Jim Wheeler: Grow your employee training
Probably one of the easiest things for a supply-house owner/manager to overlook is the need for constant employee training.
Yes, it costs money, there is the problem of getting everyone to attend, and you have to find and schedule trainers — but it’s worth it. Why? Because knowledgeable counter and salespeople sell more and better products! Otherwise, your company gets stuck in being a commodity business where everything is based on bottom-line price.
Understand that HVACR supply isn’t like the retail-food supermarket business where people drop in and impulse-buy based on hunger. There is nothing appealing about a stack of filter-driers, or motors, or drums of refrigerant or compressors. So, when service techs drop in, they usually are looking for something specific, and it all comes down to price and availability. But on the other hand, if your salespeople have something new to show them, or if they have some suggestion on how to do the job better, there always is the chance of a better sale.
If you attend an annual AHR Expo (it’s in Atlanta in January) and take the time to really look around and ask, you’ll find all sorts of new and great ideas that can help your company grow. But the problem with being a manufacturer that has great new and better products is that of just trying to get the word out.
HVACR supply houses can be the weakest link between manufacturers and service/installation companies, mainly because counter people usually are not trained to become salespeople. Their forte is looking up part numbers in catalogues and knowing where to find them. But, just think of the value of a counter or salesperson that is interested enough to show your customers something new and exciting. And, as you know, there are new and exciting things to show!
Where do you find those who can put on interesting and informative one-hour classes for your employees each month? Talk to your suppliers! Any manufacturer worth its salt would be delighted to train your people because they know the things they teach will lead to more sales. However, they must be willing to go beyond why their product is better and how it is manufactured, and explain why it is necessary, how it is properly used and/or installed and what the benefits will be for the end users. It has to be an education!
Yes, new tools always are interesting to service technicians, but they can’t sell themselves. And take something as common and unimpressive as filter-driers. You’d be surprised to learn how much there is to know how necessary they are, what the differences are and how little your customers usually know about them or how little they know about how to properly install them.
Also, look at compressors. Do your people know that compressor types (scroll, rotary and reciprocating) often are interchangeable as long as the bases mount into the same location? And do they understand the differences in efficiencies and operating characteristics of each type?
What about the possibility of hiring a full-time employee (and customer) trainer, if your company is large enough? I’m sure you are aware of problem jobs where you could use someone with enough technical skills to go out and look at them, and then put on training classes.
Where do you find these people? They may already be working for you. And if not, you’ll see them standing at your sales counters. They are the many grey heads that want to keep busy and stay in the business, but no longer feel safe climbing ladders. However, also look for someone who has done some training, because training is an art that not everyone can master.