It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and a sales representative from one of the supply houses stops by to “visit” you. You are full speed ahead, running your business, putting out fires, and trying to meet a deadline on a project. The last thing you need right now is somebody trying to “sell” you something.

Typically, I would avoid these meetings because I was too busy, or I would have my gate keeper take their information and ask them to come back another day.

One day I found myself with some free time and lack of a good excuse, so I let them in.

The sales representative was promoting a new chemical additive that was a logical and compelling add on sale. Adding this product resulted in an extra $150 to the ticket. With a little training, financial incentive to the selling technicians, and a little coaching and tracking, we sold this product like candy. After that, I stopped turning them away and began asking, “What else do you have for me”?

I call these “pet” items. These are additional sales that your technicians believe in, understand, and feel comfortable presenting to their clients. Pet items may not be items at all; they could also be tasks. For drain techs, this may be cabling an additional drain line or jetting kitchen lines. They may be replacing washing machine hoses, quarter turn angle stops, or a certain kitchen faucet. For some plumbers, pet items become tankless water heaters or whole house filtration systems. For HVAC technicians, the offerings may be state-of-the-art controls, wireless thermostats, or isolation dampers. In time, they become masters at presenting these pet items.

The keys to helping your pets find their way into your client’s homes are training, inventory, and incentive. Practice, drill, and rehearse with your technicians, so they fully understand the features and benefits. They must be able to articulate these features and benefits to the client in a way that is logical and sensible. This is achieved through training and role playing. Once I would find the winning presentation, I varied it very little from client to client because it was effective. This may include the use of brochures, diagrams, or some other type of customer-facing material. If it feels valuable, sometimes the item can be placed in the client’s hands. Sometimes it is more effective to “paint the picture” with your words.

Inventory can play a large role in the success of these pets. Generally speaking, it is beneficial to have the items on the truck, so it can be installed while the tech is there. If we must return or order the accessory, then it takes some of the fun out of the purchase for the buyer. A second trip may also reduce the profitability for the company and incentive for the technician, so items we have on hand would be more efficient.

By giving options and explaining features and benefits when presenting solutions, we can often find a lot of ways to make our clients’ lives better. We’re the subject matter experts within our trades, and we’re expected to have a thorough understanding of products or services that our customers may not be aware of. People tend to live with frustrations because they aren’t aware that solutions exist, or they think they may be too extravagant. That’s where we come in. How cool is it when you explain to your client that they can turn on the comfort system to their vacation home from their smart phone, so the temperature is perfect when they arrive? Our job is to advise the client of bad things that are happening and good things that are not!

What’s in it for the technician? It’s an important question to ask. If it’s good for the client, good for the company, and good for the tech, the offering probably has merit. If it is priced at the proper margins and has some type of spiff or incentive tied to it you are more likely to have it included in the client’s options.

How do we get new products or services to take root? The key is to find a champion. By having at least one tech who is excited about the potential of the offering, you can get a lot of traction. This technician will set the bar high by offering the pet item consistently and sharing their happy customer stories. This enthusiasm is contagious and will spread throughout the team. That champion also becomes the resident subject matter expert and supports the rest of the team, so they become more comfortable.

Training is another important factor in the success of new products or services. At Nexstar, we say that “A confused mind says no.” When it comes to our technicians’ case, I say, “A confused mind doesn’t offer.” We typically need to train several times on the same topic before the confusion evaporates completely. Tracking results will also help you identify training opportunities. If certain technicians are not offering solutions, there is a pretty good chance they are confused or have their own roadblocks you can help them through.

You will be successful with whatever you put the focus on. Ask your technicians to share their pet items with the other technicians, so they can learn from each other. If a tech hasn’t found their pet yet, help them adopt one.

Publication date: 7/19/2017