The end goal of any HVAC distribution channel is to sell more products. But how can you, as a distributor, sell more of a supplier’s units in a mature market with little product differentiation?
By reaching the end-users who buy your products and collecting the consumer data that will allow manufacturers to pull demand through your distributor channel.
The HVACR sales channel begins with shipping products out to you, the distributor. You gather necessary product or promotional data from manufacturers to pass the information along to those responsible for pushing out the product: i.e., sales representatives and contractors.
Contractors are the end-user’s main point of contact. In the course of conversations with consumers, contractors hear the concerns, preferences and needs that consumers express. In most cases, they don’t even record the consumer data that could prove immensely helpful to you and the manufacturer because it has been too difficult and, frankly, they had no motivation to do so.
So how do you motivate contractors to provide you with this data, so you can learn more about marketing to your consumers?
Incentive reward programs have transformed into being more than sales incentives. All manufacturers want to increase sales, but they also want to educate contractors on product features and receive “on the street” feedback.
Modern smartphone technology by Atlanta-based Incentive Solutions helps facilitate the exchange of information among manufacturers, distributors, sales representatives, contractors and consumers, almost instantly and without the paper-work burden. An ideal incentive program touches all parts of the sale channel and rewards every aspect of it.
What differentiates a product is the ease, profitability, reliability, and the immediate reward of the sales process. The more informed and refined your manufacturer’s decisions are, the more sales you’ll be able to garner as the distributor.
“Incentive programs, such as rebates and rewards for purchases, helps keep our products top of mind with contractors,” said D. Michael Smith, senior marketing manager (residential) at Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. “Incentives help us strengthen the contractor’s consideration in ductless and our brand. We are also experiencing more frequent product innovations, and subsequently may find a need to drive a reduction of current stock. Incentives are a great win-win marketing tool for us and the channel.”
Incentive Solutions provides incentive programs to B2B sales channels, and it has been found that their downfall was often contractors’ reluctance to report product installs, as well as the long time it took to receive rewards for it, usually six to 12 weeks.
Now, smartphone technology allows a contractor to scan or take a picture on site, upload end user information, claim the sale and immediately receive and spend the reward.
Incentive program technology
Contractors and sales representatives are the point in the sales channel where consumer information is collected. It’s crucial for you or your suppliers to offer contractors some incentive to releasing this information.
Incentive companies like Incentive Solutions provide online reward program technology that makes it easy for contractors to forward information to the manufacturer and get rewarded immediately for doing it on their smartphone.
Contractors can enter sales claims, warranty and registration details, and the key consumer information needed for referrals or future marketing. Contractors are motivated for entering this information by the incentive program rewards points they earn.
This cyber currency can be redeemed for a variety of rewards, including event tickets and millions of merchandise items like electronics, home furnishings, movies and music.
Another important aspect of setting up an incentives program is to reward distributors for sharing information with the supplier. The same rewards-based program can function to reward all sales channel partners.
The administrator of an incentive program can run multiple promotions and reward selected groups for specific behaviors, like promoting products in their districts, upselling parts, or extending maintenance warranties. It even works in Canada!
Luke Kreitner of Loyaltyworks, an Atlanta-based incentive company, said, “It used to be contractors and distributors were rewarded (belatedly) for sales, but with mobile apps, we greatly increase engagement with contractors. You can use push notification to update field agents regarding promotions as they're on-site to try and up-sale. Agents can also participate in surveys, upload warranties on the spot, and most importantly, shop and redeem their points for rewards right from their phones.”
Look for apps that make the sales claims, warranty registration, and rewards process more fluid and immediate. Access to reward program through a mobile app is convenient and engaging.
You and your contractors can input sales claims, access the online reward catalog, and receive push notifications concerning new products and promotions. Mobile apps adapt incentive programs to the increasingly smartphone-oriented lifestyles of distributors and contractors.
The most successful incentive program gives distributors, sales reps and contractors alike the chance to earn rewards for sharing consumer data.
Although sales representatives and contractors have more direct contact with consumers, everyone in the sales channel relies on one another to connect consumers to the products and services they needs. Consumer data access results in increased sales and brand awareness, which is a reward for all of us in HVAC channel sales.
Steve Damerow is CEO of Incentive Solutions. He is a recognized expert and published author, and hosts the national radio show “Business Matters.” Incentive Solutions currently manages more than 100 incentive loyalty programs within the HVAC/plumbing/construction industries. Steven Damerow can be reached at: [email protected]; 678-514-0203.