Do customers choose you … or the brands you install?

Few customers are manufacturer-loyal

HVAC equipment manufacturers love to tell contractors that selling their brand-name products is the real secret to success. They say you’ll benefit from their brand’s amazingly strong reputation, and their clever advertising program will make customers eagerly drop thousands of dollars into your hands. Just how much truth is there to that?

You or your brands?

There’s some truth. Several major brands have earned solid reputations in the industry. We’d both name the same companies, and you probably prefer to install one of them. Quality-conscious homeowners recognize the same names, and they assume you’re going to handle at least one of them. But that doesn’t mean they’re buying because of the brand.

Simply put, very few customers have any loyalty to a particular HVAC manufacturer. Their decision about choosing you depends entirely on how much they like — and more important, trust — you. They’re not buying your deal because of the nameplate stamped into the sheet metal. They’re buying whatever brand you tell them is best for their needs. And they’re buying it from you because they believe you’ll take care of any problems that crop up over the years. How could they think so highly about your business having just met your tech?

Everything’s an impression

Forget about first impressions for a moment. Actually, every impression counts. You can have chalked up 99 great impressions with a longtime customer and blow it on #100. In today’s hyper-competitive HVAC and home service market, you can’t afford to make mistakes with customer service, whether you’re dealing with a brand-new customer or that rarity who’s buying their second whole-house system from you. That’s important, because every action you and your team take affects the customer’s level of trust in your business. The brands you install? They’re not much of a factor in developing that trust.

Equipment’s the same

No, one brand is not identical to another. But the technology and structure all higher-quality manufacturers use are remarkably similar. Equipment is engineered and constructed to the same tough specifications. So yes, you do sell one of the best brands.

Most homeowners know little of HVAC manufacturers. They may have noticed that name on their neighbor’s outdoor unit, but if you asked them to name as many major brands as they could, only a tiny handful would be able to come up with as many as three. Most people can probably think of only one brand name.  

That equipment parity is why it no longer makes sense to brag about being a proud Gigantor dealer. Your customers don’t care the slightest bit about that.

The golden rule

What do your customers care about? How you treat them in every interaction from taking that initial phone call to coming by for their seventh semiannual maintenance visit. Will your tech be genuinely friendly or a cheesy fake anyone could spot a mile away? Are they going to listen to what I say or just brush my concerns aside like I’m not very smart? Will I have to clean up after they leave my home?

There’s plenty of advice out there about better ways to serve customers. We prefer a simpler, much older philosophy we all learned about in our youth: to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or in contemporary terms: treat people the way you want to be treated.

If you were the homeowner

Imagine for a moment you’re a homeowner who thinks they might have to replace their roof, which was damaged in last night’s storm. You need to find a contractor — and we know that sinking feeling in your gut as you think about having to talk to three or four roofers. You’ll watch each of them like a hawk while they look things over and grill them on everything they seem to notice. “What did you just write down and why?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if the roofer showed up clean and nicely dressed, then took you around the house, showed you what they were seeing, and explaining why it’s important, all in everyday terms. They might ask several questions to get your sense of the kind of outcome you’re after. Then they might describe the options available to us, with the advantages and disadvantages of each. Finally, you’d engage in a frank conversation about the best course of action. And only then would you sign the contract.

Your team at work

Now imagine your team is interacting with customers in the ways we just described. What would that do for your sales? Imagine how many more higher-margin units you could sell. No matter what brand you install, its reputation doesn’t work anywhere near as effectively as the nature of the kitchen-table conversation with the homeowner. So it may be you need to hire someone with a friendly, genuine manner and who’s a good listener.

(It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve seen estimates that as much as 75 percent of equipment is improperly installed … something to watch for when looking at another contractor’s work.)

So yes, you can take pride in being named to that manufacturer’s circle of excellence for the seventh straight time. That is truly quite an accomplishment. But it won’t make any homeowners buy from you. Only you can make that happen.

If you’d like to know more about Cornerstone, and how we work as your outsourced marketing department to help grow your business, contact Or you can call (317) 804-5640  x108.

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