Earlier this year, I did a lot of onsite coaching and training, which included my technician ride-along program. This is one of the greatest opportunities for me to see what’s working in the field, what technicians are willing to implement and how we can all improve client interaction in multiple areas.

When a technician arrives at the front door of a prospective client, he is simply a stranger. That can generate fear and uneasiness in the homeowner. This is a natural response for most people when it comes to meeting someone for the first time, especially when they are inviting someone unknown into their home. In our world of in-home service, this is of heightened importance for us to be aware of. We are coming into someone’s private space and seeing how they live, how clean the home is, their furniture, pets, decoration style and so much more.

The truth is, in some of the homes we enter, we are putting on our shoe covers in order to protect our own feet from the floors! It’s also a reality that some of the homes we enter are perfect candidates for the hit TV show “Hoarders.” However, each person’s home is their sanctuary. Regardless of how clean or dirty a house might be, it is their home, their safe place and where they live a large part of their lives.

Since you are being invited into a client’s personal space, you must do everything possible to help her feel comfortable with you as her chosen professional. You are a guest in her home. She has hundreds, if not thousands, of choices of service providers she could enlist to help solve her particular problem or provide desired upgrades. Building trust is foundational to creating a good relationship with clients and overcoming the “stranger danger” concern they have at the beginning of any service call.

When riding along with technicians and salespeople, I notice that they fail to build trust early in the service experience. It’s almost as if the service person is as uncomfortable as the client initially, so he focuses on the problem he was called there for and completely misses out on providing a top-notch sales experience for the client. Building a relationship from the beginning of the call and continuing to strengthen this relationship for the entire call is a huge area of opportunity for most companies.

Winning prospective buyers

Many crucial factors exist when it comes to building trust and a good client relationship, but a few key components must be present if any technician or salesperson is going to have a chance to win the business of a prospective buyer.

1. Open up and be personable.When you first arrive at a service call, it is an automatic response for a client to take you directly to the problem, ask for a quick diagnosis, the lowest price possible and an estimate of how long it will take. You must gain control of the situation and show the client you are an educated professional who has a proven process to handle her issue better than anyone else.

You must learn about the client, but you also need to allow her into your world in order for her to feel comfortable with you. This happens through opening up and sharing a little about who you are, your experience and why she is very fortunate to have you on her side as her chosen service professional.

2. Ask better questions.Another area of opportunity has to do with the quantity and quality of the questions asked on any given service or sales call. It’s been said people don’t buy when they understand the salesperson, they buy when they feel understood. The best way to understand the client and her entire situation has everything to do with the questions you ask about what is going on in her home. The better the questions asked, the more information you have when it comes to putting together your Options Sheet.

During the presentation of the Options Sheet, you can refer back to the answers she gave to questions you asked throughout the call. It’s very beneficial when you can restate the client’s answers as the reason for providing a certain option.

3. Write out the Options Sheet.Although many companies are mobile-enabled now and have options that can be presented on an electronic tablet, I encourage my clients to continue to utilize one of the most powerful communications tools we have — a handwritten Options Sheet. It’s OK if you want to handle everything else with technology, but I watch homeowners get overwhelmed by the tablet, which can be hard to read and very difficult to have both the technician and the client view simultaneously.

If you are selling bigger-ticket items, I’m a fan of a presentation book, but on a normal service call, an Options Sheet is crucial. This gives an outline for the education process, including specific benefits of each option. It also helps the technician stay on track while making the presentation.

4. Offer all the options.Many technicians are afraid to offer all the options available due to fear of overwhelming a client and having her not move forward with anything due to “needing to think about it.” The reality is clients have never been overwhelmed by the number of options they have, but they do get overwhelmed with how the options are presented to them. When the presenter is not comfortable with how many options he is offering, the client will always become overwhelmed. A confused mind never buys.

Make sure to invest the time in educating the client about the benefits of each option while giving her time to ask questions and gain clarity through the process. It’s perfectly fine to have several options that the client doesn’t choose. It’s no different than going to the grocery store. There are many options for you, and many options you don’t choose. The same concept applies to an effective client interaction.

Since you are perceived as a stranger upon arrival at a service call, you must become a trusted professional by the time you ask a client to invest. The more a client trusts a technician and a company, the more likely she is to become a raving fan. 

People like to feel informed and know they made the right decision, and ultimately that’s a huge part of your professional responsibility. When these strategies are implemented effectively, more clients will invest more money with your company for years to come.

This article was originally titled “Building trust with homeowners” in the June 2016 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.