As originally published in Field Technologies Online.

The definition of a salesperson is “an individual who sells goods and services to another entity.” This sounds simplistic enough, but when applying this responsibility to your field technicians, there’s much to consider.

Why Field Technicians as Salespeople?

One of the cornerstones of any successful sale is the relationship between the buyer and the seller, which typically takes years to establish. In the field service business, the technician is the employee that spends the most face time with a customer, organically establishing a rapport and trust based on excellent customer service and quality of work. Your technicians can function as effective salespeople since they likely already built strong bonds with the customers over many service calls, shortening the time it takes most “salespeople” to build a connection.

According to Aberdeen, best-in-class firms (top 20%) were twice as likely as peers to incentivize technicians to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. These same best-in-class firms realized a 7% year over year increase in service revenue, compared to 3% for average (middle 50%) and 1% for laggards (bottom 20%) of companies1.

The second essential skill that any good salesperson needs is problem-solving. The technician is the quintessential problem solver, visiting customers’ homes and offices, often over a lengthy period of time, establishing a working relationship and fixing their issues. Technicians are wired to assess a situation and determine the best solution to a problem, which is also taught in sales 101; figure out the customer’s pain point and provide a solution. It’s a natural fit!

In today’s competitive environment, where everyone is short on time, it’s only natural to expand the technician’s role to include sales, recommending follow up service or upgraded equipment, while he or she is already in front of the customer. One huge benefit is that this strategy will save both parties time – a valuable asset in today’s hectic world. And who better to know what the customer needs than the person on the front lines?

It’s true that some companies may feel uncomfortable with a field technician in a “sales” position, but consider what’s preventing that next step. Is it a concern that the field technician won’t sell correctly and offend the customer? Will the field technician seem “too pushy” if they recommend additional services or upgrades? We’ll address these objections honestly and give recommendations on how best to overcome them to positively impact profitability and empower your field technicians.

Education and Training
Unless an individual seeks out a sales position, most don’t consider themselves a natural salesperson. But across industries, more and more positions are requiring a selling component and field service is no different. To have a field technician who’s both effective at his or her primary job and able to sell as well requires training and continuous coaching to make both the employee and customer feel comfortable.

First and foremost, the leadership within an organization must be on board with setting the expectations with the field technicians regarding their defined or re-defined job duties, expanding to include sales. A distinct training plan, including change management, is required, along with continuous reinforcement and a compensation plan tied to results, including awards and recognition for those technicians who are meeting or exceeding goals.

One key component to a field technician’s success with selling will be practice, practice, practice. Ensure that training is focused on real-world scenarios and give technicians ample time to role play and stumble before getting in front of the customer.
Keeping your new “sales” team motivated is work, but the benefits in increased revenue are worth the daily (yes, daily) effort to check in, coach, and course correct. Then, lather, rinse, repeat to continue with improvements.

The Alternative Salesperson: The Consultant/Advisor/Expert/Specialist
There’s often a negative connotation with the word “sales.” But some of the best “salespeople” are those that are experts in their field, consulting or giving advice on how their specialty product or service will improve the lives of their customer. Sound familiar? Your field technician doesn’t have to feel like a used car salesman but should recommend what will help the customer, through beginning a dialogue and listening to their needs, something he or she likely does already.

One way to approach selling service is to recognize that providing excellent customer service is a major component of selling, and it’s something your technicians should already have down pat. From a customer service standpoint, consider that not every homeowner or business owner knows what’s best to keep their machinery operating at optimal performance. However, if a field technician can “sell” them their next service appointment or an upgraded product or system that will prevent a breakdown, it will benefit the customer, the company, and ultimately the technician. Of course, there will be customers who decline the sale and that’s okay. But just consider that the field technician is already seen as the “rescuer” in the customer’s eyes. He or she was the one who fixed the air conditioning when it broke on that 100-degree day and also trudged through the snow that time the heater kicked during last year’s blizzard. If this person recommends a “fix” or a preventative recommendation, the customer is likely to say “YES!”

The Right Sales Toolbelt
Just as your technician needs the right tools to maintain or replace a machine, he or she also needs the right technology to sell. Equipping technicians with the right mobile Field Service Management (FSM) solution will enable them to operate more efficiently and effectively while in the field – with access to customer data on hand – and openly communicate with both the customer and the corporate office. The FSM solution should support the sales process by enabling easy to create customer facing quotations for additional service or equipment that the field technician may recommend as options to the customer. The quotation process should allow for immediate customer signature or acknowledgement in situations where the additional work will be performed while the technician is on-site. Visual price books are also key, as they provide a more complete and thus comfortable picture for the customer when reviewing the quote.

Conclusion
Field technicians are an extremely valuable resources with their strong customer relationships that enable driving additional customer value and financial impact for the service organization. Consider empowering your field technicians, broadening their job role, and enabling profitability to increase by recognizing your most qualified salesperson, the technician.

For more information about how your technician can more effectively operate as a salesperson and the right resources to consider, contact Jolt Consulting Group.

1 Aberdeen, Field Service Workforce Management: Empower Tech 3.0, May 2015.