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Incentivize Your Technicians

Get techs to bring in service contracts—and stop making excuses about why they can’t.

One of the most difficult perceptions to overcome with your material handling field service staff is that “they are only service technicians.” More often than not, you are likely to find that your service technicians see themselves as merely “there to repair the material handling equipment,” and the sales staff is responsible for all of the selling, be it equipment or service.

Breaking this perception and getting the service technicians to realize they are a fundamental part of the equation when it comes to selling service is key to growing revenue and profits from your service organization. We will examine several of the fundamental ways to break the technician perception and incentivize them to sell your company’s service offerings.

Start with Talking
Start by speaking to your staff of service technicians. Find out what they believe are the barriers to selling service. Typical answers are likely to range from “not having the tools” to “lack of marketing materials to sell service programs” to “not having time to sell the program before moving on to the next job.” Additionally, a common thread runs through the gamut of answers received. While not stated directly, the answer often boils down to two main themes: The technician has a “fear” of selling to the customer, and they are typically not incentivized to sell the service.

More than likely, you have a service revenue and growth target established for your service manager or supervisors used to measure their performance. They are also more than likely financially incentivized to achieve various sales and growth targets for service.

On the other hand, technicians typically only have goals for their efficiency percentage and the number of service tickets they can close out or dollars billed on a given day. While both efficiency and service billed out are good metrics, measuring a technician’s performance solely on them alone can be counter-productive when it comes to growth through sales of service programs.

Work with your service managers and establish a reasonable service program sales goal for each technician. Incorporate the goal into their annual performance review criteria. Establish a compensation package that appropriately rewards the technician for selling a service package. This can be done based on a percentage of the sale, or as a flat dollar amount based on the size of the service package sold. Exactly what is right for your particular situation will vary depending on the equipment being serviced and the customer base you have. There is no one “right” answer and you may have to make adjustments as you go forward.

Support the Program
Once you have established a target, developed a system for measuring it and outlined an incentive program, make sure you have the support tools in place. These tools include marketing materials (brochures, pamphlets, price sheets, etc.) that the technician can have at his or her disposal for support when making the sale to the customer. These items need to be easy to understand, straightforward and concise so that the technician can quickly and easily explain the offering while on site.

With all the background work completed, you now need to review the program with the technicians. Explain the program, the materials and what you expect of the technicians. Be sure to go over the list of reasons they gave you at the outset as to why they could not sell service, and provide them the materials and incentives you have assembled to remove those barriers.

Lastly, remove the fear barrier. Almost every technician has direct contact with the customer on site after they have completed a job when they are getting paperwork signed off. This is the perfect time to have the technician speak to the customer about a service program. The tech can use the conversation about the just-completed work as a platform for pointing out where a regular PM or service check-up visit could have prevented a repair or emergency visit. Technicians need to get in the habit of simply asking the customer about service programs or follow-up service visits.

Try having them think of it this way: When they visit their dentist for a check up, there is not a salesperson in sight. However, at the end of the visit, what is the first thing the dental technician asks? “Would you like to set up the next visit to have your teeth checked?” The dental technician just sold a service program. The key is to ask and initiate the discussion. From there, with the right supporting materials and a solid service program, the rest will fall into place.

Finally, you or your service manager needs to conduct follow-ups on the program. Make follow-up calls to customers to see if the technicians are talking about your service programs. Make sure you also follow up with the technicians and review their metrics on a regular basis. You will not get the performance you are looking for if you do not measure it. Lastly, don’t get frustrated if you have to make course corrections and changes in the program based on the feedback you get. There is no “one size fits all” program or method for doing this; it is a series of steps and establishing a habit in the technicians of talking to material handling equipment customers about the program.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Lars Flink, Jr. Meet the Author
Lars Flink Jr. is director of U.S. field service at Nilfisk-Advance, located in Plymouth, Minnesota, and on the Web at www.nilfisk-advance.com.

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