ACHRNEWS

Technician Selling Defined a Different Way

May 7, 2007

An old saying in Texas goes, “If you’ve got to swallow a bucket of frogs, you might as well start with the big one.” Sometimes, the idea of selling can be a big frog for technicians to swallow. I know this to be true because in many of the customer service workshops we have presented for technicians, it is one of the more uncomfortable topics for them to discuss.

When we present our workshop onsite for service organizations, I often ask for a show of hands on two questions. The first one I ask is: “Has anybody here ever had a negative experience with a salesperson?” Invariably, hands shoot up all over the room.

Then I ask, “Has anybody here ever had a pleasant experience with a salesperson?”

When I ask this question, it takes more time, but eventually, everybody in the room, after they have had time to think it over, raises their hand and admits that they have had a pleasant experience when dealing with a salesperson.

This brings me to the third question: “So what was the difference?” When people think about the answer to that question, they usually have some difficulty providing a specific answer. It is apparent something was different about the two kinds of experiences, but it is hard to explain.

PERCEIVED SALES QUALITIES

Comparing two lists from surveys might help. In these surveys, people were asked about the terms they usually use to describe salespeople. Then, they were asked about the terms they tend to use when describing a professional. This first list contains the top six terms that people commonly use to describe salespeople.

Pushy: This is at the top of almost everybody’s hit parade. Salespeople sometimes can be downright pushy.

Phony: People often say that one of the things the bothers them most about salespeople is that they change who they are in some way to close a sale. Then they switch back to being themselves or somebody else on a moment’s notice to get a signature on the bottom line.

Sneaky: When people use this term to describe a salesperson, they do not say the salesperson was flat out lying, but may have been practicing some “creative avoidance.” You realize you have been dealing with a sneaky person when you suddenly find yourself blindsided by something you did not even think about when you were saying yes.

Dishonest: Unfortunately, sometimes salespeople are just dishonest. They lie, then say whatever they need to cover it up. They will twist things around when confronted, or hang on for dear life to a seemingly insignificant point to defend themselves when a deal goes sour.

Slick: When salespeople are slick, you can’t catch them in a direct misrepresentation. You know things did not go as planned or promised, but you just can’t tie them directly to the problem.

Desperate: Often, salespeople work on a draw against the commissions they plan to earn during a given time frame, such as a month or a quarter. If they have been drawing a salary against their commission for a long time and they are behind in the game, it can make them appear as desperate.

They know they have some ground to make up and time is marching on. They might even be at risk of losing their jobs if things do not turn around in a hurry. So they can sometimes come off as desperate.

PROFESSIONALS' QUALITIES

This is the list that was the result of surveys on people’s opinions of professionals:

Competent: The ideas of competence and professionalism seem to go hand-in-hand.

Honest: Although dishonestly is fourth on the typical salesperson’s list, honesty is second on the list for professionals. This simply says that most people are willing to accept quickly that a professional is honest.

Knowledgeable: Professionals are trusted to be competent in their specific area of expertise, and knowledgeable of their industry or business as a whole. We often feel that we can get good advice from a professional on how to get information on something that is related to what they do.

Dependable: When a professional makes a promise, we can count on them delivering on the promise. If something beyond their control goes wrong, we can count on them to make things right. For most of us, that is dependability in a nutshell.

Caring: When consumers are asked to describe professionals, one of the common responses is that they care about their customers.

Flexible: One of the things people like about professionals is that they can roll with the punches when necessary. If something comes up and it means that plans, scheduling, or procedures have to be adjusted, then the professional can handle the change.

When you look at the two lists, you can understand why some technicians are resistant to the idea of selling.

When a technician is asked to be more involved in selling, on the outside he may be nodding his head in agreement. However, at the same time an inner voice is saying, “You want me to be a pushy, phony, sneaky, dishonest, slick and desperate person? No thanks, I’ll pass.”

A TECHNICIAN'S CONCEPT COUNTS

That kind of thing can go on because of a person’s concept of salespeople, and a person’s concept of professionals, and the reasons for the dramatically different lists we’ve presented, is based on one of two things.

One reason for a concept we hold about anything has to do with personal experience. To put it simply, we hold the opinion we hold because we’ve been through it. We know it’s the truth because we’ve lived it.

On the surface, this seems like a pretty simple approach to making sense of things. Underneath, though, the naturally occurring human process of deductive reasoning, if it’s not applied correctly, can sometimes skew the truth.

What I’m referring to is the idea that in deductive reasoning, we can sometimes say, “This particular thing happened, so therefore, that particular thing is true.” It would be like saying, “I had a bad experience with a salesperson, therefore all salespeople are bad.”

That, as we all know, would be a misapplication of deductive reasoning. It just doesn’t make sense to say that a single experience, or even a series of experiences with a small percentage of a group, means that all dealings with that entire group will always result in bad experiences. The best way I can illustrate what I’m talking about here is by talking a little bit about Waffle House.

Many people are familiar with Waffle House Restaurants. The way it’s supposed to work at a Waffle House is that everybody gets a “Good Morning!” from at least one person when they walk in. And, of course, the breakfast is supposed to be good, the coffee hot, and the service quick. And, experiences I’ve had with Waffle Houses have been that way - for the most part.

On a trip through Florida a while back, I decided to visit a Waffle House for breakfast. It had been quite a while since I’d been to one. When I walked in the door, nobody said hello. It took longer than it should have to get our food, and when it arrived, it was cold. The coffee was almost as bitter as the person who took our order. In short, nobody was friendly, the food was bad, and the service stunk. It wasn’t a pleasant and positive experience.

Several months later on a trip through Arkansas, I again decided to visit a Waffle House for breakfast. When we got near the door, a young lady standing inside opened it for us. Her brisk “Good Morning!” was followed by several other “Good Mornings” from the rest of the restaurant staff.

“Just have a seat right here,” said the young man who did the cooking and managed the place as he came out from behind the counter and handed us a menu to look at during our brief wait; “we’ll have a booth ready for you in just a moment.”

When we sat down at the booth, the lady behind the counter said good morning again, and she said she would be right with us as soon as she finished getting another order taken. When she took our order, we included a small glass of orange juice as one of the things we wanted.

“Well,” she said, “there’s only 14 cents difference between a large and a small orange juice. Are you sure you want a small glass?”

We told her to make it a large.

When our waffles, eggs, and bacon arrived, they were hot and fresh. The coffee was, as you would expect, good, and our server checked back with us several times while we ate to see if we needed anything else.

After we finished and I was standing at the register, about to pay my bill, the manager acknowledged me and said, “We appreciate your business, sir.”

When I paid the bill, the cashier asked if everything was to our liking. When we turned to leave, everybody said “Goodbye!” and we heard a lot of “Have a nice days” and “Thanks for coming in” from the rest of the staff. The young lady who had opened the door for us when we arrived, opened it for us again as we left, smiled, and thanked us for coming in.

The point here is that if I had allowed misguided deductive reasoning to govern my decision as I approached the exit on the freeway in Arkansas, I might have avoided the Waffle House because of the bad experience I had in Florida.

NOT A PERSON'S IDEA

The other method through which a concept is developed is via information received from an authority at the time. If some authority let it be known that “all salespeople are just greedy,” it’s possible that their opinion becomes the truth for someone who looks up to them.

These truths, whether we would like to admit it or not, sometimes linger for many years without being challenged, or even just examined, unless someone comes along and challenges them. One way we invite technicians in our workshops to examine an alleged truth they may be harboring about selling is to ask this question:

“If you honestly believe that your organization provides the best service possible to your customers, and that you provide them with the best value for their money spent, what is wrong with providing everything they want and need from you and your business?”

The answer, of course, is that there is nothing wrong with providing everything your customers need and want. If a technician is providing information about maintenance agreements and other services that can be provided because their intent - intent is, after all, what it comes down to - is to provide the best possible customer service, then a technician remains a technical professional acting as a consultant for their customer.

The material for this article was excerpted from Jim Johnson’s audio program, “PEAK Performance for the Technical Professional.” Johnson can be reached at Technical Training Associates; 520-625-6847; www.technicaltrainingassoc.com.

Publication date: 05/07/2007