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Zone Control Has Become the Norm; Knowing it's Application is Key Success Strategy

Originally published: 09.01.11 by Tom Edwards


Get your staff comfortable with selling zone, and then verify your plan is working.

If you are in the business of selling, installing or specifying 2- to 20-ton rooftops and/or split systems, you need to have a successful zoning strategy. With the availability of reliable and cost-effective solutions for providing ducted zone control, zoning (multiple thermostatic controls) should be the norm and not the exception on every job. Almost every home, office, and retail business is an opportunity for multiple thermostat applications.

These opportunities equate to lost sales and revenue if you are not taking advantage of them. How do you start? As with everything else in business, you need a plan.

Prerequisite: K.I.S.S. For Your Team

The first step of plan development is to understand your current state.  Does your team understand zone control for these applications? The ultimate goal for making zone control a habit within your operation is to ensure that your staff can paint an effective picture of zoning and its benefits for the customer — a key to selling anything. “Zoning systems are difficult to explain to many customers” may be a prevalent refrain from employees.

Sit down with those who interact with customers and ask them to explain zone control. You’ve

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likely heard the saying “Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.).”  Keep this in mind as you listen to your staff’s descriptions and explanations of zoning and its benefits.

Steps for Planning Zoning Success

Success in zoning sales comes with everyone within a company takes its benefits for granted, much the way your employees take for granted that a home or commercial building absolutely needs a comfortable and efficient heating and/or cooling system. They would be completely confident explaining why this is. Zoning is no different. It goes hand-in-hand with increased comfort and saving energy, concepts with easily understood benefits. Your goal is to make it a habit to “think zoning” for your team. Doing this starts with a comprehensive plan that everyone understands and executes.  A written plan is essential because:

  • As you record and discuss your plan with your team, it’s easier to spot weaknesses or missing components.
  • At the same time, it is easier to identify where activities can be done concurrently, such as training sessions for both salespeople and technicians. This will get your zoning program into the market quickly and save wasted time and effort.
  • The plan can document accountability at each customer touch point.
  • The plan provides a system for verification of each step. For example, under “Promotion,” you may feel confident you have enacted the step, but how do you know that your employees are explaining zoning’s benefits in terms that are easily understood by the customer unless you verify it?
  • The steps for zoning success follow that of most product initiatives and include the following:

1)   Training for salespeople and technicians.

2)   Advertising/Promotion.

3)   Job review and survey.

4)   Installation/Commissioning.

5)   Follow-up.

Each of the above is examined in further detail below. Of course, like all checklists, this serves as a springboard for your additional ideas and needs within your own set of circumstances and should be adapted to your specific organization.

1. Training

Manufacturer’s representatives are chomping at the bit to train contractors on their zoning system. Be sure to find a zoning-equipment provider that not only has a comprehensive offering that can interface with a multitude of manufacturer’s rooftop and split system units, but also offers training to your selling, support, install, and service team. Confidence, new ideas, and assurance will come from training. The supplier also needs to be there after the sale for follow-up support. Here’s the training checklist for your sales and install/service teams:

Sales:  

Focus on K.I.S.S. Have a sales pitch and practice the presentation.

Teach and verify:

  • Can operate a working demo?
  • Knows features and benefits for answering customer’s questions?
  • Can walk an existing job and make on-the-spot recommendations for zoning?
  • Can price product and knows the market price?

Install:

Teach and verify:

  • Can operate a working demo?
  • Can wire, install, and troubleshoot the system?
  • Knows features and benefits for answering customer’s questions?
  • Can walk an existing job and make on-the-spot recommendations for zoning?
  • Can tell customer when they can expect a price and quote for a job upgrade?

2. Promotion

It’s great to have a trained staff, but if you aren’t targeting new jobs or existing owners of light commercial and residential equipment, you are missing an opportunity. Equally important to having personnel trained on the technical aspects of BPVAV zone control systems is to create awareness and systematically follow up on these opportunities. Here is your promotional checklist:

  • Ask the question on every new job with light commercial/residential splits and rooftops: Is this a potential zoning candidate? Are there multiple thermal comfort zones on this job?
  • Review your existing installed base and contact customers to determine if they would like additional thermostats for more individualized zone comfort.
  • Train service personnel to ask the owner on their service calls if they want additional thermostatic control.
  • Use social media means to create awareness with the target customers.
  • Create testimonials that “paint the picture” for the customer via case study flyer(s) and for your website.

3. Job Review and Survey

Make sure your sales and service personnel know and understand how to review and survey a job for potential zone-control opportunities. The mindset needs to be focused on increasing comfort. Additionally, in many cases there is an opportunity to save energy on existing jobs where there is an overcooling of spaces in the summer and/or overheating of spaces in the winter. Here are items to add to your current job-review checklist and survey:

  • Are there any separate offices? and/or
  • Are there multiple exposures? and/or
  • Is there an internal zone and an external zone?
  • Where does the owner want thermostatic control?

4. Installation/Commissioning

The key to successful installation goes back to Step 1 — training. If your installation and service crew have been properly trained, this will flow smoothly. Be sure there is a zone-control champion within your organization who can embolden the entire team to have the knowledge and confidence to be zone-control installation experts. To ease installation, make sure your zone-control supplier has provided training and can provide assistance if and when necessary. To ease installation, make sure your zoning system includes the following criteria:

  • Auto changeover with majority “wins” algorithm that can handle as many as 20 zones.
  • Optional auxiliary heat control for perimeter zones.
  • Modulating dampers and diffusers.
  • Operates with single stage, multi-stage, or heat pump units.
  • No additional programming required — should be “out-of-the-box” ready.
  • Night setback option.
  • Low-voltage wiring to keep installation costs low.

5. Follow-up

Remember, the sale is never over. Follow-up support is critical on any job and an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. Here are areas to include in your zone-control follow-up checklist:

  • Customer knows where the thermostats are and how to operate them.
  • Customer knows the maintenance schedule of his zone-control components.
  • Customer knows the warranty obligations versus maintenance expectations.
  • Customer knows whom to contact with any follow-up questions.
  • Customer was presented with the installation, operation and maintenance (IOM) manual of the manufacturer.
  • A quick review of the IOM manual with the customer was conducted.

Summary

Zone control in the light commercial and residential market has become the norm rather than the exception. It is imperative that every HVAC contractor and system-design professional understands the application. It is a key strategy for success on both new construction as well as improving overall comfort on existing jobs. The steps identified should help identify additional thoughts to be included in a successful zone-control strategy.


Articles by Tom Edwards

Zoning Systems for Residential and Light Commercial Applications

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Zone Control Has Become the Norm; Knowing it's Application is Key Success Strategy

Zone control in the light commercial and residential market has become the norm rather than the exception. It is imperative that every HVAC contractor and system-design professional understands the application. It is a key strategy for success on both new construction as well as improving overall comfort on existing jobs. The steps identified should help identify additional thoughts to be included in a successful zone-control strategy.
View article.