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Total Wines & Spirits just opened up in my area and it’s the equivalent of a Costco in the alcohol industry. To use the word tremendous to describe the selections of different types of wines and liquors would be an understatement.
Tequila is what I gravitate toward when I have the occasional drink. I can tell you what brands I prefer but by no means am I an expert. Invited to a party for a friend who also likes tequila, I made my way over to Total Wines and proceeded toward that particular aisle. Stretching the length of half a football field, the aisle was packed with shelves three high on both sides with different tequila brands and types.
The decision on what to buy was geared toward what I know and like about tequila. The knowledge I acquired comes from tasting different brands and from information I’ve gathered. I make an educated guess based on good reviews I’ve heard and buy something I have never before tried. Since my friend has a big collection of tequilas, I was confident he didn’t own this bottle since it was new to market.
Arriving at the party, there are three other bottles of the same tequila on the bar. Some of my other friends had the same idea and we all grabbed the same bottle. However, none of the bottles were opened. Speaking to the party host, he let me know that the tequila the four of us bought is not worth the money and actually quite horrible to drink.
Not believing that I bought a bad bottle, we cracked one open. Sure enough, it wasn’t very good. We all got deceived by some gorilla marketing and bad word-of-mouth information.
One Size Does Not Fit All
This is not unlike our industry, where the homeowner drives demand for a product that usually doesn’t fit his needs. Often, I hear wholesalers and even contractors say they will either stock or promote a product once end-users start asking for it. Knowing this is the mentality of the industry, many manufacturers put these new products in big box stores to provide some additional marketing to the end-user.
The issue with these philosophies is that quite often, the end-user selects the wrong product for his needs because he based the decision upon one feature. What end-users aren’t capable of understanding is what type of system they have and how the other features will tell them if the product will do the job.
The best example of this is the thermostat that started the connected craze. Still, to this day, I have friends come up to me and say they purchased this particular thermostat. The next thing out of their mouths is a question about why their homes seem colder.
After a brief chuckle, I tell them they fell for the technology and forgot that the thermostat’s main job is to sense temperature accurately. After asking some questions about their home and family, I recommend one that fits their needs. I also recommend some accessories and other products they didn’t know to ask about. They then pay another labor fee and have a new one installed that does the job correctly.
Product reviews from outside industry sources, such as CNET, also contribute to the trickle-up demand issue. These sources view the product from a technology viewpoint and their reviews look at the product as a one-size-fits-all item.
The writers possess no understanding of our industry and are primarily going off manufacturer notes on the new product. Having been asked to write a couple of reviews of thermostats before they hit market, I’ve seen these notes firsthand. A writer has to hit a deadline and makes the notes their own. Maybe they are lucky enough to get some hands-on time with the product but most of the time the product isn’t available quite yet.
In no way is it a comprehensive review that can help homeowners make a sound decision on what is best for their homes. Let’s not forget most homeowners probably understand very little of their HVAC systems and are making uneducated purchasing decisions.
Think about the launch of each new Apple iPhone each year. As soon as the launch event ends, tons of product reviews show up on the Internet. Most of the reviews are based on the event and a little time with the product. How comprehensive can these reviews be?
Industry Product Knowledge
Reversing the trickle-up demand issue resides in our product knowledge and the understanding that we are selling solutions. If it was a one-size-fits-all market and every situation was the same, there would only be the need for one product SKU. Obviously, that is not the case and each product segment offers a vast array of choices. Each choice has different features and is suitable for specific situations.
The real key is having a casual conversation with your customer. You don’t need to be the door-to-door salesman who gives the hard sell. It’s being comfortable to ask inquisitive yet straightforward questions that will guide you toward the right solution.
When customers ask for a quote on a particular touchscreen thermostat with an indoor sensor, the first question I simply ask is if it is being used in a landlord situation. In no way is this an aggressive question and the answer is a simple yes or no. If they answer yes, I ask if they know about another solution that would save them over $100 on the setup and make the tenant happier.
More times than not, I’m given a couple of minutes to present another solution. They then take both solutions back to their end-user and allow them to choose which one they prefer. The assumed soft close is made. They come back to me for the sale and are eager to explain why they went with one of the options. They thank me for educating them on other products to present to their client base.
We, as HVAC professionals, know more about the product choices then our customers. Asking these simple yet conversational questions is easy and allows you to create fans of your business. Why would I suggest an option to sell a far less expensive product for the above landlord situation? Because I want to create fans of my business. Fans, and not customers, are what multigenerational enterprises are built upon.
A customer is purely a transactional person and only cares about what he thinks he wants and where he can buy it the cheapest. There is no brand loyalty with a customer and you’ll be in a race to the bottom of the pricing war to keep selling.
A fan is someone who views you and your business as a trusted advisor. They know that when they need advice, you’re there to help them solve their problems and give them what is best for their needs. They are loyal to your business and will be more inclined to purchase products, even if they may be slightly higher priced than your competition because you’re selling a solution.
Creating fans and selling solutions will enable that one product transaction to turn into other accessory products they may have never known to ask about.
When a new product is coming to market, it’s your company your fans will turn to for advice or questions about a particular situation. Maybe they purchase the shiny new product or perhaps they walk out with other products that match their needs. What this will enable you to do, when they visit your establishment, is have that friendly conversation about a new product they might have never heard of and allow you to reverse the trickle-up demand curse.