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Commercial Planned Maintenance: Building Relationships and Value To Get The Job Done

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There isn’t a conversation about HVACR contracting that doesn’t include the importance of planned maintenance and maintenance agreements. This is the bread and butter of contracting businesses, because it ensures repeat business and helps contractors and customers build trusting relationships.

Commercial contractors in particular have some interesting obstacles to overcome when it comes to planned maintenance. Unlike on the residential side of things where you are working with one or two homeowners, commercial contractors are oft en working with a building owner, a building operator, and/or tenants of a commercial building. And on top of that, they are also facing the economic issues that all contractors have faced for the past several years.

So, how can commercial contractors overcome these bumps in the road and ensure that their customers are getting the service they need?

Selling Commercial Service

No one will dispute that when the economy slumped everyone started cutting back. One area that building owners and operators thought was a good cost saving cut was maintenance. This created a quandary for commercial contractors trying to sell planned maintenance to their customers.

However, when you look at the facts, cutting back on planned maintenance isn’t such a good idea for building owners and operators.

“Planned maintenance is the number one way to prevent costly, unexpected repairs and create a  comfortable environment,” says James Graening, vice president of commercial sales at Western Reserve Mechanical in Niles, OH. “Because of this, when you sell your commercial clients planned maintenance you are creating a lasting relationship with them, which will mean increased profits in the long run.”

And to sell this maintenance to your clients, you have to have a solid plan in place and make it known that you are there to help them and to provide them the services they need. “You have to have a marketing plan in place and dedicated people to sell planned maintenance,” says Graening. “You can’t expect your techs to sell this maintenance, you need a sales person who can make the calls, set the appointments, and present the value of your program.”

What should a solid marketing plan include?

Mine your own database. Look through your database and see who does not have planned maintenance agreements with your company. Reach out to them first, you have worked with them before, so you already have your foot in the door.

Cold Calls and Tele-prospecting. Most people don’t like to do cold calls, but they don’t have to be all that bad. The key to making cold calls work is to do your research before calling. Look at what local commercial buildings are in your market area and find out everything you can about the building and its potential needs. Before calling the company, draft a script to follow, so that you will stay on point and have a higher success rate.

Getting to the Right People

Another key to selling commercial planned maintenance is getting the decision makers. While you may work with “Bob in the boiler room” when you are at the building, that is not the person who is necessarily going to decide what is best for the building.

Again, this is where having a dedicated, professional commercial sales person will make the difference.

“The key to making sure you are getting to the right people is doing a lot of qualifying,” says Graening. “You are not going to get to the right person the first call, but keep going. It is important to get to the CFOs and other high level financial decision makers.”

Once you get your foot in the door with the decision makers, make sure that you have a planned out presentation to show them your service offerings. A professional presentation will help show the value that you will offer to the client, as well as make the sales process move smoothly and take some of the pressure out of it.

It’s About Value

While it’s easy to just assume that all decisions are based on money, it’s simply not true. Yes, money will always be a factor in any decision, but if you can show true value for the service, then money becomes secondary to the decision.

How can you build and show value for these customers? Here are three quick tips for making sure the value is there:

1. Build a relationship with your customers. This means having personal contact with them. Set appointments with them and listen to what they are saying and provide them a plan that fits not only their budget, but also their needs. Adjust the plan as needed to ensure that they continue to be satisfied with your offerings. This relationship will lead to future replacement business.

2. Provide financial justification. Money does still factor into a decision about planned maintenance. When you can show your customers that a proactive approach to service and maintenance will costs less than a reactive approach, they will listen. In fact, Graening says that a proactive approach costs 3 – 9 percent less than a reactive one.

3. Have the collateral and support documents to present to your customers. People like to see the numbers and proof that what you are telling them is true. Make sure you have done your homework and have documentation to share with your customers that will help you close the sale.

When it’s all said and done, I think contractors will agree that planned maintenance is one of the most important parts of the commercial contracting. Th rough planning and building value, commercial contractors can take their planned maintenance programs to new levels of success.

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