Jim Baston, the author of Beyond Great Service, tackles one of the most prominent questions amongst field service organizations - can service technicians sell without jeopardizing their trusted advisor status?
Two years ago I gave a presentation about the customer service value inherent in business promotion by field service personnel. I had an audience of almost 100 service managers and business owners.
I asked, by show of hands, how many of them had formal or informal expectations of their field service teams to look for new business opportunities.
About 60 to 70% of the attendees put up their hands.
I then asked the group how many of them told their customers that they had encouraged their field teams to look for opportunities.
No one put up their hand.
Although my research involved a very small and somewhat unscientific sample, I think this anecdote provides an indication of how many service managers and executives view the role of selling by their field service team.
In most cases, it appears that their view is that this activity is a means to increase revenues for the service provider.
How excited would your customers be if you told them that you encouraged your field service team to look for more business so that you could make more money from their current service relationship with you?If this is the case, then it is understandable if they regard this activity as a benefit for their companies, but not necessarily as a benefit for their customers. As a result, they may be having difficulty articulating a benefit that they themselves may not see exists.
For example, how excited would your customers be if you told them that you encouraged your field service team to look for more business so that you could make more money from their current service relationship with you?
And so the idea of sales by service professionals is somehow tainted. It is sometimes viewed as a dirty word. When we feel that way, we may encourage selling by our field service team but we certainly are not going to let our customers know we are doing so.
But does it have to be this way? Does sales have to be a dirty word in service?
What if our focus on business promotion by field professionals was not on increasing revenues, but increasing service levels?
What if we saw selling by our field service teams as a way to help our customers to achieve results they did not think were possible? What if we positioned opportunity identification by the field service team as a service to help our customers realize their business goals?
What if we discouraged selling for the sake of gaining more business alone but rather insisted that any recommendations by field service professionals be directly tied to a benefit for the customer?
It seems to me that if we take this “service” view of sales by our field service team, then their efforts become an integral part of the service – as important a service as their ability to install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair.
If we take this “service” view of sales by our field service team, then their efforts become an integral part of the service – as important a service as their ability to install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair.Recognizing that business promotion is an integral part of the service suggests that this activity will also be more readily accepted by the field service team themselves. My experience suggests that, in general, field service people are not overly fond of salespeople.
Those that feel this way resent being put in a position where they have to sell and therefore do not approach this task enthusiastically if they approach it at all. But if they recognize their selling efforts as a service, they will more likely embrace the initiative.
When we regard selling as part of the service, we can be more comfortable in telling our customers about what we are doing.
In fact, we can use our efforts to differentiate our service from our competitors. Imagine the value you communicate when you advise your customers that you have encouraged your field team to contribute their heads as well as their hands.
That you have requested that your field team use their knowledge of each customer’s processes and systems combined with their technical expertise and understanding of the customer’s goals, to look for ways to help your customers make improvements aimed at achieving their business goals.
You could even ask your customers for permission for your field team to sell to them. “Mr. or Mrs. Customer, we have encouraged our field service team to use their knowledge and expertise to look for ways to help you be more successful.
If they find something that they feel will benefit you and your business in some way, would you have any objection if they brought that to your attention?”
It is also interesting to note that research suggests that our customers want us to be proactive in making recommendations.
One study found that 75% of customers that left one vendor to give their business to another were actually satisfied or very satisfied at the time that they left.One study found that 75% of customers that left one vendor to give their business to another were actually satisfied or very satisfied at the time that they left.
Further investigation showed that the reason that they left, despite the fact that they were satisfied, was that they felt that the vendor that they were going to, was in a better position to help them achieve their long-term goals.
So, thinking about your business, is sales, when conducted by your field service team considered a dirty word?
If you’re not sure, ask yourself this question.
“Would I tell my customers what we are doing?” If your answer is “no” or “not sure”, then perhaps you have some work to do.
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