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Should Service Technicians Sell?

9 Jan, 2012 By: Steve Geishirt imageSource

While the country debates Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Socialism or Capitalism, you can add one more to the list. Should service technicians sell or just focus on service? At first look, this may not seem like a hot issue, but get a couple of service managers or VPs of service together and the varied opinions are strong.

Some argue that it’s enough that service technicians are taking care of the customer by providing good service, which is good sales in and of itself. Their work represents your business just like the helpful person at the stores where you like to shop, or where you choose to no longer shop due to their poor service.

Why would we want a service tech to get involved in sales when it may reduce the number of service calls they can take in a day, and get them involved in a field where they really aren’t comfortable? After all, that’s why they’re service technicians; they like to look at mechanical devices with a logical approach, analyze them and then get satisfaction in seeing them functional again. Service is their nature, sales is not. Or is it?

It’s the job of sales to identify customer needs and wants, and to provide solutions at an agreeable price. But if you think about it, when a sales person comes to visit you, what is your initial thought, let alone feeling? Isn’t it that they want to sell you something that you may not want or need? Don’t we, as customers, often get defensive and hold our cards tightly to the vest?

This kind of thinking can inhibit sales from being able to truly help a customer with their business needs. Some would argue that the service tech does a better job of getting behind the lines to see the daily operations of the customer, because that’s where they work every day. Who fears a visit from the “service-oriented” technician?

When Surveyed

Service technicians will tell you that customers’ open up to them and often tell them more than they would like to hear. But should this be an avenue for a service technician to sell products or services to the customer? What about completing all those service calls? Do I really want a service tech assembling quotes for customers?

In the spring of 2010, Parts Now! surveyed a number of service managers to ask them if their service technicians sell. The answers that came back ranged from “absolutely not!” to “it’s one of the major reasons for our success!” Many service providers said that their technicians don’t sell, yet told stories of service technicians who were technically selling even though they weren’t supposed to, or didn’t have a program to sell.

One told the story of how they got a state level contract not only because of their good service, but also because the service technician facilitated the steps to get new equipment installed and a long-term contract in place. I believe the service manager used the term “consummated” when it came to bringing the deal together.

Yet, they had no official or unofficial program in place to encourage their service technicians to sell. When I asked if the service tech was being compensated or spiffed for accomplishing such a task, the service manager wasn’t sure.

It was even more interesting to hear from companies that attributed their success to their service technicians selling. These companies had programs in place to encourage and reward service technicians when a sale was completed. These companies were in the minority of those we called, yet they stressed the importance of this program and directly pointed to it as a factor of their growth – growth even through the great recession.

Between these companies and the ones whose technicians were selling without a program or encouragement, it became clear that all service technicians were already selling to some degree, even if it was simply in providing good service.

In April 2012, Parts NowI will be speaking at the annual ITEX expo on this topic, and will dig into the details of service technicians selling. There are both risks and rewards, and like everything else, if not done right, can create more problems than solutions. We’ll share stories from companies who actively have their service technicians selling, how they sell, what they sell, lessons they’ve learned of what not to do, and whether service technicians should be compensated for “selling.”

About the Author: Steve Geishirt

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