Marketing Magic: Selling Seasons and Reasons

June 29, 2009
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Adams Hudson

It’s a tricky balance. Techs are technical; salespeople are salesy. (You can quote me on that if you 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 an economy filled with hesitant homeowners, 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 the tech. The only negative - and it’s just a tiny one - is that 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 word “selling,” “sales,” or “salesperson” in reference to a technician’s job, lest you desire a mild electric shock to your tongue region. (Note: That was a joke. The publishers of this magazine kindly request you remove the wires now.)

Yet most contractors assume that techs know they should offer upgrades, 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 were 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 basic repair to 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 technicians’ 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, and desire. (Commit these to memory. They haven’t changed in thousands of years.)

• 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 HVAC trade is that your customers can’t see these solutions; they must be shown, proven, and 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 their requested problem fixed, the tech leaves, that’s that. 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 article can’t turn your techs into Tom Peters - there are some sales trainers who do a pretty darn good job at that (resources below) - but can give you an outline of the more lucrative, less limited direction your techs are most likely taking.

Here are four steps to help your techs 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-minute appointment window. Park on the street in plain view since they’ll be looking for you. Respectfully use the walkway, ring the doorbell, and step back so they can see your name badge and/or photo ID. Introduce with first name and title, hoping they’ll return with first name.

Credibility enhancers for first-time callers include handing them a Green Sheet (summarization of what you do, why you’re different, testimonials on reverse tell why you’re better) a newsletter, and a business card. Bump it up with shoe covers and a logoed workmat as you choose. Lots of credibility added, with very little scripting, and even less cash. Good combo.

2. Needs Analysis - Depending on the nature of the call, your tech can spend from 2-10 minutes 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 “This room always seems hotter” or “My children both have allergies” or anything to trigger a more permanent solution, your techs have a service obligation to solve it.

A nodding, listening tech has great power of presence. The homeowner extends trust, the tech 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 themselves, and 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 (replace unit or system) upgrade (convert to better unit or system). 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 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 percent 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-yeses, 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, Upgrade and Agreement” was offered, the response given, and 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 news- letter thereafter, periodic e-mail updates, 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?



BOTTOM LINE

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 - or their training - is the limit.

Your tech’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 one above, a few tools, and a healthy understanding of the value of their role, greatly enhances the service experience for everyone.

This summer season will 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.

Training Resources: For technician sales, consider Joe Crisara at www.contractorselling.com. Tell him you’re a NEWS reader and he can send you an audio to boost the sales conversions of most any technician. For designated salespeople, go to www.hvacsellutions.com for Drew Cameron’s expert advice. NOTE: Both will be presenting very deep, very inside sales techniques and training at the first ever “Contractor Sales and Marketing SuperSummit” Oct. 14-16 in Atlanta. Go to www.hudsonink.com for more.

NEWS Reader Freebie This Month: A 16-page report, “How to Double Your HVAC Sales in 90 Days.” Just send a polite request to freestuff@hudsonink.com. If you e-mail, be sure to include your full company information, since some of our free items are mailed. Or you can fax your request on company letterhead to 334-262-1115.

Publication date: 06/29/2009

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