There is a delicate balance between leveraging the trusted advisor status of field service engineers to generate revenue and going too far so that the trust they rightfully earn with your customers eventually is broken. But that doesn’t have to be the case writes Jim Baston...
If you are engaging your field team in business development but not telling your customers, it is worth asking yourself why not? This may uncover a fundamental issue that can have a detrimental impact on your efforts.
Ask yourself why not?
There may be many reasons why you keep your field team’s business development efforts from your customers, but one of them may be that you do not necessarily see the value from their perspective. Sure, getting new business from your field team’s efforts provides many benefits for your business but how do you tell your customers what you are doing if your main goal is simply to get more business out of them?
This dilemma is most acute when the field team’s attempts to recommend services and products to customers are perceived as sales activities rather than service activities.
A sales perspective of a field team’s efforts makes it challenging to communicate the value of a sales initiative to your customers. In addition, it may be difficult to get enthusiastic engagement from the field service team themselves.
If you talk about your field team’s proactive efforts in selling terms, you run the risk of turning some of your team members off the idea. They may pay lip service to your initiative, but it is unlikely that they will be thrilled that you have asked them to sell on top of their paid job of providing a service on site.
If you do have a sales mindset, I encourage you to change your thinking to one of service. Think of their recommendations as an opportunity to serve rather than an opportunity to sell.
Change Your Thinking
"How would you employ these questions to encompass your team’s proactive recommendations as part of your service delivery?.."
Instead of looking at your field team’s efforts as a way of getting a greater share of wallet from your customers, consider how your field team’s knowledge and expertise can be used to help your customers identify potential problems and head them off before they become serious.
In other words, think of how you can harness the knowledge and expertise of your team to offer a higher level of service to your customers. What can your field team do to help your customers to be better off today then, when they started working with you and how can you help your team do that?
If your field team’s proactive efforts are to make recommendations to help your customers to be better off, then why not encompass their efforts in your overall service delivery?
Build your field team’s proactive efforts into your service delivery
To help you do this, start by thinking about any new service that you might add to your portfolio. How will you define the new service? How will you communicate the service and its value to others? What steps will you take to ensure your new service initiative is successful? What training will you provide to ensure flawless delivery? What tools will you utilize? What processes and systems will you employ? How will you promote your new service? And so on.
Now, consider your field team’s approach. How would you employ these questions to encompass your team’s proactive recommendations as part of your service delivery? What do you need to do to ensure their success in helping your customers to be better off? As you apply these questions to your team’s efforts, you can start to see how it fits in as part of the overall service that you provide and this facilitates the development of other components of the service that add even more value.
"The challenge here is how you communicate the value of your team’s proactive efforts to your existing and potential customers..."For example, you might consider including a kick-off meeting for new service contracts that includes a discussion on operational challenges and goals followed by annual meetings to discuss your team’s efforts of helping your customers overcome those challenges.
Position your team’s efforts as a competitive advantage for your customers
Your customers want to work with service providers who are proactively looking for ways to help them achieve their goals1. By helping them recognize that your field team is using their knowledge and expertise to go beyond keeping their equipment in good repair and providing recommendations to address challenges and achieve goals, you can differentiate your service business from your competitors.
Not only will you be able to show your customers that you are providing a much more valuable service than more reactive competitors, but you will boost your competitiveness in selling new products and unrelated services as well.
The challenge here is how you communicate the value of your team’s proactive efforts to your existing and potential customers. How will you use your website and social media to present the service and its value? How will your sales team position this to help them add value to the products and services they may be selling?
Again, it is helpful to view the proactive efforts as just one more service in your overall portfolio. Your field service team provides great value when they make recommendations that help your customers to be better off. In fact, one of the greatest compliments you can receive is when your customers can confidently say that they are measurably better off for having worked with you.
Isn’t it time to tell our customers what we are really up to?
1. One study found that 75% of customers that left one vendor to give their business to another were satisfied or very satisfied at the time that they left. Further investigation showed that the reason that they left, even though 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. Source: The Globe and Mail Report on Business, May 12, 2015.