It’s a tricky balance. Techs are technical; salespeople are salesy. (You can quote me on that if you’d like.) Combining the two is like finding an accountant who’s the life of the party. Yet, the combo of a “selling technician” can give you a radically effective one-two punch.
In a bargain world filled with hesitant buyers, a selling technician likely has more credibility and is easier to justify than another designated salesperson. This reduces overhead and windshield time, while increasing the speed to the sale, all resulting in a nicely fattened paycheck for you and him. The only negative — and it’s just a tiny one — is they hate selling.
Well, technicians don’t hate it as much as they “intensely dislike” the characterization of selling. That’ll be your manager’s first commandment: Do not utter the words “selling,” “sales” or “salesperson” in reference to a technician’s job, unless you desire a mild electric shock to your tongue region. (That was a joke! The publishers of this magazine kindly request you remove the wires now.)
Yet, most contractors assume their techs “know” they should offer upgrades, upsells, cross-sells or suitable products while in the home. Mostly, that’s false. Because techs assume their job is to meet, greet, diagnose, present and repair. If it was up to them, they’d shorten it to diagnose and repair. This leaves a mountain of justifiable, valuable and very sellable services on the table.
In short, training your techs to convert homeowners from a basic repair to an upgrade is good service and smart business.
What the heck is selling?
To some, selling means “tricking an unsuspecting human into buying something they didn’t really want in the first place.” (Your technician’s former definition.) However, to the enlightened conversion specialist, selling is heightened service. Effective selling means building a relationship that benefits both, such as:
• Helping a customer identify needs, fears, problems, voids, discomfort, loss, desire. (Commit these to memory. They haven’t changed in thousands of years and are a perfect way to introduce the upsell.)
• Presenting information or options that solve these problems.
• Providing follow-up to maintain satisfaction, encourage future solutions and referrals. (Thus the cycle begins anew.)
One of the interesting things about the plumbing trade is that your customers can’t “see” these solutions; they must be shown, proven, convinced of the need and benefit. Likewise, most customers don’t come to you or browse your warehouse. You take your store to them — in the form of your technicians. So, if they’re not prepared, guess what?
Usually, not much. The customer gets the requested problem fixed, the tech leaves; that’s it. Their satisfaction heights remain unexplored, any justifiable added conversion ignored. Both cap the experience to a maximum of “OK.” Isn’t it time to expand these limits?
This column can’t turn your techs into superstars — there are some sales trainers who do a pretty darn good job at that — but it can give you an outline of the more lucrative, less limited direction your techs are most likely taking.
Sell more without meaning to
1. Appearance and credibility. Big one here. I don’t care how technically skilled you are — a sloppy unprofessional look gives the same perception to your work. I don’t make the rules, buyers do. Though I’m not a huge fan of tattoos, I’ll concede that if you’re otherwise clean and neat with a supporting personality, you can usually offset the negative. You sporting a nose ring? You’ve got a lot of negating to do.
Make sure your time is reconfirmed. The days of “sometime in the afternoon” are over. Either the tech or the CSR had better confirm within a 30-min. appointment window. Park on the street in plain view since the client will be looking for you. Respectfully use the walkway, ring the doorbell and step back so she can see your name badge and/or photo ID. Introduce yourself with your first name and title, hoping she’ll return with her first name.
Credibility enhancers for first-time callers include handing them a Green Sheet (a summarization of what you do, why you’re different, testimonials on the reverse side telling why you’re better) a newsletter, a business card. Bump it up with shoe covers and a logoed work mat as you choose. Lots of credibility added with very little scripting and even less cash. Good combo.
And remember, this doesn’t just go for technicians. The company’s image, brand, website and social media all need to be clean, trustworthy and credible.
2. Needs analysis. Depending on the nature of the call, your tech can spend from two to 10 min. here but various “pain identifiers” should be noted and trained to resolve. If the homeowner says, “This is the third time this has happened,” or “My water always seems soft,” or “My water heater just seems to be having more and more issues,” or anything to trigger a more permanent solution, your techs have a service obligation to solve it.
A nodding, listening tech has a great power of presence. The homeowner extends trust, the tech’s natural credibility, and with some gift of communication, can score conversion percentages that’d make many salespeople blush. That’s why the options presented are often presented back to the tech as: “Well, what would you do?” That’s the homeowner closing herself, and the ultimate acceptance of trust, never to be abused.
3. Option presentation. Once diagnosed, your tech should present three basic options (though skilled trainers can suggest up to six; this is the simple version). The options are: repair (fix broken item), replace (fixture or equipment) or upgrade (convert to better equipment, such as a newer high-efficiency water heater). Define these as you like and offer them every time. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your profit picture.
Likewise, any maintenance agreement option (yes, plumbers!) should be given on each call, using a simple transition question, such as, “Do you mind if I show you a way to save 10% in 10 seconds?” to which only the certifiably insane answers “no.”
From these, the only answers your tech should ever hear are: yes, no and not yet. Most contractors simply accept the first two, and never break “no” into its natural subset of “maybe” or the more hopeful “not yet.”
If this has been done well, your tech will leave with more sales from happier homeowners and his esteem will be heightened as well. He can attempt to convert the non-yesses or, better yet, let the CSR offer a follow-up effort, generally with an agreement purchase to off-set pricing sensitivity. That brings me to …
4. Follow-up. The tech will document that the Repair, Replace and Upgrade Agreement was offered, the response given and then hand-off to the CSR. The CSR does a quick follow-up call which starts off as a Thanks and Satisfaction Survey. Why? If the service call went poorly, any follow-up to sell will go even worse. Find out first, then go for the upsell.
Also, prudent follow-up should include a thank-you card from the company (which includes a bump for referrals), a newsletter thereafter and at least twice-a-year service postcards or letters. This is all part of keeping them in the system of service offerings, enhancing the relationship, retention and revenues.
Kind of the point, right?
Don’t forget the power of a simple email follow-up as well. As you collect a customer’s email address, you can begin putting them to work. Email addresses are a great way to keep yourself and image in front of your customers year-round and hopefully sell a little.
Consider using emails to generate interests in upcoming promotions and discounts. Then they should point the customer to a link within the email that will take them directly to online sales surge letters (that hits the benefits of the offer) and online sales video (parallel content that brings the lead home).
In pure dollar terms, if you average 50 calls a day in the summer, adding $90 to the average ticket will generate $270,000 of untapped sales in just 12 weeks. And those are very conservative figures; the sky — the training of your techs — is the limit.
A technician’s job is, as wisely said, “to fix the home and the homeowner.” Unfortunately, people skills are too often overlooked in tech training. Giving your techs a brief conversion outline like the above, a few tools and a healthy understanding of the value of their role, greatly enhances the service experience for everyone.
This summer season can make or break many contractors. Maximize your opportunities with excellent marketing up front, a well-trained tech in the middle, with outstanding follow-up and retention on the back end, and you’ll likely jump your business to the elusive next level.
PM readers are encouraged to grab his free Sales & Marketing Insider at www.hudsonink.com, or they can receive the free report, “Upsell Your Way to Higher Profits,” by sending a polite request to freePMstuff@hudsonink.com or by calling 800/489-9099.