“Me? Sell supplies? You’ve got to be kidding,” I scoffed. “They hired me to fix machines and that’s what I do. When our sales people start rolling up their sleeves to get their hands dirty, come talk to me again about selling supplies.” This was my reply many years ago when I was asked to become a salesman to my customers. I wasn’t alone. The majority of service techs I work with are as resistant to sales as cats are to water. Here are a few suggestions from a sworn, never-sell-a-thing-again technician.
1. Provide Training
We receive training for the products we service in a job that we’re comfortable in. We also receive training when our companies roll out field service software that changes our workflow with dynamic scheduling and routing optimization. So, to expect service reps to sell products or services without any training, when sales is not their strength, is to expect failure. Some companies will provide a phone number that a rep can pass on to a customer who is interested in buying whatever widget is being sold, thinking that this is all that is needed, but even that simple approach doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. We are focused on one thing: service. We aren’t looking at whether or not the current solution is meeting all of our customer’s needs. Oftentimes, we don’t even know all of the solutions our companies offer. Training on how to spot customer needs, along with all available solutions, is at the bare minimum.
2. Encourage Mentoring
After your reps are trained, there are going to be two classes of techs: those who sell and those who don’t. Remember, you are asking them to move out of their comfort zone into a scary new arena. A few of the more outgoing techs will take off with the training and sell like nobody’s business, while the majority will blame workload, stress and the weather for sticking with what they do best. Ask your top performers to take your worst performers under their wing and show them how it’s done. Sometimes sales people could be mentors, but they usually speak a different language and the results will be less than desirable. It’s best to have a tech lead a tech.
3. Offer Fair and Just Compensation
The fastest way to end a service to sales program is to offer a trite bobble or free lunch as a reward. I’m not a fan of the accrued point system and the corresponding trade-in for a catalog item, as was suggested in Desmet’s blog. Cash is what we want, not trinkets. A percentage of the sale is what a sales person receives and it should be what service techs turned sales techs receive also. If there is a phone number involved, and the real selling is done by someone else, then a finder’s fee is in order. If you are going to use a catalog, there had better be more appealing items than a company logoed coffee mug or golf balls offered (and it shouldn’t take a million points to purchase something).
Once trained, mentored and fairly compensated, you will be pleased with how your service force moves to expand your business. Field service reps are trusted by your customers more than anyone else in your company. They are in front of your customers more than anyone else. And they know your customers’ business like no one else. Giving them the right tools to sell only makes sense.
About the author: Donald B. Stephens is a field service technician with 30 years of experience with the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, blogger, novelist and humorist. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org