As many of you know, Bio-Clean is one of the best add-on sales products available to service plumbing contractors. This environmentally friendly biological drain cleaner, which comes in powdered form, is a trade exclusive sold directly to plumbing contractors. You won’t find it in any home centers or even on wholesaler shelves. If you haven’t heard of it yet, give a call to Stateside Supply at 800/553-5573 for further information.

It so happens that Blau Plumbing has been the nation’s leader in Bio-Clean sales for 10 of the last 12 years. Last year we sold over 2,000 cans of Bio-Clean.

Mary Dahlk, who along with husband John, operates Statewide Supply (Cross Plains, WI), nationwide distributor of Bio-Clean, wrote an article about our success in the last issue of their newsletter Bio-Clean News. Although some of you have seen it, most haven’t, so I would like to borrow from that article for this month’s column.

Getting Techs To Sell It: “How do you get your service techs to sell it?” asked Mary. The answer is that you begin by having everyone learn the fundamentals of salesmanship. Most contractors are not good marketers. First, they don’t charge enough for their work, and therefore they don’t have the time or money needed to train their people.

There are no natural born salesmen. Yet everyone who deals with customers, whether a dispatcher, customer service rep or service tech, is a salesperson. It is the contractor’s responsibility to provide proper training for those employees.

At Blau Plumbing, this sales training is an ongoing process. It begins with clean uniforms and grooming. We constantly stress the importance of being friendly, articulate and courteous.

Weekly training sessions are conducted with service techs, with many of these sessions involving role play and acting out service calls. Our company uses voice-activated tape recorders. A service tech will carry this tiny recorder with him when making an actual service call, to be played back and critiqued by the group. Our objective is to get our service techs to come across as a concerned person, doing his best to make the customer feel comfortable.

Most contractors hate selling. They think it requires memorizing phony pitches. On the contrary, it is the most natural thing in the world. Like it or not, all of us have to sell ourselves and our businesses every day. It’s just that some do it better than others.

Opening lines have nothing to do with selling. We train our service techs to observe the surrounding environment upon arrival, and use that information to greet the homeowner and make casual conversation — just as we all do in a social setting. I call it “schmoozing.” We also stress that our techs should explain everything to customers in terminology they can understand — no technobabble.

Once inside the home, a tech has a unique opportunity to make add-on sales. I cannot understand the reasoning of contractors who think this is somehow unethical, i.e., taking advantage of a customer. What I want to know is whether they think their products and services have any value.

If the answer is no, then you should indeed refrain from selling the public worthless products and services.

But if you do believe that your products and services have value — as I most certainly do — then aren’t you doing the customer a disservice by failing to let them know all the benefits you can provide them? We make sure our techs understand that valuable products and services need to be presented to the customer. If a tech fails to do this, he’s not only doing the customer a disservice, but he’s losing an opportunity to make money for himself and for Blau Plumbing.

“Where Do You Find These ‘Super Techs?’” Recruiting and keeping good service techs is an ongoing problem for us as well as everyone else in the industry. However, it is not as difficult for us as for most others.

First of all, the funds needed for recruitment and training should be budgeted into overhead just like all other costs of doing business. We do not just hire “off the street.” We require our job applicants to undergo aptitude tests pertaining to intelligence, personality and mechanical ability. One test we use that I find very indicative of future performance is the Wonderlic Personnel Test. The results allow us to screen applicants on more than just their mechanical ability.

In addition to being superb mechanics, we expect our service techs to do their part promoting our company and selling our wares. With the PHC industry being eroded by competition from home centers, utilities and “wholetailers,” it is up to the service techs to take an active role in selling goods and services. Their job security depends on our company prospering.

Finding is one thing. In order to keep good service techs, a company must provide adequate compensation. That means a pay level commensurate with the skills, responsibilities and performance we require them to have. Various industry surveys show the average plumber to make around $30,000 a year and the average plumbing contractor around $45,000. I guarantee our people make much more than that. They hold our customers’ lives in their hands, and we recognize that.

We also provide a profit-sharing and money-purchase plan, plus a year-end bonus plan and a hospital and medical plan. Most PHC contractors are so concerned about “cheating” the customer that they end up cheating their employees out of such benefits.

“How Do You Keep Them Motivated?” I am a firm believer in incentive programs and commissions as motivational tools. The way we promote Bio-Clean is a prime example.

Every tech must first learn what the product is and how it works by reviewing the Bio-Clean training tapes at the shop or at home. You can’t sell a product effectively unless you are comfortable with it.

Next, they are taught how to make a Bio-Clean presentation through role play. Our most successful techs take the product into the house on a service call. They explain to the customer how the product works or give them the “video salesman” tape to watch. Sometimes the tech will mix up an application in the new Bio-Clean mixing cup. One particular tech likes to emphasize the safety of the product. He’ll shake it up and then taste it right in front of the customer, warning of the dangers of using poisonous chemicals that won’t even solve the problem. It’s important to plant the seed of urgency in the customer’s mind. Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale.

Our techs are well compensated for their Bio-Clean sales. There is a large eraser board at our shop entrance. Daily sales records get recorded by an office employee, who also keeps track of their commissions. Each tech is paid a spiff of $6.27 for every can sold. This commission is paid out with their weekly payroll check, with an attached sheet listing all commissions earned that week. This sheet also allows us to track the performance of each tech, quickly identifying the movers and shakers from those who might need an extra push.

Besides this added weekly compensation, we also have a quarterly contest to reward the top three sellers in both the plumbing-heating and drain cleaning divisions. First place winners get an extra $150, $50 for second place and $25 for third. Bio-Clean’s recent “Everyone’s A Winner” contest added to the motivational tools. Two of my men have already won leather jackets and are in a drawing for a 7–day vacation package for two — which automatically earns the owner two entries into the contractor’s drawing.

Everyone dreams of making their lives better. We all want to be happier, healthier, and to have more money. At Blau Plumbing, we strive every day to do this not only for the owners, but for all of our partners in business who work so hard to achieve our collective success.

To make it all happen, we just have to sprinkle a little salesmanship around. So should you.