Successfully selling equipment, appliances and burner tips is a team effort

April 22, 2014 By and    

Fielding the best players will make your propane team a winner

In this age of smartphones, online shopping carts and big box stores, a propane retailer needs to field a team of winners to compete successfully in the sales of heating equipment, appliances and other burner tips.

The equipment manufacturer, your first baseman, needs to be a solid performer. Each product brand and model your company chooses to sell, install and service needs to be quality built, defect free and appealing in design. Ease of product installation and service are also important considerations.

Check out competitors who may stock and sell the same brands and models you are considering. You don’t have to be the exclusive retailer handling the product to be successful, but you also don’t want to compete with a huge online product presence or other retailers who are big discounters of the same models. Remember, you can’t field a winning team without a good first baseman.

The propane equipment distributor is the second baseman on your team. The distributor is your important link to the propane burner tip manufacturers that will make your team a winner. The distributors on your team should be stocking a backup inventory of popular and not-so-popular models, so you can turn your inventory often and access their inventory when needed. Distributors can coordinate with manufacturers to provide sales and service training, point-of-sale marketing materials, display allowances and other team training.

Your burner tip installer handles the hot corner, third base. Selling, installing and servicing heating equipment, appliances and other burner tip products is only possible with a qualified service technician on your team. If a third baseman makes too many errors, it hurts the team’s chances of winning, so your installer needs to be a well-trained performer.

Ideally your service installer is an everyday player at third base, but periods of lower burner tip sales volumes may mean you platoon your service technician into installing tanks or delivering gas. Using the skills of your third baseman at other positions is important for team productivity; just remember that a good third baseman needs quick reflexes and a strong arm to make that accurate throw to first base. Those skills aren’t honed in the cab of a bobtail.

Selling burner tips is the pitcher on your team. The propane owner or manager chooses who gets the ball to pitch. In some cases, the manager or owner also is on the mound selling, although a good pitcher will be kept too busy to also manage the team. Using a full-time salesman (starting pitcher) is best, but don’t overlook the customer service representatives or service technician for middle relief or closing.

Having a dedicated full-time salesperson on staff is important for the detailed on-site assessment work that is often involved with selling a burner tip installation. Your pitcher should not be limited to burner tip sales, but should have a variety of pitches available to use for propane tank installations, autogas and other products that will make the propane team a winner.

Your customers (and prospects) are the catchers on your team. The catcher is positioned behind home plate and ready to be in direct communication with your pitcher. Just like the catcher on a baseball team, today’s propane customer knows the game well. He or she is a smart and informed shopper. Many customers looking for burner tip solutions have researched the brand, model and retailer options through Internet searches, referrals, advertising and visits to your competitors. In most cases, the customer will be aware of electric and propane options. Your salesperson should be able to deliver the right pitches that keep your customers satisfied with propane and your company.

Spring training is over. Your team should be on the field. You may have to tweak the roster with a new player or two and move some players around, but you can have a winning propane business by shaping your team around the sales, installation and servicing of heating and water heating equipment, appliances and other burner tips. You will add new customers, improve your gallons-per-customer sales and improve your summer/winter propane sales ratio, and that is a good thing.

Tom Jaenicke is the founder and the principal adviser at ATomiK Creative Solutions LLC. He can be reached at tom@atomikenergysolutions.com or 810-252-7855.

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