Hot water keeps people cleaner, healthier and happier.

IF YOU ARE A PLUMBER serving the residential market, you probably face the same problem as most plumbers when it comes to your business: It's driven by emergency repairs. While that's all well and good, what do you do when it gets slow? What if you could help balance out those slow times with revenue that would boost your average ticket into the $600 to $700 range, instead of your usual $200?

That's where water heaters enter the equation. But often when a plumber goes to sell a water heater, he gets price shopped or, worse, undercut by a homeowner who has been to a big-box retailer and noticed that he can get a water heater for so much less. How does a plumber deal with this?

Answer: You don't try to sell them a water heater. In fact, you focus on something entirely different. You focus on why the customer wants a water heater in the first place. What does a water heater do for your customer?

Water heaters provide hot water. But what does hot water provide? For millions of people everywhere, it's difficult to imagine life without it. Hot water provides that nice soothing bath that the woman of the house needs after a long day with the kids. Or it supplies the dishwasher with hot water to clean and sterilize the dirty dishes, saving time for the family to spend together. It provides hot water for the washing machine, so the baby's blankets come out clean and soft. In short, hot water keeps people cleaner, healthier and happier.

Hot water means all these things and more to your customers. Once you identify with why your customers need and want hot water, providing them with hot water takes on a whole new meaning. And a whole new approach to how you sell water heaters. In fact, once you realize that the "why" is more important than the "what," you will be well on your way to boosting your average ticket, particularly during those traditional slow times.

How do you make this a reality?

  1. You put together a system that focuses on selling the "why" and not the "what." You need a sales presentation system that is conveniently packaged so you can offer your customer a professional presentation.
  2. You train your plumbing technicians on how to use the sales presentation. This training should focus on walking customers through the water heater presentation and teaching them how to handle and overcome objections (especially those pesky big-box retailer low-price objections).
  3. You develop a marketing communications program to get leads for you or your plumbing technicians. Getting homeowners to call you about a potential new water heater greatly enhances your chances of getting their business.

Frank Horvath of RJB Plumbing & Heating in Toms River, N.J., sold $205,870 in water heater replacements in 2005 and is on pace for more than $340,000 in 2006. He credits this to the use of a Water Heater Safety and Comfort Guide, provided by Plumbers' Success International, a professional plumbers' organization that helps plumbing business owners succeed.

"Last year, water heater replacements were 17.3% of our business and this year that should increase to 21%," Horvath said. Rick Kummers of Vern Kummers Plumbing in Green Bay, Wis., said, "Because of this (water heater) guide, water heaters now account for 27.1% of my business. In fact, I sold 14 water heaters last week."

Neil Slattery, Neil Slattery Plumbing & Heating in Manasquan, N.J., added a demonstration to the sales presentation. His demonstration includes use of an old, worn-out anode rod and a new anode rod to help the customer understand the inner workings of a water heater.

"Our customers appreciate our willingness to explain how the rod will wear out over time and what that means to them," Slattery said. "Our presentation makes all the difference between a sale and no sale."

So the next time you approach homeowners and tell them that they need a new water heater, don't tell them that they need a new water heater. Ask them if they prefer to maintain their comfort by protecting their supply of hot water. You'll never have to sell another water heater again!