Selling & the Service Tech

Frank Blau
Contributing Writer

Mention “selling” to the average PHC mechanic and you’ll see his face scrunch up like he sucked a lemon. Theirs is a distorted view of the business world that associates selling with trickery and snake oil.

Fact of the matter is, like it or not, every employee in the private sector who deals with customers in any manner is a salesperson. If someone works as a restaurant waiter, bartender or maitre d’, that person is by default also a salesperson, because his or her performance plays a big part in determining whether customers will continue to patronize that establishment. So it is with the dispatchers, customer service reps and service technicians who work in our industry.

In the U.S. military, every recruit undergoes a couple of months of rigorous basic training learning to fire a rifle and other fundamental military skills. Afterwards they go on to specialized training in the job they will likely work at for the rest of their military career. But first and foremost they must be trained as soldiers.

Our industry has a dire need for such a training posture when it comes to salesmanship. First and foremost, everyone who works in the PHC service business ought to be taught the fundamentals of salesmanship.

Be Nice: These skill do not require an extraordinary amount of brain power to master. In fact, there are no prerequisites. It’s virtually impossible to teach someone to be a mechanic who doesn’t have a certain amount of mechanical aptitude and manual dexterity. But almost anyone can be taught basic sales skills.

The most basic selling skill requires nothing more than being polite and helpful to customers. Simply be nice. Or put another way, follow the golden rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“Strictly business” is not a good way to conduct a service business. We encourage our employees to “schmooze” with customers. That is, engage them in friendly conversation about subjects outside of the business at hand. We want them to leave our customers talking about what nice people we are to deal with – and tell that to their friends. It also helps us to learn about customers and their needs.

What’s more, we’ve found out that being nice to people cuts down on complaints about price. People don’t complain when they like the people they deal with. This is critically important.

Anti-Salesmanship: Some people aren’t cut out for much more than being friendly. Yet anyone who masters at least this fundamental sales skill, won’t hurt your business. Anyone who doesn’t master it, is a disaster. He or she will be an anti-salesperson. He or she not only won’t attract more business for you, but will actually drive it away. An inept mechanic won’t hurt you as much as an inept salesperson. If someone is a bad mechanic, you probably wouldn’t hire that person in the first place. If you did make that mistake, you most likely would be inclined to get rid of the person or move him to a different position very soon after his shortcomings became apparent.

Unfortunately, lousy salespeople manage to continue working for PHC companies year after year, decade after decade. “But I can’t get rid of them, he’s my best mechanic!” In a new construction environment, such a person might thrive. In a service business, he will kill you.

The Add-On Imperative: At a minimum, service technicians must have sufficient people skills to not antagonize customers. In our company and in most progressive firms, we demand more.

I addition to being superb mechanics, we expect our service techs to do their part promoting our company by affixing free stickers and valve identification tags. We also expect them to make an effort to sell service contracts, and we check up on whether they are doing so.

We explain to them that it is in their interest to promote the company and sell our wares. Their future job security is assured only if the company continues to prosper, and it is up to every employee to do what they can to help it prosper. This is harder than ever with our business being eroded by competition from home centers, wholesalers, utilities and cut-rate moonlighters and jacklegs. Thus it is up to the service techs to take an active roll in selling goods and services.

Good sales training relies heavily upon pre-scripted responses. “Scripted” responses are different from so-called “canned” or memorized pitches. Those are stilted, phony and inflexible. To be effective, your employees must learn to inject their own language and personality into customer relations. This requires departing from the script once they gain experience. Until they get experience, however, a scripted response serves a crucial purpose in making sure they respond in a way that both addresses customer needs and promotes company interests.

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