January 2019

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EMAIL INTERVIEWSkip Freeman and Aaron Hanna

Skip Freeman, Senior Technical Recruiter, BASI Solutions, LLC

Aaron Hanna, Controls Sales, Mason and Barry

What’s important in sales in 2019?

"Listen to your customers and learn to sell to their needs. When you’re able to do that you become more than just a salesperson, you’re viewed more as a consultant, and in my mind, that’s the ultimate tier for anyone in sales." states Aaron Hanna, Controls Sales Professional for Mason and Barry.   


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Freeman:  Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Aaron Hanna who is in Controls Sales at Mason and Barry. Founded in 1959, Mason and Barry, headquartered in Saint Albans, West Virginia, is one of West Virginia’s leading HVAC equipment & controls, building automation systems, and security & surveillance systems manufacturer’s representative sales firms.

Before becoming a BMS sales professional, Aaron was a recruiter. Having spoken to hundreds of sales candidates and Controls Contractors over the last 10-years, he provides an extremely broad perspective to the reading audience.

Freeman:  Aaron, this is the time of year when we all set our goals for 2019 and complete our business plans. As a sales professional, we want to get into some tactics in a moment that may be helpful to everyone. But first, give us a brief overview of who you are and your story.

Hanna:  I started in the HVAC/Building Automation industry in 2008 as a recruiter. After about 5-years, I took a stronger interest in recruiting on the building automation side of the industry because I connected more with the technology aspect of DDC.  Through my conversations with hundreds of candidates and clients over the years, I developed a passion for the DDC industry and decided to pursue a career locally after my recruiting office closed their business this past spring.  I was blessed to find a position with Mason & Barry as a Building Management Specialist and look forward to a long career in the building automation industry.

Freeman:  Tell us a little bit about Mason and Barry.

Hanna:  Mason and Barry is the Schneider Electric partner in West Virginia. We’re both a HVAC factory representative firm and a system integrator allowing us to be a one-stop solution for our customers’ facility needs. Our focus is to deliver solutions to our clients combining the cutting-edge technologies of both HVAC and building automation to drive building efficiencies and cost savings for our clients. As a recruiter, I always found that my best clients were the ones who put an emphasis on taking care of both their customers and their employees and I’m happy to be a part of that kind of atmosphere here at Mason and Barry.

Freeman:  You have been in HVAC and BAS recruiting for several years. Most people don’t think of recruiting and sales as the same thing, but I believe that it is. What are your thoughts on that?

Hanna:  In my experience, recruiting is the three-headed monster of sales. First, a recruiter must sell a client on using his/her service which is a challenge to begin with. All service sales reps understand the challenges involved in selling something that is not tangible. Secondly, the recruiter must understand what a candidate is looking for in an opportunity and sell them on the position. And thirdly, they must sell their client on the candidate being the right fit for the position. All of this while everyone involved has emotions that influence the deal. A piece of HVAC or controls equipment doesn’t have the option of saying ‘no’ on a project you sell.

Freeman:  Anyone reading this article most likely is in sales or has an interest in sales. It used to be that salespeople were important early in the sales process as providers of information to the potential buyer. Today, obviously with the internet, that information can be found in just a few minutes. So Aaron, how does a sales professional today break through the clutter and get the attention of a potential buyer?

Hanna:  Several things come to mind.

First, because today a sales rep is more than a purveyor of information, he/she must have a passion for what he does, believe in his product, and have confidence in the delivery team implementing the solution. Without this, the next two critical steps for breaking through the clutter are even more challenging. And as a quick side note, this goes back to my recruiting days when I would encourage my clients to, “Hire for attitude and train for skills.”

Secondly, continuous prospecting. Today’s potential buyer is often 50 to 60% through the sales process by the time they’re ready to speak to a sales representative. In other words, they have researched their options, have come up with a short list, and are now moving toward making a decision. It’s the sales representative who has stayed “top of mind,” and/or happens to connect with the client at the right time who gets a shot at the business. 

Thirdly, questions, questions, and more questions. When I was a recruiter I learned that the top-performing sales representatives, the rock stars, are the ones who ask facilitating questions helping the prospect connect their options with their desired outcomes. And sometimes the buyer isn’t even sure yet what their desired outcomes are. The facilitative sales rep who is capable of asking good questions will generally be the one who closes the deal.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Freeman:  Moving from recruiting to sales, how have you learned about BAS and HVAC Controls?

Hanna:  My education in controls began with all of the conversations I had starting back when I began recruiting. That really gave me a fundamental understanding of DDC controls and an idea of what they could do. Once I decided to pursue a career in the industry, I began enrolling in the courses offered by Phil Zito, owner of I believe Phil’s courses have been paramount in demonstrating my determination of growing my BAS career to my current employer and my prospects/clients. Phil’s courses have been the basis for teaching me the right questions to ask for creating the best solutions for my client’s needs and outcomes.

Freeman:  Do you use Social Media in your sales process? Why or Why not? And if you do use it, how do you use it?

Hanna:  I have always used Social Media (LinkedIn, in particular) to network within the industry and to identify both clients and candidates that I may want to work with. Today I use it to gain insight into my prospects, so I can serve them better. There’s no excuse for going into a conversation blind.

Freeman:   Are there any particular sales books or programs that you would recommend for 2019?

Hanna:  One of the best sales books I’ve read has been The DNA Selling Method by Patrick Henry Hansen. It provides sales strategies that can be immediately implemented in your sales process and teaches you how to be more of a cerebral seller. In fact, you can download a free copy of the PDF version on his website right now, and I’d highly recommend anyone interested in sales to grab a copy. (

Freeman:  In closing, what advice would you give us for achieving our sales goals in 2019 and beyond?

Hanna:  Listen to your customers and learn to sell to their needs. When you’re able to do that you become more than just a salesperson, you’re viewed more as a consultant, and in my mind, that’s the ultimate tier for anyone in sales. 

And finally, whether we want to hear it or not, at some point a recession is coming. While new construction and retrofits are great pieces of business and fun to sell, service contracts provide the ongoing cash flow that keeps your business alive, your sales pipeline full, and your family fed when the “fun stuff” dries up.


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