Being an early adopter of new technology is generally a good thing. Sure, it can take a little longer to learn than it would once the technology has gone mainstream. But even with the longer learning curve, you’re still way ahead of the crowd.
Bill Buffington considers himself an early adopter. He has always been on the leading edge when it comes to tools and technology. He joined his father’s mechanical firm right out of high school, and purchased it six years later, renaming it WM Buffington Company, Inc.
“I always felt it my responsibility to educate my customer on what was best in the heating and cooling market to bring a solution to their home and or business building’s needs,” said Buffington.
Within the past decade and especially over the past five years, Buffington’s curiosity lead him into the realm of proposal software. He knew there had to be a better way than assembling residential bids longhand.
“I wanted a faster way to get a ‘Yes’ from prospective customers,” he explained. “Until five years ago, I’d been using a hodgepodge of methods to give an accurate bid. My methods weren’t the most efficient, and I think a lot of contractors could say the same.”
Buffington builds each quote, piece by piece, before giving it to a homeowner. “Leave out variables, and you might lose money. And if you don’t offer options, you might not get the bid at all.”
“The kitchen table is often the place of negotiation,” continued Buffington. “Before adopting a flexible software program, I didn’t have a way of bringing everything we could offer to the table. If the customer asked for something I hadn’t thought of, for example, adding an IAQ solution, I’d have to gather my material, go back to the office, recalculate the job, and hope that they’d let me come back for another visit. Customers call us, the professionals, for a price, not to schedule a second meeting. It’s a known fact that closing suffers if it becomes a multiple-visit ordeal.”
Room for Improvement
After a few years of using several software programs, Buffington still saw room for improvement. Most of the software was far too expensive, not flexible enough, or required a serious time commitment to set up the program according to what you sell and how you do business.
He knew there was potential for an improved platform, but, being an HVAC contractor and not a software designer, it was just an annoyance in the back of his mind rather than something he thought he could fix himself. That is, until he met John Heilbrunn, and Brian Borchert, both HVAC industry stalwarts in their own right. They were working on a new software program that sought to rewrite the script.
“I joined forces with Brian and John several months ago to help increase the scope and capability of the platform they had started and, most importantly, create a software program that I knew could increase WM Buffington’s profitability, efficiency and professionalism.”Released officially in November of 2017, FlashQuote is a proposal software program that also acts as a system design tool, BOM generator, data storage center and sales machine.
Modules can be automatically updated with equipment specs and pricing. The program is resident on your laptop, so if you don’t have an internet connection, it doesn’t stop you from using the software while at the customer’s house. As soon as you regain service, the program uploads the bid, notes, photos etc. to the Cloud. A BOM and all job details can then be retrieved at any location, at any time. And most importantly, the cost of the sale is sent to the office.
Above: Unitary System Assembly screen where ‘good’ – ‘better’ – ‘best’ systems are selected and assembled prior to presenting solutions to the homeowner.
Buffington says that one of the biggest benefits he sees is that the software adapts to you and your business, instead of the other way around. One phone conversation is needed for setup, and within two weeks, a user can be selling equipment with the software. Boilers, unitary equipment, ductless, solar, geothermal, hearths and generators can all be added to the software, along with all of the proprietary accessories. FlashQuote offers easy project collaboration with others in the company. Even local rebates and incentive programs are displayed.
“All you need to do is input your base cost per man-hour, your sales tax rate, and the amount of profit you’d like to make, and it gives you an exceedingly accurate quote, in a Flash,” said Buffington. “It’s very simple to offer different options, and each of those options can be altered based on customer request.”
Photos and sales literature can be sent the customer through the software. Even the salesperson’s contact info, time of arrival, and photo are shared with the homeowner for peace of mind.
“It all comes together at the kitchen table,” he continued. “People are scared of flip charts today. Digital and online media are increasingly a part of the buying experience, so why should something as big as a mechanical system be any different? This software creates a much cleaner sales environment. I always knew there was a better way to handle the most essential part of the business, I just never thought I’d be part of the solution.”
For more information on FlashQuote, contact Bill Buffington at 717-657-2451.