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Imagine this …

One day, John rolls out of bed, steps out onto his front porch to fetch the paper and while staring into the clear blue sky, thinks to himself “Yep, today’s the day. The weather is perfect and I’ve got some free time — I think I’ll fly a plane.”

What happens next doesn’t take much imagination. But too often, I see this same crash-and-burn approach in the way contractors run their businesses. You see, without any teaching or guidance, John has pretty much a zero chance of succeeding. And that doesn’t surprise any of us.

Now here’s the part you won’t like. If you’re not surprised that John can’t just wake up and fly a plane, why are you shocked when your technicians don’t wake up one morning knowing how to sell?

It’s an entirely different skill set than putting together, taking apart, diagnosing or repairing a plumbing system. Sure, you have some who are “naturals.” But for the most part, selling, like any other skill set, has to be taught.

This is especially important since now more and more businesses — that means you! — are relying on technicians to “sell the sale” once they’re in the home. So, if you’re blindly sending your guys out to get the job done without training them to sell, sell, sell — you’re losing thousands of dollars in profit every year.


The missing ingredient

Let’s be practical, shall we? The reason techs are the logical focus for sales to customers is because they are most times the company’s one and only chance to enter a home and talk to a customer.

You’re there because you’ve been called there. Your customer has already said, “I need you.” And, oh, what a regular old salesperson wouldn’t give for a gig like that!

Plus,  customers won’t even call you if your website looks ugly and untrusting, you have negative online reviews, and  they can’t find you on Google or any other search engine. Because honestly, customers are smart and they do their research. So, while you begin training your techs to sell, consider updating your online presence to sell your image and brand.

This will help build trust even before your tech steps through the door.

Unfortunately, people skills are often overlooked in service technician training and that hurts the entire plumbing industry. It’s ironic that a service technician possessing mediocre technical proficiency, and even questionable ethics, can appear more credible by relying simply on an excellent in-home manner. The tech who might be far more worthy can seem less credible because he lacks the people skills to inspire it.

Establishing credibility isn’t a game of luck and doesn’t depend on the customer. Almost any customer can be won over and there are certain techniques that can be used to help you do it.

Conversely, credibility is a fragile thing, and there are just as many ways to destroy it as there are to create it. Sadly, but predictably, it is much harder to rebuild it than it ever was to lose it in the first place.


Sell with service

Do you realize that the failure rate in sales is 95%? That means 95% of the people who go into sales fail and get out. This huge majority of nonperformers are usually the ones doling out awful advice to you and setting a poor image for the profession.

Many techs have bought into this image, believing somehow that sales is disreputable or that they’re “above it” in some way and would never do that to a customer. Bad word choices all around.

You see, sales — in the broadest sense of the word — are what we’re all doing in some capacity. Everyone … from the waiter at the nice restaurant, to the guy at the tire store, to the beautiful actress on a TV infomercial. And especially our children, who “sell” us on the idea that they must have every possible new toy-game-candy-clothes-entertainment gadget that has ever been invented … and a couple that haven’t.

When we get the benefit represented that meets or exceeds the price, we have gotten a good value. Pure and simple. Please don’t forget: The best and most valuable sales are service.

Many technicians also shy away from upselling. They feel customers will ask for the upgrade or will think they’re pushy if they offer it. Hear me out: If you feel the upgrade/upsell is a worthwhile option for your prospect, it is your duty and responsibility to offer it. Make your techs and salespeople see upsells this way. And here’s the way you make them work …

If you have just 20 service calls a day and only 25% of those like you enough to be called customers, that’s five repeats and 15 “new” customers a day.

Let’s say the five repeats only buy the upsell 30% of the time (national average is 60%), and the 15 new customers only buy the upsell 10% of the time. That’s 1.5 sales a day of something.

If two-thirds of your actual upsells in both groups only buy $300 of additional product or service (national average), you’ll be seeing $78,000 out of your repeats and $78,000 out of your new customers for $156,000 in accidental money you’re missing (1.5 customers a day x $300 x 66.66% = $77,992).

You can’t afford not to train your technicians in selling techniques. It’s an investment that makes them better employees and puts more dollars in your pocket. You’re turning employees into an untapped profit source that builds their confidence in themselves, your confidence in their abilities and your customer’s confidence in your company’s expertise.

 And confidence equals sales. Pretty tough to lose when you’re on the right side of the training track.