Ed. – Another new contributor to The HUB, Jim Baston, author of Beyond Great Service and the leader behind Proactive Service – a targeted and practical program to help technical service organizations achieve their business goals. Jim holds an MBA and is actively involved in the technical service business. We are very happy to have him here, sharing his unique perspectives on sales and selling.
If you have technicians who install, service and/or maintain equipment in the field, then you have a tremendous opportunity to significantly increase revenues and profitability without adding to sales costs. This can be done by formally engaging your technicians in enthusiastically promoting your services. However, it may not be as easy as it first appears. Although many firms have considered the value of getting technicians to promote their products and services, only a small number have really been able to generate sustainable results. In this article we will consider why the results have been so disappointing.
From a business point of view, getting technicians involved in promoting our company makes a lot of sense. We have this dedicated resource (our service technicians) and they have a relationship with the customer and the opportunity to speak with them. If we can get our technicians to promote our products and services while they are on site servicing the customer’s equipment, we can reasonably expect a significant return in new or upgraded sales. There will be no addition to overhead and minimal – if any – sales costs, so the gross margin of any sale that they initiate will go straight to the bottom line. In addition, who is in a better position than our technicians to recognize opportunities and present them to the customer? The technician knows the technology, is familiar with the facilities where they work, and they have a good relationship with the customer.
Despite all of this, service companies that I have surveyed continue to struggle with getting their technicians fully engaged. Even those companies that have invested in sales training for their technicians report mediocre results at best.
I believe that the reason that service firms struggle in getting their technicians to be more proactive in business development activities is because most firms look at this as a selling task. When we look at the efforts to promote our services through our technicians as “selling”, we tend to regard the task from the perspective of “How can I leverage my relationship with my customers to sell them more services?”. In other words, I am asking “What more can my customer do for me?” We then provide sales training to our technicians so that they can be more skilled in promoting our services to our customers in the field. We may even implement incentive programs to encourage and reward our techs for selling to our customers.
When we do this, we are, in effect, asking out technicians to become part-time salespeople and while some may respond favourably, most will not. They are uncomfortable with the role and, when they do take it on, they do so with little enthusiasm.
The solution to getting our technicians fully and enthusiastically engaged is to regard what we are asking them to do as a service task and not a selling one. Technicians need to know that we are not asking them to sell, but rather asking them to provide a higher level of service to their customers by using their knowledge and expertise to explore for ways to help the customer achieve their business goals. In effect, we are asking them to use their heads as well as their hands.
This is a subtle difference to be sure, but an important one. When we position our intentions in this way a lot of good things happen. As a company, we no longer see the customer from the perspective of “what more can they do for me” and start to view things from “what more can I do to help the customer.” Technicians feel less pressured to sell and more encouraged to explore and explain. And most importantly, our customers benefit from the fact that our technicians change from being a reactive service vendor to becoming a proactive service partner.