Central Vacuum: Why You Should Sell It, and How
Manufacturers of central vacuum systems have been engaging the custom electronics installation market for several years now, to varying degrees of success. Perhaps now, their time has come, as numerous trends are working in their favor.
For one, their products, which they claim can remove indoor pollutants, play into the touchy-feely “green living” trend. Secondly, builders increasingly are looking to differentiate their homes in the midst of a softening housing market. And finally, the days of big profits on flat panels are gone for the custom installation market, and the hunt is on for products that can deliver high margin.
Still, there are challenges faced by all parties: the manufacturers, the installers, the builders and the home buyers. We asked some of the manufacturers for their thoughts on why you should sell the category, and how you can sell it effectively.
Bob Hasty, central vacuum product manager for NuTone, says custom installers typically aren’t familiar with “the tremendous upside potential and true incremental profits they can enjoy by growing more into central vacuum systems. According to industry statistics, less than 10 percent of all new homes built have a central vacuum system installed. By merely installing more systems, an aggressive custom installer could easily add several thousands of dollars to its bottom line each year.”
Hasty says demonstration is key to selling central vacuum effectively. “Central vacuums are what we call a ‘delighter’ to the consumer, meaning they have one of the highest satisfaction rates of any built-in product for the home,” he says. “I highly recommend that the installer take a few minutes to demonstrate how a system works and how easy it is to use. We find that the acceptance levels increase significantly after the system is demonstrated.” Like DVR and home automation, central vacuum is a life-altering technology for the initiated. “We see many NuTone central vacuum sales going to home buyers who already had a system in their prior house and simply can’t live without one in their next home,” says Hasty.
Larry Hartley, vice president of marketing for Beam, notes that wooing builders on the charms of central vacuum is just as important as wooing home buyers. “Cultivating builder business is key to growing the category and the custom installer’s business,” he explains. “The dealer showroom should be an attractive place where builders can send home buyers to select upgrades, learn about central vacuums and try them out.” With that in mind, he notes, “Beam has created the Beam Experience Center, an interactive dealer display that lets the customer ‘experience’ the product in an authentic home setting. Incentive programs such as priming or pre-piping homes, model home displays and literature customized to builders can help builders persuade buyers to add central vacuum systems to their new homes.”
Grant Olewiler, general manager of M.D. Manufacturing, encourages electronics installers to educate themselves on the central vacuum category. “Product knowledge is truly the key for selling both a higher volume of central vacuums and a higher dollar per installation,” he says. “Go to your manufacturer’s web site and educate yourself on the category. Take advantage of any training videos they may offer. Attend industry forums, seminars and webinars they offer. If you purchase through a distributor, have them develop a means for this information to flow down to you. Most custom installers really do not understand the quick profit and low ‘tweak’ factor central vacuums offer! Simply offering an educated purchase-suggestion to the client will add an additional $2,000 to your project total.”
Greg Calderone, floorcare general manager for H-P Products, notes that central vacuum ties into the “green” lifestyles trend. “Central vacuum systems offer homeowners convenience through a cost-effective solution for cleaning their homes as well as improved indoor air quality that provides health benefits and supports green living,” he says. “To sell the product, installers need to understand these benefits and be able to communicate the intrinsic value of central vacs to builders and home-owners. Training programs help dealers and installers maximize their profits by teaching these benefits and proper installation techniques.”
Calderone points out that H-P offers a CEDIA CEU-certified course to dealers. “Once dealers know the full benefits of central vacs and are properly trained on installation and customer support, they gain an increased confidence level with the product, thus allowing them to more effectively sell units,” he says.
“Central vacuum systems provide the builder with an upgrade that not only provides the home purchaser with a worthwhile and desired system, but also an upgrade that improves the quality and profitability of his home,” says Christine Kuta, product line manager for AirVac. “Central vacuum systems often command gross profit margins of 50 percent. Point out that the EPA Science Advisory Board says that indoor air pollutants rank among the top five public health risks, and that having a central vacuum system helps reduce these allergy-causing agents because of its self-cleaning filtration system, [which] prevents allergy-causing agents from being released into the home during vacuuming.” CR