Profit Potential for Plumbers

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Profit Potential for Plumbers

By Dave Duren

From Minneapolis to Miami, Vancouver to Newport News, the same questions from plumbers keep coming up and one of the most common is “How do I Sell a softener to a homeowner?” And I understand the need for help here. This “category” of the plumbing trade is NOT your mainline bread and butter service area and may not have even crossed you mind before. Matter-of-fact, I bet a lot of you have NEVER had a call about “water quality” at your office. This is what I’d like to address here.

I had a great plumber from St. Paul and my local rep come into our offices yesterday and present me with some cool ideas about selling softeners. The contractor was a young man with his own company that he possibly purchased from a long time existing contractor. He was creative, innovative, and always looking to come up with new ways to PRESENT products to the homeowners. But the bottom line to the conversation was that it always begins when he starts “talking” about their issues. Maybe he is being called out for a standard boiler problem or clogged toilet but he leaps at the opportunity to head to that house and get in the door! And why does he want to get in the door (as most of you know)? To first and foremost, fix their issue and make them happy, but also to observe, look around and ask questions about other issues they might have.

For instance, he might look around and see white build up on a shower head or aerator at the sink or lav. He might also see quite a bit of soap scum in in the tub/shower, shower doors and on the tiles. There may be cloudy dishes around the kitchen. On another job, he might replace a water heater and upon removal, see mineral built up in the pipes or maybe he takes the element out and see a ton of mineral build up on it. He may even see some reddish rings in the toilet and laundry sink or clothes washer. (Evidence of Iron) Then in the basement, he may or may not see a water softener. These are all “TALKING POINTS” for the contractor and the homeowner…..a time to start a conversation about water quality.

As I spoke to my new friend yesterday, I told him out of the 25+ years I’ve been selling water softeners in the wholesale plumbing trade, there are two major areas I’ve seen contractors consistently fall short in generating more revenue and fixing an unnoticed, but “real” problem for homeowners. The first is that most don’t even mention to the homeowner that they sell and install water softeners! The second is that many contractors underestimate their power of persuasion. The homeowner VALUES the opinion of the professional they’ve selected to come into their house and provide a service.

We all have our style of communication and I’ve truly found that a good honest approach is about the best there can be. To take it a step further, when it’s a professional in front of a homeowner telling them in a truthful manner, the cause of their plumbing headaches, they listen! If you’re on the job and see the issues I just spoke about or other similar issues, don’t be shy, whip out your test kit and check for hardness. I know some contractors that may not even say anything until they perform the test. Sometimes the homeowner may see them doing the test and ask “what are you doing?” Bam! An even better time to start talking about water softeners. Here’s a few lines you might consider:

  1. I see you have a water softener and I just wanted to check for you that it’s working hard to keep your water free of troublesome mineral.
  2. Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t tell you that we perform a FREE water test with every visit to check the potential of scale problems down the road?
  3. I saw a few signs of mineral intrusion in your plumbing system and just want to make sure I was correct before offering you some solutions.
  4. Our company also provides water treatment solutions and it looks like you might benefit from these options based on what I see here today.
  5. And so on etc…

Once the conversation starts, you may have the ability to pitch a softener solution based on the good, honest approach to the situation. You’ll find most homeowners very understanding and feel they have been treated fairly and respectfully.

I have also spoken with many companies that do similar things in the house but then ask to set some kind of appointment to further go over all options for their “troubled water”. Some even have a dedicated employee who only sells water softeners using good leads generated by the service techs in the field. There are many types of companies out there and many different angles to approach the “selling side” of the model. But what is the bottom line and where do you begin? It starts with having conversations with your customers.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately as the year starts to wind down and like most of us, I’ve been contemplating 2013 and what can I be doing to gear up for a great year and another year of growth in my channel of the wholesale trade. And as I fly around, what strikes me hardest is still the fact of how few plumbing contractors even mess around with water softeners and selling them! Our industry calculates loosely that only 10% of the homes in the US that could benefit from a softener even have one. Do you know how much potential that is? 90% is currently untouched revenue generating possibilities! And that is what keeps me getting up every day still pumped up in my job and driving me to find one more wholesaler and one more plumber to convince that they’re leaving a huge chunk of revenue on the table. And the process is so simple. Like I always say in my presentations, all you have to do is cut a pipe plumb an inlet and outlet, plumb a drain line to a drain and plug the darn thing in, push two buttons, and the softener is raring to go! Yes, it is that easy and with a great piece of certified equipment, backed by years of experience in this field the unit can be trouble free for a long time.

So in closing, instead of me asking what will you do in 2013 with water softening, I’d rather ask, why not make a commitment for next year. For those who like to take baby steps, maybe to at least learn more about the softener market and it’s opportunities. For those who are leapers of faith, how about committing yourself to sell your first water softener in 2013. And for you really bold contractors with to-do lists, committing to sell your first water softener by March 1st 2013 (Or some other specific date). Then set goals to follow through. Let me tell you, it can be done and it can be done well. I’ve seen it through my 25+ years and I know many contractors that have absolutely integrated water softening as part of their everyday business model and make a nice profit at it. Mr. Culligan man, move over because plumbers are elbowing in on the profits! Happy New Year and Happy Selling! 

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