FORT WAYNE, IND. — At WaterFurnace’s 2014 sales meeting here in Fort Wayne, Ind., April 7-8, contractor dealers had the opportunity to network, share best practices, and learn about new WaterFurnace initiatives.
During Monday morning’s session, Tom Huntington, president and CEO; Michael Albertson, VP of sales and marketing; Sean Dillon, director of dealer sales; Jason Bose, VP of product management and customer services; David Salyer, product manager; Tim Litton, director of marketing and communications; and Bob Brown, VP of engineering, spoke about many exciting products, marketing initiatives and the future of geothermal technology.
Huntington said, during a one-on-one interview with CONTRACTOR, that geothermal is always sold based on energy-saving benefits, but it’s important to keep in mind that people buy homes for different reasons — one of them being for comfort.
“The comfort story has to come through when talking about geothermal and explaining what it is and the benefits of it,” said Huntington. “Comfort needs to be followed up with the green aspect – we want to do this for future generations, we owe it to ourselves.”
Huntington has also been the chairman of the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO), the voice of the geothermal heat pump industry in the United States. At this moment, clean energy legislation is being worked on, and there may be an incentive for contractors in this new legislation, which equates to contractors improving their bottom line. Huntington added that renewable energy incentives are also being added at the state levels too.
During the event there were two discussion panels: the Dealer Success Panel and VP/CEO Panel.
Contractors on the Dealer Success Panel told their stories about how their businesses progressed into selling and installing geothermal, what type of advertising and marketing programs work best, what social media tactics work best, how to build trade allies, build relationships and network, and how to make potential clients comfortable with such a technology.
Some words of wisdom from the Dealer Success Panel include:
Travis Smith of Sky Heating, Portland, Ore., said he does aggressive advertising and word of mouth referrals, along with social media. YouTube has been a big success for them.
Industry relationships are very important to Dan Green of WaterSource, Eau Claire, Wisc.
“Electric co-ops are what got us off the ground,” said Green. “It has also helped working with contractors and home builders for years. It helps when you have trade allies out there. I look at my job as an educator, not a salesman. We all need to be an expert in geothermal.”
To make potential customers comfortable with geothermal, Mike Geddings of Panther Heating & Cooling, Charlotte, N.C., has his potential customers visit clients’ homes. “This allows them to see the system installed and at work, which makes them more comfortable with the technology. This is very helpful.”
“The Dealer Panel Discussion was one of my favorite parts of the meeting,” said Channing Peters of Peters Heating and Air Conditioning, Quincy, Ill. “It is not very often you get the opportunity to listen to the success stories and challenges of other WaterFurnace dealers from different areas across the states.”
As a company, Peters Heating and Air Conditioning has had representatives attend the sales meeting for multiple years, and this was Channing Peters first year attending the event.
Regarding the WaterFurnace VP/CEO Panel, contractors had an opportunity to ask questions about WaterFurnace’s strategic plans, future goals, the company’s latest products, technology, and how each of the executives started out in the geothermal industry.
According to Jerry Kennihan of Kennihan Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Valencia, Pa.,the panels were very informative.
“The information shared, even by WaterFurnace personnel, was candid and unscripted, which gave me the impression of sincerity,” said Kennihan.
According to Kylie F. Draucker, owner of Delta Temp Inc., Midlothian, Va., the panel discussions were a welcome addition to the WaterFurnace sales meeting.
“There were no scripts, no agendas, just the honest answers and guidance from WaterFurance executives and fellow dealers,” explained Draucker. “The dealer panel discussions provided a perfect opportunity for companies to gain the insight from fellow dealers on their challenges and successes. This discussion gave a sense of fellowship among the dealers.
“I felt a genuine sense of honesty and equality in the open discussions,” added Draucker. “Our family business has been WaterFurnace dealers since 1994. It gives us the greatest pleasure knowing that we provide our customers with the highest quality products and service. We believe in the WaterFurnace product because we believe in the Waterfurnace brand.”
During the afternoon session, dealers attending the sales meeting had a handful of breakout sessions to attended, from learning about new hydronic solutions designed to work with WaterFurnace equipment to understanding the basics of moisture science, along with a sneak peak of a new training program: FLIGHT School.
FLIGHT School stands for Future Leaders in Geothermal HVAC Technology. This program is designed to motivate, empower and educate dealers. The seminar combines business development, marketing, WaterFurnace tools and geothermal strategies. The program will be a day long and will be offered very soon!
The angle of this class is that every day you go on sales calls and you have competitors,” said Bret Ross, WaterFurnace region manager. “You need to prepare for battle, so customer goes with you and not your competition. The purpose of the class is to increase awareness of employees in areas such as advertising tools, competition, buying motives, marketing and lead generation and sales.”
FLIGHT School started in April, and an upcoming schedule will be announced soon. It will be a one day event.
“The ‘FLIGHT School’ presentation by Bret Ross provided a welcome glimpse into the motivating and educational seminar available exclusively to WaterFurnace dealers,” said Draucker. “The program energized our company to look at avenues to expand the geothermal market in our area with a greater knowledge about our business, our markets and the tools available through WaterFurnace.”
In the breakout session, Harnessing the Internet and Social Media, Kevin Mullett, director of product development and social media at Cirrus ABS, gave contractors Internet and social media tips, and explained why social media marketing is a must in this day and age. Cirrus ABS works with WaterFurnace dealers’ on their custom websites.
“First of all, you need to make sure your website is up-to-date,” said Mullett. “Start with good information that impresses people. Know your audience. Know the rules and budget. And don’t be a ‘me’ monster. It’s about your audience.
“Contractors need to create a shtick or differentiator,” added Mullett. “You need to figure out what you can do to be comment worthy or get reviews, etc.”
When concluding his session, Mullet said that contractors need to use social media and the Internet the right way or they will miss an opportunity.
“Some people are very concerned about privacy too,” said Mullett. “There is a new privacy perspective… Consider the opportunity of what you are losing by not participating. Social media works the best when you are a participant and see value in it and treat it like a lifestyle instead of a task.