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Switching Gears: Services Makes a Sales Call

15 Jul, 2003 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

Switching Gears: Services Makes a Sales Call

Yes, I am the
service manager. Service is my primary point of interest and expertise. Run on a
separate profit and loss statement, the service department, and its manager, is
responsible for generating a specific amount of revenue each month. When a sales
rep or customer requests that I go out into the field to make an in-person
visit, I must make a revenue-based decision. I must determine the best use of my
time for the good of the department and the company.

An in-person sales
call can help to make a sale. But, too many out of office calls can break your
service department's revenue goals. When done properly, a customer visit
requires about 30 - 90 minutes of preparation and follow-up time. Two-way
travel, wait time and the actual meeting takes another two to three hours. Each
time a customer or sales rep requests a field meeting, I need to figure about
four hours.

Knowing When to Say
NO On occasion, a customer will call to request a personal visit to discuss the
renewal of their service agreement. Living in a highly congested, urban area,
even the shortest of visits takes three hours of out of my office time.
Invariably, it is a low end user (usually a lawyer) who thinks a personal visit
will enable them to intimidate or impress me. Ultimately, most expect that a
personal visit will enable them to reduce the cost of their service agreement.

I have determined
that, in most cases, making these types of visits is not utilizing my time for
the good of the service department. My typical response to these requests is,
"All of your records are here at your corporate headquarters. I will be
glad to send you any pertinent information that you may need to make a decision.
I can answer any questions or concerns you may have over the telephone or
through e-mail. I know how valuable your time is. What information can I get for
you to help you make an educated decision?" This tactic has always worked
for me.

I will also
guiltlessly say "no" when a sales rep requests my presence at a demo
on a 20 print per minute machine, ten miles from the office. I simply cannot
justify the loss of income to the service department.

There will be
instances, however, when time away from the service department is important and
an integral part of creating service department revenues.

For instance, when a
sales rep asks me to attend a sales presentation within our office, I always
oblige. A few minutes in the showroom can be easily worked into my schedule.
Also, when a potential customer calls requesting an in person visit to review
the possibility of taking over a 100 machine service contract, I ask, "when
and where." It is worth the necessary time for the potential business

Making the Most of a
Manager's Time When an appropriate customer or sales rep requests a field
meeting, use the process outlined below to maximize the effectiveness of your

1. Find out a little
about the customer ahead of time. If it is a current customer, review their
equipment history, buying patterns, payment history, usage and make a note of
the names of a few contacts. If there have been any concerns in the past, make
sure you know how the situations were rectified. If the meeting is with a
potential new customer, ask the sales rep for a bit of history on the account. A
quick Internet search may give you a little more background information on the

2. Put together a
customized folder or small notebook of information for the customer. This
includes a personalized letter of introduction with a list of sample pricing for
service agreements, parts and supplies. Try to bring examples of similar type
customers, including copies of similar purchase orders or service agreements. I
try to match similar types of businesses (even more than similar equipment).
Churches, city government, schools, car dealers, etc. normally are more
impressed with your company doing business with people in similar work
environments. Always include copies of your workman's compensation and liability
insurance; a one-page history of service department and company achievements;
and a list of references. Include a business card within the handout material. I
always make an extra copy of the presentation to keep on file. This can be used
for a quick reference when the customer calls back. It also can be reused with
minor changes for another customer meeting.

3. Once a time is
set for the meeting, phone or e-mail with a confirmation which restates the
time, location and purpose of the meeting. Remember to include the names or
positions of the people who will be attending. Leave a telephone number, just in
case there is a last minute cancellation or time change. This can be done the
day before or morning of the meeting.

4. Always be on time
for the meeting. By this, I mean be early. Use those extra few minutes to review
your presentation material, go to the bathroom or brush up on the industry with
the most current imageSource (I always keep one in my car or briefcase incase I
have a few extra minutes). Arriving ten minutes late, parking in a red zone or
forgetting what is in your presentation package will not make a memorable first

5. Dress like a
professional. Dress similar to or one level better than those you expect to
meet. A pressed shirt and polished shoes makes a statement. Professionalism is a
state of mind.

6. Repeat each
person's name as you are introduced. Give each person attending the meeting your
business card. If a business card is given to you in return, treat it with

7. When the time is
appropriate, give each attendee a copy or your handout folder. As part of your
pre-meeting preparation, always inquire as to how many people will be attending.
Always bring one more than is needed. You can use this as your file copy if it
is not used. If it is needed, you appear very prepared.

8. Listen to what
others have to say. Service personnel are considered experts. If you talk too
much, your knowledge level may be challenged. Periodically, nod in agreement and
take notes. Never disagree with what anyone else says. Follow the conversation.
At any time, you may be asked a question or an opinion be requested. When
answering a question, always use the questioners name when replying. If
possible, refer back to a previous comment or reaffirm an earlier comment made
by the customer.

9. Speak with an
appropriate level of sophistication. When you are talking to IT people, use
every acronym and computer jargon you know. When talking to the controller or
CFO, talk dollars, percentages and profits. When you are talking to the office
manger, talk about ease of operation and user friendly options. Try to mirror
the person to which you are speaking. Using a similar tone of voice, speed of
speech and body position will subconsciously allow the listener to feel more
comfortable with you.

10. Take notes. Jot
down each person's concerns and needs. When appropriate, use the person's name.
Always recap any concerns that were discussed. Give a specific time when you
will follow up to their specific requests. Ask how that person would like to
receive the needed information, whether it is via a phone, fax or e-mail. When
the (potential) customer responds, refer to their business card to confirm that
the appropriate information is on the card you have. Always attach an
appropriate time frame when you will "get back" to the customer. Eye
contact and a smile are never out of place.

11. Follow-up in a
timely manner. A "Thank You" card with an enclosed business card is
always appropriate. At the very least include a "thank you for your time
and interest" or "thank you for the opportunity to earn your
business" as part of the follow up e-mail message. If you do not hear from
the customer, do a general follow-up in a week or two. E-mail or voice mail
works great for this. Leave your name and phone number again. Restate a thank
you for allowing the meeting. Reconfirm that you are available for any further

If it is worth your
time to do a customer visit, do it right and make a winning impression. The
Service Manger is an extension of the Service Department. Being on time,
displaying professionalism, being knowledgeable, promptly following-up on all
requested information, being personable and respectful is a large part of the
winning equation. When a customer is contemplating a 60-month all inclusive
equipment lease and service commitment, providing peace of mind can make the
winning difference.

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