BY BOB MIODONSKI
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF
DALLAS — Industry consultant Drew Cameron unveiled the four secrets of sales differentiation Feb. 1 during the Comfortech RoadShow here. The one-day educational and networking event, co-produced by CONTRACTOR and Contracting Business magazines, also stopped Feb. 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will make stops April 12 in St. Louis, April 27 in Philadelphia, May 3 in Chicago and May 17 in Boston.
If plumbing and HVAC contractors fail to differentiate their business from competitors, they never will get the degree of attention they want for their services, said Cameron, a former contractor who now operates the consulting firm HVAC Sellutions. They will encounter increased objections, more intense price negotiations, and find themselves making more concessions or compromises.
"What used to work — quality products installed professionally — doesn't seem to have as much currency anymore," Cameron said. "If you are seen as a generic carbon copy of every other service-providing contractor, you are in deep trouble."
His four secrets to sales differentiation are:
1. Treat prospects as new and unique opportunities. Contractors must recognize the differences between their sales prospects and adapt their sales behavior to each prospect. "Be a chameleon," Cameron told RoadShow attendees. "You have to learn to adapt on sales calls."
Contractors can build trust and get commitment by fulfilling each prospect's unique wants and needs, he said. They should take nothing for granted during the sales call and not try to read the customer's mind.
"It may be your 1,000th call," Cameron said, "but it's their first."
Just as important, he said, is to treat existing customers as if they are new.
2. Understand the difference between a prospect's needs and wants. While needs have to do with a product and are logical and rational, Cameron said, wants relate to an emotional agenda and the beneath-the-surface reasons why prospects buy anything. These reasons include safety and security, peace of mind and value. And, he pointed out, they all depend upon the buyer.
3. Learn how to ask the right questions. Contractors must allow their prospects to tell them what they want. The prospect's personal payoff from a purchase frequently supersedes the price issue.
4. Present your product or service so that features related to your product are secondary. Contractors that can link differentiation to the added value they provide — beyond any unique value their products provide — will win more sales.
"Dealing with product gives you confidence; dealing with people gives you success," Cameron said. "You have to know how to read people."
He advised contractors to hire professional salespeople from outside the industry vs. people with technical knowledge who don't know how to sell. As soon as they are hired, salespeople must be trained properly.
Ride-alongs ensure that people implement in the field what they learn in the classroom, Cameron said. Ongoing training and coaching are essential.
Sales differentiation does not negate the importance of the traditional attributes of a successful contractor, he said. Still essential are: professional appearance and attitude; courtesy, respect and communication; product knowledge and professionalism; market and territory knowledge; knowledge of the competition; and a desire to serve and do whatever it takes.
Contractors also must be wary of differentiating themselves in a negative light. Negative differentiation includes: not responding to calls or e-mails, or not doing so promptly; providing incomplete or late responses to requests for quotations; not digging into details to find the real issues; providing totally bland and virtually unmodified boilerplate proposals with no customization; missing the customer's requirements entirely; poor or no follow-up; and appearing desperate and needy to the point of begging.
Sponsors of the 2006 Comfortech RoadShows include: Bradford White, Taco, Peerless Boilers and Pavilion Air, Nexstar Network, American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning, Viega, Honeywell, Laars Heating Systems, Johnstone Supply, Jackson Systems, Ben Franklin Plumbing and One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating, Lennox, ISH North America, Service Roundtable, North American Technician Excellence and National Comfort Institute.
Each Comfortech RoadShow event begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:45 p.m. The registration fee of $79 includes breakfast, lunch and a networking reception at the end of the program.
For further information or to register by phone, call Marge Dietrich at 216/931-9550. See the ad on pg. 80 of this month's issue. More details can be found at www.comfortechroadshows.com or www.contractormag.com
6 degrees of sales differentiation
You sell your prospect:
Sources: HVAC Sellutions and CONTRACTOR