by Bill Smith, president of Elite Software

As contractors look for more ways to be more competitive and increase profits, some find that the computer has established itself as a valuable ally and powerful selling tool.

One successful contractor using the computer to sell large amounts of high efficiency equipment is Kenny Long of Long's Air Conditioning, Inc. of Avon park, Florida. Started in 1947, Long has managed the company 33 years making it the oldest and largest company in the central Florida area. Providing a full range of HVAC and electrical contracting services, the company has 50 employees and works with all types of residential, commercial and industrial projects. The company produces annual sales of about 4 million dollars.

Long remembers the time before he became computerized. "For fifteen years, we used a short sheet manual J form from Florida Power. It was a fill-in-the-blank paper form where we'd put in window sizes, the directions they faced, etc., and multiply it out manually with calculators. It would usually take at least a half hour for the average home. While the form was reasonably accurate it didn't give me system operating costs and thus didn't let me 'sell up' on equipment. This meant that I always had to figure the cheapest, and least profitable, equipment to be competitive. I was working hard and my business wasn't making as much money as it should have."

In 1994, the Carrier Corporation arranged with Elite Software to provide its residential hvac design programs to its contractors to help them become more professional and competitive. Carrier also set up a nationwide training program, conducted by Energy Design Systems, where its dealers and contractors could learn about the software. Long recalls, "Carrier ran training seminars using Elite's RHVAC program for Manual J loads in Tampa. I could see instantly that the program would save me loads of time so I immediately bought a laptop computer and installed the software." Long explains, "Doing loads on a computer cut my time in half and were a lot more accurate. I then got Elite's program for operating cost analysis, called AUDIT, which allowed me to finally show my customers detailed operating costs of proposed new systems. I never could do that with the paper form from Florida Power. The software showed the customer how much money they would save which made it much easier for me to sell the more expensive high efficiency equipment."

Long reports that he takes his laptop with a printer on every call to a customer. "On a typical job, the first thing I do is run a load. Then, I import the load calc results into the AUDIT program. While the customer is watching the computer screen, I show them the operating costs on a top of the line Carrier unit, a midrange unit (12 SEER) and a standard efficiency unit (10 SEER). I compare my three units with their existing system and I show operating costs for all four systems side by side. I give the customer easy to understand color pie charts and bar graphs right on the spot".

"AUDIT's beautiful color reports truly amaze my customers. They perceive the reports as very believable, persuasive and credible because they came out of a computer. The computer reports make me look like a top professional. Hand done reports just don't have the same impact on the home owner. After this kind of presentation, they want the best system 90% of the time".

He continues, "At that point, I immediately print out a sales proposal from the computer right in front of them and get their signature. By having my computer at the customer's location I close everything at once and never have to tell the customer 'I'll get back to you later'. That way I don't have to worry that the customer will change his mind before I can see him again."

"Best of all, AUDIT has Carrier equipment built right in so it's always easy to show the benefits of my Carrier equipment. They get a choice of equipment, but in the end they are always buying Carrier."

Long notes that AUDIT is especially persuasive with the homeowner and helps to double the amount they would normally spend on an HVAC system. "AUDIT lets me show them their savings year by year over their old equipment. I always show them the operating costs of their old unit so they can easily see that it's wasting money and they'll save energy on the new high efficiency equipment. Printed operating cost reports are very important because they often look at the computer screen and forget. Reports they can hold in their hand, even for later review, have dramatically increased my sales of high efficiency equipment."

He adds, "And on new construction, if I get the homeowner in my office to view AUDIT's reports there is no way he'll go with the builder's basic unit. When I show him that he can add the amount of upgrade cost to his mortgage and that he comes out ahead with his monthly savings, I sell him every time. Even though a top of the line Carrier unit might cost $2,000 more than a standard unit, the economic analysis I provide shows a fast pay back and a great return on investment. The reports show him enough savings every month on the high efficiency unit that he can put an extra $20 in his pocket. It's an easy sale for me."

On change outs and new construction, Long never forgets to show the customer even more savings that come from systems that are properly sized at the outset. Long explains, "Believe it or not, many of my competitors still use square footage to size equipment and don't even run a manual J. When I go out on a job that needs a replacement unit nine times out of ten the unit was oversized. For example, our competitors may decide a 2,000 square foot house needs a four ton unit. With RHVAC, we can quickly do a Manual J and end up installing a less expensive 3.5 ton unit. Our customer doesn't pay the extra energy costs of an oversized unit. We save them money on the new equipment because it's properly sized to begin with and AUDIT shows them even more savings and help us sell them high efficiency equipment. Altogether, we are able to save our customers some real money and they appreciate it."

Long says that Elite's new program versions regularly bring with them many new features and benefits. He explains, "With the new Windows version of AUDIT we're now able to show the full advantages and energy savings of our multi-speed units. Our 2-speed unit can save the customer a lot more money over a single speed unit and the new AUDIT clearly shows those savings in its reports. Before the new version came out it was hard to sell multi-speed units because we couldn't show the savings as well. We sell a lot more multi-speed units now."

He claims, "Before I got RHVAC and AUDIT, my average sales of high efficiency equipment were about 3% of my total sales. Now, 95% of everything I sell is high efficiency equipment. My salesman now uses AUDIT with the result that his closing rate on high efficiency equipment has gone from 60% to 85%. As the owner, I use AUDIT to help me close high efficiency equipment sales on 99% of every job".

Long is pleased to report that Carrier is quite happy with his performance. He says, "At a recent awards ceremony I won six different Carrier sales excellence awards for high efficiency equipment sales. I got them last year, too. I couldn't have done it without RHVAC and AUDIT. Carrier wants us to be the best and that's why they chose Elite's programs and made them available to us. They want us to stand out from our competitors."

"In the end, the computer and software was well worth the price, a super investment for me. These days, I just don't have much competition. My competitors are still selling the cheap stuff and trying to get the job by price. None of them take a computer out on a job and their continued use of rule of thumb methods keeps them in the dark ages. They make very little profit and they're commonly going out of business. Very simply, my competitors will see their sales go down until they computerize", he concludes.

Mr. Smith welcomes your email about this article. - email

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