In a tight economy, contractors have to move beyond just selling the basic furnace or air conditioner to customers. One way to expand sales and improve profits is by focusing on IAQ products. The list of available IAQ products continues to grow, and they are becoming more sophisticated. But according to Tim Barton, vice president of sales and marketing, General Filters Inc., “Most consumers don’t know that there are whole-house solutions from their HVAC contractor, therefore they resort to buying a portable air purifier from a big-box retailer.”
Smart contractors can prevent their customers from going elsewhere for IAQ solutions by talking about comfort and health in the home during replacement sales and service calls. “We’re seeing that homeowners are extremely receptive to hearing about comfort and health in the home,” said Joyce Warrington, HVAC brand marketing director for Trane and American Standard Heating and Air Conditioning. “Consumers want and expect a comfortable and energy-efficient home.”
Lane Jeffryes, CEO and president of Rotobrush International, agreed, stating, “Our third-party research shows homeowners are very receptive to hearing more about how they can improve the health of their home, especially females, as they make 60 percent of the major home purchase decisions.”
Great Growth Potential
According to many in the industry, there is vast potential for the future of the IAQ market. Stan Zywicki, IAQ, zoning, and water leader at Honeywell, cited a study by BBC Research that projects the total IAQ market will reach 10 billion by 2013 with professionally installed products only accounting for 10 percent of that total. Contractors need to tap into this market and carve out their own niche.
The good news behind all of the growth and advertising of portable air purifiers is consumers are now more aware of the contaminants in their homes and the relationship between indoor air and allergies and asthma. Contractors can build on this consumer awareness and then offer a better solution. “HVAC contractors have the unique opportunity to provide homeowners with whole-house solutions rather than the portable items on retail shelves and online,” said Tom Ruse, marketing communications manager for Aprilaire. “Contractors can also compare the cost of a one-room temporary fix to a whole-house permanent solution.”
Industry experts also believe that the emphasis on energy efficiency and the focus on green products help the IAQ market. According to Ruse, “When contractors talk with homeowners about how IAQ products deliver a cleaner, healthier environment, it’s pretty easy for homeowners to connect the dots to green living.”
He continued, “When you talk about fresh air ventilation control and setback thermostat strategies and zoning to control energy costs and how controlling humidity and particulate levels helps maintain wood furnishing and protects against the spread of allergens and mold growth, they get it.”
Aaron Engel, vice president, marketing, Sanuvox Technologies Inc., noted that the emphasis on green has aided sales of products like UV lights that act on contaminants, germs, and bacteria that get trapped inside modern homes. “There is an underlying green theme because we don’t have to bring in as much outside air to dilute the concentration of contaminants in the inside air,” Engel said.
Warrington also noted, “Green isn’t just about recycling, minimizing waste, and saving energy. Green is also about being healthy and comfortable in our home environments.” And it ties right back into helping contractors make the case that green-savvy consumers should consider IAQ products.
Improved Sales and Profits
Beyond the green benefits that IAQ products provide to consumers, contractors that commit to selling indoor comfort and health can add to the green on the sales and profit side of their ledger.
Ruse claimed, “Aprilaire contractors who quote IAQ products on 100 percent of their equipment bids report that 35 percent of their installs include at least one IAQ product.”
Barton said, “When added to a new install, the IAQ product sales can bring up to 50 percent more profit to a system sale — and that is not farfetched.”
The question then becomes: When and how can contractors effectively approach customers with opportunities for IAQ sales? Many agree that a service call is the ideal opportunity for selling IAQ products because the technician is then serving as the expert in the home.
According to Tim Burke, strategic marketing manager for White- Rodgers, a business of Emerson Climate Technologies, during a service call, the technician has fixed a problem, and this is the ideal time to talk about comfort and health issues affecting the homeowner. Sales and profits from a service call can double or triple with purchase of an IAQ product because the overhead costs are already covered.
Yet there are obstacles standing in the way of these sales. Burke believes many contractors are afraid to lose a quote on a replacement unit or system because the bid price will look out of line. He suggested, “IAQ solutions should always be a separate part of every bid.”
Zywicki added, “When a salesman provides multiple IAQ product solutions in his quote as separate yet recommended options that other contractors have omitted, it helps to build the homeowner’s confidence in that contractor.”
However, many technicians are hesitant to sell products to the homeowner. In this case, technicians need to be trained to ask questions about comfort and health issues and then provide information and a solution, rather than feel they are forced into pitching a product.
The best approach is to find out what problems and issues exist in the home, and then educate the homeowner on why the problems are occurring and how to solve the issues. “We know from our research that homeowners will fix a problem if a contractor takes the time to educate them on what poor IAQ means, what the risks involved with high pollutant levels are, and how it can be solved,” said Jeffryes.
According to Engel, “With UV, it’s a conversation about the quality of the air in the home rather than a pitch. Sanuvox has a simple list of survey questions for the homeowner they provide to the contractor in order to start the conversation.”
General Filters also provides a 10-question survey the contractor leaves with the homeowner while he is gathering information for the equipment quote. According to Barton, after quoting the equipment, the contractor can look at the answers to the survey and say, “Based on your input, let me present whole-house indoor air quality products that you may consider to improve these conditions in your home.”
The opportunities for IAQ do exist, and contractors who focus on these products can expand sales and profits without having to expand their customer base.
Burke put the IAQ market opportunity into simple terms: “Every time you enter a home for installation, service, or maintenance is an opportunity to sell IAQ products.”
Publication date: 02/27/2012