Becoming a strategic partner to sell compressors

Give your customers more than hot air.

Automatic drain valves also do not usually come standard on air compressors, but provide additional value to shop owners by automatically draining the water from the tank where the compressed air is stored. As air undergoes compression, water separates from the air and settles at the bottom of the tank, decreasing compressor efficiency and introducing moisture to the air lines, which can damage tools. Automatic drain valves include electronic timers that open the valve at preset intervals throughout the day to allow air compressors to empty moisture from the tank.

Air-cooled after-coolers also help to remove moisture from air lines. On standard air compressors, air goes directly from the pump into the tank. Compressors with air-cooled after-coolers pipe the air through a thin copper cooler mounted on the belt guard, reducing the temperature of the air and removing approximately 70 percent of the moisture content.

While these features can be added on to an air compressor after the sale, it’s much more cost-effective to purchase a compressor that has them factory installed. Jobbers that understand these components will be better able to consult with customers, and ultimately recommend a better solution.


While horsepower is an important indicator of a compressor’s ability to meet shop requirements, it is not the most important. Jobbers looking to size the compressor for a customer need to pay close attention to its volume output — how many cubic feet per minute (cfm) it is capable of.

A 3.5-to-1 ratio generally describes the relationship between cfm and horsepower — 3.5 cfm for every 1 horsepower. Be cautious with compressors that do not show this ratio. It may mean that the advertised horsepower is peak or max-developed horsepower, which is the value the compressor is capable of before failure occurs. Running horsepower is the value that a shop can comfortably operate on.

If a customer challenges your offer with other compressor options in the area, particularly those offered through retail outlets, it may be because he is looking at peak horsepower, instead of running horsepower. Always look at cfm first to make sure the air volume is sufficient for the shop’s requirement.


The No. 1 troubleshooting issue for compressors is an incompatible electrical supply. Identifying incoming electrical service is critical prior to purchasing a compressor. This will determine the horsepower capacity available without requiring expensive modifications. Many shops have a 230V, single-phase incoming supply. However, prior to selling a compressor, jobbers should always ask shops to have a qualified electrician confirm the incoming electrical supply.

Selling a compressor is a different kind of sale than most others a jobber will make. When a shop needs a compressor, especially in an emergency situation, price is not the key driver. Shops need someone knowledgeable and close by who can help get them back up and running quickly. Jobbers who know how to guide customers through the purchasing decision can become a trusted resource in their territory, giving them a strategic advantage over competing distributors.

Mike Purtell is the Strategic Channel Manager for Ingersoll Rand.

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