On the business agenda today is how we can make things harder than they already are. How about no more tech training? That would do it. They could drag jobs out longer, make more mistakes, callbacks would increase, and customers would soon exit. During this time, profit per job would dwindle due to runaway excesses. Cutting your prices to get more jobs would only speed up bankruptcy, which could actually be a blessing.
Crazy, right? Well, not really since it happens every day with thousands of HVAC contractors who ‘endure’ business, but never quite get to that next level. These same folks who say they can’t “afford” training, yet they pay for it dearly as noted in the paragraph above. In truth, they’re paying more for lack of training rather than providing training. Let that sink in.
The opposite also holds true. Proper technical training speeds jobs, increases efficiency, and aids your profit picture accordingly. Customer service training gives you a professional edge, and builds relationships. Training in sales proficiency drives higher ticket sales. Marketing training means more leads in less time, with higher image and consistency.
We’ve seen what under-trained staff will cost you, and under-marketing chokes off the lead flow. When you cut both, you’ve got a downward spiral.
The Evolving Role of Techs
Did you know that your technicians are the sales front for growing your business? There was a time when any growling technician with a tool belt that showed up “whenever,” had some idea of what the problem was and handed the customer an illegible invoice was enough. Not anymore. The days of social media with the instant ability to publicly humiliate un-professionalism or mistreatment have changed the rules. The customer now has the checkbook and the chopping block, plus a little tool called the internet to insist on compliance to their expectation.
Techs who are well-versed in customer service and sales skills can elevate their job and get better marks from customers. “No technician of mine is ever going to stoop to being a pushy salesperson,” you may say, and that’s why the industry lags in profitability. When you make selling a service, you do the customer, and yourself a favor. Your customers are trusting you to do the right thing, so sell them the right thing.
Any Salespeople Out There?
The best techs sometimes have trouble adjusting. Often a “people person” can learn technical skills, but not all technically-gifted people are keen to develop communication skills. This, dear readers, will hurt your business. If I were making the choice, I’d choose the trainable people-person rather than the unwilling, but skilled technician.
With increased competition, consumer demand, and changing social roles, HVAC companies must actively seek ways to enhance their image and sales skills. In my estimation, they can be the same thing. What we’re talking about is the customers’ best interests. Service equals sales, and that makes techs natural at selling. “Service” means more than “fixing.” It’s also about identifying needs, presenting solutions, and communicating them.
How Product Knowledge Boosts Sales
When a technician internalizes and understands HVAC products and services, in addition to how they benefit homeowners, he already has qualities that will serve him well:
- Communication Foundation – Knowing the product allows easier communication of the practical benefits and conveys enthusiasm. The customer senses that confidence, and knows they’re in good hands to move forward. Grumbling, or an, “I don’t know,” gets you the equivalent push-back and a, “Let us think about it” from customers.
- Tailor Solution to the Need – This is huge! There are very few “one size fits all” solutions. Superior knowledge helps the tech hone in on the best solutions and “package” those solutions at higher margins. Put these together for your techs and give them the tools to offer them to eager customers.
Your tech already has these skills. Customers will buy based on this alone, but what your techs probably don’t have is the confidence to communicate the benefits. That comes from simple training.
Here’s a crash course:
- Personal presentation – Appearance matters. I don’t get all giddy buying from a pierced, unshaven dude with a tattoo of a vulture on his neck. I don’t care how skilled he is. People pay professionals more. This means a neat uniform, a photo ID, clean work habits, pleasant demeanor, and an understanding, conversational tone.
- Communication style – Words matter. Teach them the words they should use, and those they should never use. One example is don’t say “buy,” or “spend,” when you can say “investment.” Instead of, “our price,” or “our discount,” call them, “your discount,” or, “your savings.”
These tiny changes add up. The thing is, anyone can do this, but sadly most won’t.
Three more quick traits include:
- Listening skills – Customers want their stories heard. Teach techs to ask pinpointing questions and to listen. Listening is not just hearing, it is understanding.
- How to handle objections – A customer might object to your best solution. Techs need to know how to overcome that. A simple method is to listen to the objection, repeat it as a question, and restate the solution. Such as, “If I’m hearing you correctly, you’d rather patch your A/C unit rather than replace it? (Pause) I can do that, as long as you know that a new one will save you more in energy each month, and comes with a 5 year warranty.”
- How to close – It’s hard to say that this skill is more important than the others, but unless techs are trained in closing sales, all the talk matters very little.
In this day and age when social media-savvy consumers are turning more to family, friends, and fans in making their purchasing decisions, the in-home tech has an opportunity to become a trusted source. Make sure your techs are trained with both the technical and communication tools to provide solutions that work for all of you.