The BuildingAdvice Blog

HVAC Sales Pros - Challenges Customers Are Facing Right Now

Posted by Jim Crowder on Aug 12, 2021 8:27:28 AM

Building Operator Challenges In An Uncertain Business Environment

We have been speaking with several Mechanical Service leadership teams the past few weeks and two issues seem to be top of mind 1) technician shortages and 2) the challenges their customers are facing operating their facilities in such an uncertain business and operating environment. Today, we’ll focus on the second topic and discuss #1 soon.   

Factoring Customer Risk Profiles Into Your Proposals

There is a lot of confusion out there.  Mixed signals from so many quarters.  From businesses, schools and local governments implementing mask and vaccination mandates, to business leaders navigating supply chain, tariff, and tax policy uncertainty, it is a challenging time getting decision makers to move forward with investment decisions. 

For any sales team, now more than ever, our proposals need to use sound financial, business, and occupant safety data that justifies investing in these uncertain times. Whether it's justifying a full service agreement, replacing roof top units, or helping operators ensure occupants are able to work in a safe environment, the difference between moving forward and stalling out may be understanding how your customers view and manage their perceived risks and ensuring your recommendations address them. 

Each organization you work with has likely experienced the impact of Covid differently.  Some businesses (Zoom, Peloton, Microsoft, etc.) have done quite well, unlike restaurants in our local communities.  Some manufacturers have also done quite well but are now feeling the financial crunch of tariffs, supply chain shortages, and uncertain tax policy.  And we all know what schools have been through. The point is each entity has experienced Covid differently and is entering a new phase of uncertainty and challenges.  Our job is to understand those challenges and ensure our approach addresses them with some meaningful depth. 

Is the threat of Covid still perceived as a risk by organizations?  

This Spring most businesses believed we had turned the corner with Covid and that the country was on its way to herd immunity.  Most leaders we have been speaking with seemed to feel the crisis was waning and weren't as concerned with threats to occupant safety from indoor infection.  With the advent of the Delta variant we are seeing those attitudes shift once again, especially in schools.  Building operators appear to be dusting off some of those earlier proposals that addressed IAQ issues in their buildings.  In our discussions, leaders noted that decision-makers are starting to believe the Pandemic and the challenges it presents will be with us for a while.

Schools operated remotely for most, if not all, the school year. Are their mechanical systems ready for reopening? A lot of businesses and the facilities they operate are facing similar challenges.  Moving from low occupancy levels to more density as the Delta variant is scaling up, creates some significant challenges.  As we move into fall, their challenges present us with a unique opportunity.  But we need to rethink the conversation. 

In my discussions with Mechanical Service sales teams, almost all indicated that customers are looking for proof that their recommendations will work, especially as it relates to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and that this was the number one reason their proposals stalled.  Some of my accounts have already restarted those stalled discussions and, in some

Indoor Air Quality: Before and After Testing

While you may believe your combination of ventilation and filtration or purification will help create a cleaner, safer environment for occupants, your client likely would like to understand their current air quality and how your proposal will improve it.  We are also hearing that including ways to reduce energy consumption, repair costs and unbudgeted capital calls to help offset the costs of the proposed solution increases closing percentages.  Finally, committing to measuring results after the installation is cited as a major reason clients are moving forward. 

BA PM Before+After

Adding these simple steps to your sales process will make your proposals stand out and will build trust with your clients. Many of our clients’ sales teams are using IAQ and Energy baselining tools to engage their clients easily and efficiently.  

Preventative Maintenance and Project Financial Justification

Incorporating measurable savings, capital risk, and risk avoidance into your discovery process and proposals can help address many of the concerns expressed by customers.  There are creative ways to work with your customers' operations and finance teams to justify investments. Speaking to one of our clients, their customer was unwilling to move forward on a mass replacement of RTUs due to capital constraints driven by factors defined at the outset of this post. Instead, they were able to close on a full service agreement that moved the capital risk from their client to  the contractor.  Sure the customer paid a premium (higher margin for the contractor) but in return was able to shift the capital risk.  Not only does it mitigate near term capital risk,  it buys time for the client team to develop a comprehensive plan to replace equipment over time.  The contractor sacrificed a larger project for a profitable long term PM that will facilitate project sales over time. 

Customer Payback Example

BA - Payback

In addition to building a business case that helps your customers create more certainty and predictability, you can also build credibility by committing to a scope that measures the impact you are having on some agreed upon metrics.  From capital avoidance, to lower repair costs to lower energy costs, you can build confidence that you will mitigate risk by committing to reporting on your proposal's financial impact.  Our clients typically deliver Measurement and Verification services to track progress against agreed  upon targets to help their customer proponents sell the project internally.  It's easy to claim savings so having a plan that shows you are willing to track actual results will help your client sell this internally and build credibility for future project requests.  

Customer SavingsTracker Example

BA - Savings Tracker


How To Get Started

If you lead a service sales team, you are about to enter a prime selling season.  It is a good time to start laying out your plan and getting the pieces in place to proactively engage customers and hunting for new customers.  Working with our clients, we generally use the following outline:

  1. Define a theme for the fall campaign and use it to rally your sales team
  2. Work on your team's conversation with prospects and customers that leverages the theme.  I highly recommend working with your teams on risk assessment.  Help them get comfortable exploring how the changing business environment is impacting strategy and budgets.  Help peel back the layers to understand risk and how it impacts your point of contact.  We often roll play this to ensure mastery which leads to confidence.  
  3. Look at vertical industries and understand risk from that perspective.  Most manufacturers are directly impacted by supply chain disruption and tariffs.  Schools are not typically impacted directly but downstream with pricing and product availability.  Understanding the "group" risks is an efficient way to train sales teams and differentiate the risks each group is likely to encounter. 
  4. What tools will you use to measure potential sources of IAQ problems and sources of capital and expense waste?  
  5. Feedback loops.  Review conversations each week in your sales meeting to gain deeper understanding of customer issues and reactions to your questions and approach.  Trouble shoot the calls and build common understanding with the sales team. 
  6. Use the data collected to structure unique solutions that are customized to your customers' needs. 




Are you ready? Start planning your fall sales campaigns now.  

Our team can walk you through some highly efficient and creative ways to incorporate IAQ and Energy data gathering into your sales process.  We’d be happy to share some of our best practices.   

No Cost Consultation 
Plan Your Fall Campaign

Turn Proposals into Projects Using Customers' Building Data

Take a look at some of the tools our Customers' sales teams are using to engage their customers and prospects this fall.   Includes Building Insights, Building Scorecards, and our Model 5200 IAQ Monitor.  Additional tools are available up at our web site. 

info.buildingadvice.ushs-fshubfsIAQ Monitor

Check out our Fall Campaign Bundle

Or, contact us and we'll show how it can kick-start your sales.

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Get out there, and be safe!

Jim Crowder
CEO and President, BuildingAdvice




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