disappointing results. There was still an add-on market but, I’ve found what sells thermostats the fastest is what sells everything: a pretty face. Except, I’m not talking about the pretty face featured in commercials, I’m talking about the pretty face of the thermostat. It gives the “Wow, the Honeywell Prestige is beautiful!” It also helped that the thermostat had just enough bells and whistles to be useful without being complicated. And, at the time, it was the easiest high-end thermostat to program and use.
Keep in mind, we had a very good relationship with our local distributors, who visited and delivered products to the company weekly. They could probably match prices, but the Ferguson representative was adamant about being our Honeywell supplier. He had certainly earned our business simply because he opened our eyes to a product that we had failed to utilize. Our local based reps had mentioned the product but, didn’t think to demonstrate it. I understand that distributors and their salesmen can’t carry every product around but, presentation without demonstration is just conversation. If something is merely mentioned, it can be easily forgotten. The representative from Ferguson gave a demonstration that compelled us spend money.
However, it was a concern that our new potential supplier would not be present with the 100-mile round trip that he would have to make. Would we still get the same attention as our previous distributors? The Ferguson representative eased my worry quickly by emailing us the order form, allowing us to do online transactions and covering the shipping costs for us. The process was so incredibly easy that it allowed us to give him the business he had earned. I immediately bought a thermostat for my office, one for my house and one for my son’s house, who is also our lead technician. I knew if we all fell in love with the product, it would fly off our service trucks and into our customer’s homes. We stocked our trucks and printed a book with five thermostats, including pictures. We have to show that pretty face! Anytime a customer suggested that their thermostat might be an issue, the book was ready in hand, resulting in a sale almost every day. Most of them being the most expensive, the Prestige.
Thermostat sales became the new add-on and once again, we obtained ownership of the most valuable piece of advertising real-estate: Our name branded in their home. I say, “Hats off!” to one excellent territory rep, who used his weapons of presentation and demonstration to earn our business. For us, the Honeywell Prestige and the book we developed to clinch the sale with the homeowner is a weapon that we will always value. And, it’s one we’ll fire off any chance we get.
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