Buying decisions are made more on the likability of the tech, not his skills.

I’m sure you would agree that every service and replacement company in the world has an opportunity to improve its sales and customer service. I know this to be true from my own experience and the stories my clients tell me, regardless of whether they’re in the United States, Canada or Australia.

As a fellow contractor and business owner who plays the same game you do every day, I understand how much customer interaction and the sales process have changed over the last few years. Now more than ever, our front-line team must focus on connecting with customers and building positive relationships before asking for a sale, regardless of job size.

This year I’ve spent a considerable amount of time coaching, training and performing ride-a-longs for my contractor clients as well as in my own company. Because of this live observation in the field, I’ve uncovered some key points that we’re missing as contractors regarding customer service and sales.

Why connect with customers?

Many sales technicians don’t realize the importance of connecting with their customers. They perceive their value during the service call to be based on how technically capable they are. While technical aptitude is crucial, when it comes to customer perception, it’s not the most important thing. Believe it or not, the customer will base his buying decision more on the likability of the technician than on his level of technical knowledge.

The more we can help our sales technicians understand and embrace this concept, the better success they will have at the presentation table asking for the sale. Building a bit of a relationship with the customer prior to asking for the sale will allow them to sell more services at higher margins on their very next service call.

I’ve seen this success happen time and time again immediately after one of my sales meetings, so this month I want to emphasize the importance of building the relationship early and often. The stronger relationship you have with your customer, the better your results will be - every single time.

Most of the technicians I ride with have the desire to do a great job. They want to improve their customer service and sales, but don’t know exactly what to do. They certainly do not want to come across as high-pressure salespeople, so often they won’t spend any time going through what could be considered a “sales” process.

Technicians don’t need to be high-pressure salespeople, they just need to be themselves and use some basic techniques to connect with their customers. It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to change a few of the ways they interact with customers throughout the call; the human interaction aspect simply needs more attention. This will strengthen the overall customer relationship, and a strong relationship will improve sales and results.

Asking the right questions

Questions are a fundamental necessity to building (and maintaining) positive relationships. There is certainly a sequence to the questions that get asked, as well as a time and place for every question, but my experience of riding with technicians shows undeniably that they don’t askenoughquestions. Period.

Sure, they might ask a few simple questions about the problem at hand. However, the questions are usually just enough to give them the information they need to properly diagnose a repair or replacement. This is not enough. Even though many technicians would rather have a conversation with the water heater than the homeowner, the broken part is not going to make the decision about whether we perform the work in this home today!

Once we get clear about this fact, we realize that we must properly diagnose the customer as much, if not more than, the issue we were called there for. Through good questioning, we can discover opportunities to provide additional services to our customers and understand what they truly want and need. This is the key to winning at the kitchen table when delivering their options.

Train your technicians to ask questions outside the scope of the problem and watch how the customer will open up and begin to embrace this “stranger” in his home. Understand that you are a stranger when you arrive onsite, and if you present options to a customer as a stranger, you’re not going to have much success.

On the other hand, when you ask some questions and get the customer talking about himself, you can gain useful information. This also puts him at ease; he realizes an actual person is in his home instead of a technically trained robot with zero personality. This does wonders when it comes time to ask him to invest in your company’s services.

Being more open with customers

The period of time between arrival at the home and asking for a buying decision should be viewed like the dating process. When you were first dating someone, you didn’t simply ask if you could buy her a drink and, once the drink was delivered, drop to one knee and ask for her hand in marriage, right? Of course not!

You had to court her over time and get to know her while allowing her to get to know you. This is a similar process with our customers. We need to know more about them and they need to know more about us.

As soon as technicians start to open up and share something relatable about themselves with customers, a commonality is found. We need to discover some sort of commonality before asking for their investment in us, and it comes from questions and conversation.

This is not a complicated process. Connections can be created based on something as simple as discussing family pets. I’ve seen this connection happen with anything and everything from chess, guinea pigs, diabetes, sports teams, art, gardening and so on.

These are important relationship-building points, and we must help our technicians understand the importance of finding a connection with our customers before we invite them to do business with us. If you spend a little time training conversational skills that help to form a connection with the client, you will start to see an increase in overall sales and customer service … and who doesn’t want that?