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Conflicts Between Salespeople & Service Technicians: 6 Myths Debunked

You've heard them before - those contractors who lament how tough business is, but who ardently argue against having their service technicians sell replacement equipment. The excuses are many. In my experience, however, their reasons can be boiled down to six basic myths. They say service technicians:

  • Will only sell "partial systems"

  • Won't sell accessory products

  • Will cut back on sales leads for your sales force if they sell equipment

  • Won't run a load calculation

  • Will only sell cheap equipment

  • Can cause unhealthy competition, possibly even a conflict, with salespeople for replacement sales.

And now for the debunking.

1. They'll Only Sell "Partial Systems"

My first question is, "Who doesn't sell partial systems from time to time?"

At seminars and conventions I've attended or at which I've been a speaker, I've found people tend to take the high road and proclaim they only sell "complete systems." If it's true, it's certainly commendable.

It's funny, but while very few people-will admit to selling only a condensing unit, every year, twice as many condensing units are manufactured as are air handlers and evaporator coils. If no one is selling only condensing unit replacements, where are all these extra condensing units going?

2. They Won't Sell Accessory Products

If technicianss wanted to make more money by selling things, they'd have full-time jobs as salespeople. They'd make more money while performing a job that is less physically demanding. So don't kid yourself into thinking that simply boosting commissions will increase sales.

Also, don't blame the lack of accessory sales on your staff. It's difficult to be enthusiastic about selling products in which you see no value. Blame it on a shortage of training that teaches your staff the value and necessity of these products and converts them to believers. Do that, and you won't be able to keep any accessory items in stock.

Contrary to popular opinion, a new home comfort system that costs
thousands of dollars can actually be an "impulse item."

3. It Will Cut Back on Leads

No, it won't.

I have a friend who has consistently sold $1,000,000+ per year. For many years, he was "the only rooster in the henhouse" because he was the only employee allowed to sell replacement equipment. Consequently, all service tech referrals came to him. That changed when the company allowed their technicians to start selling replacements. Since the technicians were his primary source of leads, this change scared him to death.

Now, with nearly two years of technicians selling replacements, my friend says that tech referrals have actually increased!

With a little self-interest in recommending replacement equipment, technicians bring the topic up more often. However, since they're not professionally trained closers, they're frequently unable to conclude a deal efficiently. That's where my friend, the salesman, enters the picture.

4. Techs Won't Run a Load Calculation

That's true. Most techs don't have the time, the desire, the training, or the ability to run a load calculation, which should be mandatory for every installation.

Here's where the real magic begins.

In your pricing, add commissions to your replacement equipment prices for both a tech and a salesperson.

When your techs close equipment sales, have them say, "Mr(s). Customer (but use their real name), you're all set. Prior to the installation, I'm going to have Mr. Salesman come by and draw your home and survey the job.

"While I'll always be available to respond to your needs, I'd like you to consider Ms. Salesman your contact on this job because she will actually be coordinating the installation. She's been with us for a number of years, I'm certain you'll find her very competent and capable, and you'll love her."

At that point the salesperson goes to the job, takes measurements, and runs load calculations to ensure the job is sized correctly. During that time, the salesperson should also do a wholehouse comfort survey, volunteer to analyze the customer's utility bills to see if he or she can save that customer some money and make an attempt to establish credibility and rapport.

The salesperson then sits down with the customer to review their options, such as:

  • Changing the coil or air handler along with the condensing unit

  • Upgrading the quality of equipment

  • Making duct modifications for health, efficiency and/or comfort

  • Presenting what accessory items are available

  • Explaining the cost savings of taking advantage of any or all of these options while your people are already there doing an installation.

You must be wondering, "How can I add two commissions to every job and still be competitive?" Good question. My experience has been that I can sell replacement equipment at higher prices while running service, than I can while running leads as a salesman.

My experience has been that I can sell replacement equipment at higher prices
while running service, than I can while running leads as a salesman

Why is that? When people invite you to their home to present a "bid" ( translation: Beat the Idiot's Deal), one thing you know for certain is that they're price shopping.

On the other hand, when people call for service, they're normally not shopping for replacement equipment. They're shopping for repairs. They hadn't necessarily considered replacing their equipment and don't have price comparisons.

Contrary to popular opinion, a new home comfort system that costs thousands of dollars can actually be an " impulse item."

When salespeople are running leads that were generated from any source other than a service technician referral, you can allow them to deduct the technician's commission from the price to keep them competitive, without lowering your profits on the job.

We've got the load calculations covered. How does the money work? When your salesperson is able to upgrade the sale, even if it's only something small like an extended warranty or upgraded thermostat, the salesperson receives a full commission on the total job.

When your salesperson is unable to upgrade the job in any way, there is no commission.

How well does this work? I recently had the wonderful experience of conducting a seminar in which, just as a matter of divine coincidence, a halfdozen salespeople who worked at companies where I'd helped implement this system a few years ago, were seated near each other in the front row.

I asked each of them how often they went out on these types of calls and were unable to upgrade the sale in any way. Each one of them (one who had been working under this system for more than five years) stated they had never been unsuccessful in upgrading the sale.

For the record, I also have an unblemished record on upgrading technician replacement sales. The reason for this is simple. The easiest time to sell someone something is immediately after they've just bought something else from you.

5. They'll Only Sell Cheap Stuff

With this system, even if your techs only sell the cheapest equipment available, all of your customers will still be provided with every opportunity to invest in the best possible system for their needs.

Again, it all comes back to training. Remember when you're training your techs, the key is not only to make them knowledgeable, but to make them believers. Never underestimate the value of repetition in your sales training.

Avoiding Conflicts

With both the techs and salespeople receiving their fair commissions on these sales, teamwork flourishes.

Charlie Greer is the creator of TEC Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD. Contact Charlie by calling 800/963-HVAC, e-mailing [email protected] or visit him on the web at

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