It is generally agreed that customers will listen to a technician more than they will to a sales person. The perception is, that the technician is there to do something for them, and a sales person is there to do something to them. Not necessarily true, but nevertheless, that’s the perception.
Many residential HVAC companies use their residential technicians to gather leads and sell product and service agreements while in the home. This practice makes sense in the residential arena, since those service agreements are small and it’s not cost effective to send a salesperson to make the sale. Commercial service agreements and projects are typically much larger sales, with more gross margin dollars at stake. I never recommend that a commercial technician actually do the selling for a couple of reasons. First, the commercial service agreement is a complex selling event which requires considerable training. Second, the process is very time consuming, and therefore a costly use of a commercial technician’s time.
I never recommend that a commercial technician actually do the selling. The commercial service agreement is a complex selling event which requires considerable training. Second, the process is very time consuming, and a costly use of a commercial technician’s time.
However, on the commercial side, the technician still has a captive audience when dispatched on a trouble call. They should be trained to spot situations and opportunities. I once had a lead tech who was a master at delivering consistent quality sales leads. When the situation required changing a small component of the system, like a contactor, he would put the worn device in a clean shop rag and take it to the customer’s office. The tech would explain what he did and also the necessity of changing a $100 part that eventually would cause a costly compressor failure. He would go on to tell the customer that these situations would be routinely caught if he had a PM agreement. He would then ask the customer if he could have a customer representative stop by and explain the program. Needless to say, the sales person had an easy time in converting the breakdown customer to a PM program.
Try a Rewards Program
In recognition of the effectiveness of this process, my next goal was to spread the practice to all of my commercial technicians. This was accomplished by implementing a rewards program for lead generation. I had some 3 x 5 cards printed for the technicians to carry in their trucks. When the lead was offered, the tech would fill out the lead information and submit it to the service manager, who would distribute it to the appropriate sales person. When this resulted in a sale, the technician would be awarded points based upon estimated gross margin dollars. These points would accumulate until the technician cashed them in for prizes. I found that offering merchandise was more effective than awarding cash prizes. Cash usually winds up on the paycheck and simply goes into the family budget and doesn’t have the same impact as merchandise.
A smaller point redemption would be for cameras, clothing, tools, and other items, all in the $100 range. Another plateau would be in the $500 range, and would include shotguns, fishing equipment, and various electronic devises. The top range would award prizes valued at $1000 plus. This could be an expense paid trip, and higher valued tools. The leads started flowing on a regular basis, and sales tracked much higher with greater closing percentage.
The final step in the lead generation program was having the sales person fill out the bottom portion of the lead card with information as to how the lead was disposed of. Even if the salesperson determined that the lead was not qualified, the loop must be closed by returning the card to the proper technician. If this practice isn’t followed, the technician doesn’t know if the lead was even followed up on. That will cause the whole process to come to a grinding halt.
The program was initially launched in a two-hour Saturday morning meeting with the entire service department. It was so well received that the dispatcher asked to be a part of it.
When you have every employee watching and listening for business, good things follow.
Earl King is the founder of King Productions International, a commercial HVAC contracting sales consulting firm based in Texas. He speaks to associations and HVAC trade groups, and consults with commercial contractors across the country. E-mail Earl at: [email protected] or call him at 515/321-2426.