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 them. 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. But, this chance for selling doesn’t belong to just anyone. It belongs to the tech.

Unfortunately, people skills are often overlooked in service technician training, and that hurts the entire 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 that 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 it 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 the failure rate in sales is 95 percent? That means 95 percent of the people who go into sales fail and get out. This huge majority of non-performers is usually doling out awful advice 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.

Sales — in the broadest sense of the word — is 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 — they’re all selling. And, especially our children, who sell us on the idea that they must have every possible new toy, game, candy, clothes, and entertainment gadget that has ever been invented… and a couple that haven’t.

To the enlightened conversion specialist, selling is a 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 and are a perfect way to introduce the upsell);

• Presenting information or options that solve these problems; and

• Providing follow-up to maintain satisfaction, encourage future solutions, and gain referrals. (Thus, the cycle begins anew).

One of the interesting things about the HVAC trade is 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.

The Power of the Upsell

Many technicians 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. It boils down to a 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,” “this room always seems hotter,” “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 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 themselves, and an ultimate acceptance of trust, never to be abused.

After your tech has diagnosed the issue, he 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), and 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 customer service representative (CSR) offer a follow-up effort, generally with an agreement purchase to offset pricing sensitivity.

Big Money, Small Effort

If you have just 20 service calls a day, and only 25 percent 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 percent of the time (national average is 60 percent), and the 15 new customers only buy the upsell 10 percent 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. (That is: 1.5 customers a day x $300 x 66.66 percent = $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 money 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.

Publication date: 5/18/2015