What do salesman want geo shoppers to think is important?

Discussion in 'Quotes and Proposals' started by AMI Contracting, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I was reminded recently of how a salesman's focus can be projected onto a geo shopper.

    A potential client asked the other day what kind of loops and how many feet I would install on his project.
    Interestingly the loop question was asked of me while I was measuring for my load calculations. I could only reply "we use slinkies and I don't know what size you need yet, because I don't know your heat loss".

    The same client informed me that his duct work was "not code" (because the duct work wasn't reduced as it moved further from the furnace) and wanted to know if I intended to remedy the situation.

    I explained that while the duct work wasn't ideal, it was not necessarily contrary to code (it's referred to as an extended plenum). Further we have great success with smoothing out airflow disparities with ECM blowers and wouldn't it make sense to try it as it is versus top loading the expense of replacing his ducts? After all it is never too late to spend more money.

    What this really said to me was that a salesperson met with this person before me and emphasized what he (the salesman) wanted the shopper to focus on. Educating a customer is part of any sales presentation and focus on minutia or inconsequential things often gives a potential client a feeling that this (and only this) person pays careful attention to details that nobody else noticed. That this salesperson already knew which size loops to use (before load calculations) also gave the impression that he had more on the ball (though it is impossible to be sure of loop sizing without load calculations or soil evaluation).

    I once had a customer ask me what my desuperheater looked liked. Comfounded I googled pictures of coaxial heat exchangers and tried to get the best illustration I could. When I returned and explained a desuperheater isn't much to look at, he produced an installation instruction illustration of 2 tanks and process pipe and explained that's the desuperheater he wanted.
    Again a salesman's careful attention to detail. Again a potential client that figured I was behind the 8 ball because I didn't know what a desuperheater looked like.

    Hogwash.

    Client one did not ask me for references. The company I believe focused on duct work has been at "this geo thing" about 3 years now.
    They did not suggest infiltration testing and airsealing of his modular home, they suggested a zone system and promised to maintain 70* (down to negative whatever) would be reached in all zones......in other words they promised the unit wouldn't shut off until the thermostat was satisfied......and they put it in writing.......

    Really? Well it should. Shouldn't it?

    One can attack a heat load from either side, if you attack it as a building envelope issue the results are more even temperatures from room to room and floor to floor as well as smaller (less expensive) heat pumps. Often the expense of additional insulation and airsealing is more than off-set by savings on the heat plant.

    For those who haven't heard my mantra before, get the best geo company and you don't have to worry about anything else.

    So if you ask me:
    What's the best brand of heat pump? Well it's what ever the best geo company in your area sells.
    Or if you ask me:
    What's the best loop system? Well it's what ever the best geo company in your area sells.
    You get the idea......

    What have you guys run into that you've had to untangle?
     
  2. urthbuoy

    urthbuoy Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I appreciate hearing this perspective.

    We do come across similar experiences, so I'll share our typical "multi-bid" experiences. Keep in mind, this is mostly what we do. Not always.

    Firstly, we are fine with just estimating verbally over the phone after a bunch of interview questions. But it will be a range, and it will be conservative (ie - I will quote a 6-ton even though I know we may be able to size for a 5-ton). I explain that my pricing is high based on limited information as well. To get that estimate in writing, we need to see some house plans. So now we've supplied an estimate without still being on site. This estimate clearly explains this quote is not based on a design at this stage. Only after we know we're moving forward on the job do we do the design work with the option of re-presenting the estimate as a quote. But we have explained the work involved in doing the design and that we do not do any work at all without first finishing the design. The original estimating is all just based on our experience in our area. Clients seem to feel comfortable with that. Especially if I note we don't exceed our quote ever unless something ridiculous shows up.

    So throw in the multi-bid experience. All of us can get the sense of a tire kicker or someone just trying to make sure we hold the guy that already has the job accountable. Usually I take the line of "You know a lot about geo, what specifically are you asking us to quote on". Note, this isn't necessarily what they need at this point, it is just what someone has told them they need. So as we go through that list, I end up presenting options and eventually making it clear what I recommend. BUT it does not allow us to win jobs based on being the lowest priced. Frankly, we almost never will be the lowest priced. And what it takes to be that guy, isn't our work. I don't think it is any of our work on this forum. Things have changed a bit around here though, as those guys have vanished and we can carry on doing our honest work. Right now, we do a lot of service work because of vanishing installers. Most of my learning has come from this work. I actually quite enjoy it. My competitors that are left around here - I would actually recommend them (except for maybe not calling their clients back). It is a nice place for my business to be right now.

    Other things we do:
    - if I get the sense it is purely on price and I'm the 3rd guy (note - I'm not talking commercial work:)), I'll just say "I don't think we can take on the work right now, but thanks for the opportunity"
    - if the project becomes really funny like they just want me to sign off on a Bard system, but they need us to drop off glycol first, I'll say "I don't think our services are a good fit for what you need". Think I learned that from this forum.
    - if presented with the "it will have to be 5-ton and slinky" prior to me having information, I usually can diffuse this with "fair enough, but you don't mind if I look at and present you with options".

    As a business, we are always hungry for more work. But, I guess I'm not that hungry.

    And finally, I would be amiss if I didn't point out the P.Eng. thing. No ego. No snide remarks please:). But, the clients do have a sense of peace with that. It more stems (I believe) from how we have taken a professional career in to the trades. We can present nice mechanical drawings for our work. We take great notes. We listen. We are timely. We communicate. We keep files. We get back with answers. And we are accountable. The last, I think is the most important. I'm about to drive two hours to a job site because one radiant zone is overheating.
     
  3. engineer

    engineer Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Nice writeup

    I'm in an odd position in that I have never found myself in direct competition with another geo contractor.

    I've got the PE thing as well (no "ng" stateside) We go the extra miles you describe except for the drawings. We do a kickass load calc. We try to sell the smallest possible system since we live and die by the long run times needed to combat humidity. Most jobs get a blower door test to refine that part of the load calc. We focus on ductwork - make it deliver what each room needs. I got one air source job by being the only guy who stuck more than a forehead into the attic, thus identifying the miserably small triangular box plenum restricting airflow. 5 tons removed, 3 tons installed.

    Our main value add is taking mental ownership of both comfort and total energy bills. We routinely manage insulation, water heating, window and lighting upgrades, even advise on laundry, refrigeration cooking, and pool filtration pumping costs.
     

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