AS A CONTRACTOR who is always looking to find new products and ways of doing things, I attend trade seminars and association meetings whenever I can. Inevitable "shop talk" will turn to venting for all of us: problem jobs, crazy homeowners and the group we seem to all love to hate the most — home builders. Here are a few phrases that would put a new Porsche in my garage if I simply had $5 for each time I heard them:
- You can't sell hydronics to home builders!
- Builders only care about price.
- Builders don't care about quality or comfort.
What do I think when I hear these phrases from you and you work in my market? Two words: "You lose."
In other words, my Wethead Warrior, Comanche Marketing competition instinct is kicking into high gear. You see, if you have already defeated yourself before the battle has begun, then "I win."
Has this " can't sell to builders" mantra been handed down so many times that it is now considered fact? Well, keep in mind that for several generations, people thought the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. I'm sure contractors of the time also believed the world was flat. After all, everybody else did, so it must be true. I bet those guys didn't sell to builders either.
You can sell hydronics to general contractors and builders just like any other group. You've just got to tailor your story for them.
I remember once trying to sell a couple in their 80s a super high-efficiency furnace. "It will completely pay for itself in fuel savings in 10 to15 years!" They looked at me like I was a complete idiot; and I instantly felt like one.
OK, so what do builders care about? I can see you screaming, "Price, price price!" Well, OK, but not exactly. GCs and home builders want the same thing for their business as you and I do. Which isn't "price, price, price," it's "profit, profit, profit."
Don't think of GCs or home builders as a homeowner, because they're not. You probably can't talk to GCs about how efficient hydronics are compared to hot air. You will have about as much luck selling them on high efficiency. I know, I've tried. "That's great kid, but what are you going to do for me?"
What does a builder, who is driving a Lincoln Navigator and wearing a $5,000 watch, value besides how much you charge? Plenty, as it turns out.
You can sell builders hydronics by appealing to their need for profit. Don't run from the money issue. Embrace it.
"Yes, Mr. Builder, hydronics will cost more. And since it costs more, I am going to help you make more money!"
Let's take general or remodeling contractors. How can you make them more money through hydronics? Simple. Convince them to not give the homeowner a price on the heating at all.
At BES, we have successfully built a team of builders, remodelers, architects and other subcontractors who do exactly that. We design and price the HVAC system and the builder gets a percentage on top of our contract. His percentage is negotiated ahead of time with the homeowner. We get to sell to the homeowner, essentially through the builder. Everybody wins.
You can sell builders hydronics by appealing to their need for profit.
This appeals to builders because it removes fear and ensures profit; they can't lose! They never have to worry about the homeowner feeling like they skimped on the HVAC (a common complaint) because the homeowner knows what was spent. The builder is off the hook for performance issues, and he has guaranteed money in his pocket. Not to mention that if you have done your job well with the hydronics, the happy homeowners tell their friends about the great experience with the builder (thanks, in part, to your good work), making it easier for the builder to sell more jobs.
You can also sell hydronics when working with a builder doing a spec type house. This group is not only price sensitive, but also value sensitive. Try selling these builders a hydro-air system as opposed to straight hot air. While probably more expensive, it can give the spec builder an edge for the Sunday "Open House" crowd.
For instance, you can easily offer him a heated towel warmer for the bath or radiant under the kitchen tile. This can add a big "wow" factor that just isn't available in the hot-air development across town. Offer to print up a nice brochure or flyer for the open house explaining the heating, so the agent will be sure to point it out. This will also serve as in introduction of your company to the new homeowner.
These are just a couple quick ideas on how to sell hydronics to builders. We could greatly expand on the topic. The important thing to remember is to give it a shot. The world is not flat, but you've got to be bold enough to try sailing off the edge once in a while.
Joel Boucher is vice president of Boucher Energy Systems in Mendon, Mass. He can be reached via the company's Website at www.boucherenergy.com.