Faced with multiple business challenges each day, landscape professionals must base their actions on what makes the most sense for their company’s bottom line.

The Propane Education & Research Council’s Propane Mower Cost Calculator App aims to make at least one of their tough decisions easier: when to make the switch to propane. The new app gives landscapers, propane retailers and equipment dealers a look at the operating costs of transitioning to propane.

The propane calculator is available as a downloadable desktop tool, Apple or Android mobile app, and can be easily accessed online at propanecostcalculator.com. The app compares propane usage with gasoline and diesel and offers one-, three- and five-year savings forecasts. PERC also offers a propane autogas calculator ideal for landscapers who are interested in converting their pickup truck fleet.

Numbers don’t lie

Equipment dealers can become a landscaper’s most trusted ally, but it takes time to build a dependable rapport with customers. The Cost Calculator App helps them establish a reliable reputation when it comes to selling propane-powered equipment.

Mike Halloran, owner of Halloran Power Equipment in Palatine, Illinois, has already helped several customers convert to propane and is a strong proponent of the clean, American-made fuel. One of his most notable clients is the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois, which is currently running 33 propane-powered Gravely mowers.

“Everyone is pretty skeptical at first and thinks I’m massaging the numbers to make propane sound better than it is,” Halloran explains. “But once they see the data for themselves [with the app], they’re convinced. We’ve had great luck converting people so far, but the calculator makes it easier to prove we’re not making up numbers simply to bolster our sales.”

In addition to using the calculator himself, Halloran has shared the tool with his sales team and downloaded the desktop version on the computers in the dealership. This allows customers to come in and play around with the numbers themselves. He also appreciates the ability to email the results directly to customers.

“There’s zero learning curve. Everyone grasps it easily. In fact, one of my sales guys has used the app on his Android phone for the past week and a half and has showed it to five or six customers already,” Halloran says. “We’ve taken a tablet to presentations and showed prospective customers, and we plan to continue doing it in the future. The customization makes it ideal for a variety of landscapers, and once they see the numbers adjusted specifically for them, they believe.”

Halloran is also hoping the calculator will help a current customer decide to expand his propane fleet. “We’re working with a customer who has a few propane units that they converted themselves,” he says. “Unfortunately, they’ve had lackluster results with propane due to the poor, non-EPA-certified conversions. When we showed them they would save more than $75,000 over the next five years by transitioning to an all new Gravely propane-powered fleet, it was a game-changer.”

Customization is key

According to Jim Rushing, director of mower fuel and corporate development for nationwide propane retailer Ferrellgas, the ability to customize and input specific data into the Cost Calculator is the key to showing landscape companies of all sizes how they can benefit from propane. Whether a contractor is interested in converting a fleet of two mowers or 32 mowers, the calculator provides completely tailored results.

“Landscapers trust that the results are based on real numbers— their numbers,” Rushing points out. “It’s very important that they provide their information and see that we’re not being overbearing sales people.”

Although the app doesn’t have an input specifically for lost fuel from spillage or pilferage or for incentives, it’s simple to take those things into consideration, Rushing explains.

“When we walk through all of the inputs with a customer, they’re immediately impressed and willing to learn more about propane’s benefits,” Rushing says. “It’s easy to communicate the ease of refueling or propane’s green profile. The actual numbers were more difficult to prove prior to the app. This is a realistic tool that helps us build trusting relationships.”

The sales personnel at Ferrellgas are already using the app to communicate with their landscape customers, and the company plans to put the app on display at trade shows or events where visitors can play with the numbers on a tablet. “It produces realistic, personalized and immediate results, as well as a snapshot of future savings,” Rushing says. “We can also share the results via email. And, this isn’t a tool available only to propane retailers; our customers can download the app themselves.”

COVER PHOTO: PROPANE EDUCATION & RESEARCH COUNCIL