By:  Eric Shidell, HVAC Service Mentor

While technical aptitude and ability factor heavily in an HVAC technician’s success and rate of pay, that is not the end of the story.  In many ways, the number on your paycheck is directly related to the numbers on the bottom of your service tickets (also known as sales invoices).  The more you can sell, the more you can earn.

I understand that for many technicians, customer communication and sales seems hard.  Many of us feel more comfortable working with machines rather than people.  We feel at home with tools but maybe a little awkward with words.  Technicians may feel that they’re a better mechanic than a sales person.  Maybe you don’t want to feel “salesey”.   I know that I felt that way for many years

For most HVAC technicians, avoiding sales conversations is not an option.  You are both the technician and the sales person on every call.  Before you head for the unit, you need to have a preliminary conversation with your customer first.  You are there to solve a problem for another human being, not just to fix a machine.

This conversation should have you asking more questions than statements, and spending more time listening than talking.   You’ll find it’s the easiest thing in the world, because the customer is doing all the work for you and they are happy to do it!

They key to extending your service beyond the immediate problem and gaining a customer for life is TRUST!  Building and strengthening that trust must happen first.  After that, every sales process is much easier.  Without it, you will only collect the bare minimum and you may not get a second chance ever again.

People buy based on trust.  Your customer has enough trust to pick up the phone and call your company when there is a need.   That is just the start.  Once you are at the front door, you will either strengthen that trust in the mind of the customer or you will weaken it.  Strengthening that trust is the key to higher sales both now and in the long term.

One of the biggest things your customer wants from you is to know that you care about them and their problem and that you have their back in this situation.

People tend to trust people who demonstrate that they care about them.  This is your job.  Remember that you are not there to fix a machine.  You are there to solve a problem for another person.

You don’t have to get super touchey feeley, and you don’t have to be overly friendly.  All you have to do is ask one simple question.  This one question will open the door of trust to you and allow you to discover what the customer’s real concern is and take actions to remedy it.

Do not ask things like,” What seems to be the problem?”  Don’t ask “What can I do for you?”

Your customer does not know what the problem is, and they don’t know what you can do to help them.  Asking these questions just puts them on the spot and even makes them a little suspicious.  After all, isn’t that your job?

The beginning of the call is all about building trust and instilling confidence.

Here is the magic bullet question that opens the doors of trust and leads to the path of a high revenue tech:  “What did you experience that led you to call us today?”  Then stop talking and listen carefully for the answer.

People absolutely know what they have experienced.  Given the chance to express it, customers feel empowered.  When you indicate that you are interested in their experience of their problem and want to provide them a solution, the trust factor goes way up.  You will find that customers will often open up and tell you not only what they experienced, but also what that means to them and what it is that they are worried about in this situation.

Now, ask some follow up questions.  Here are a handful of examples that will help based on the situation.  “When did it happen?”  “How often does it happen?”  “Has this ever happened before?”  “When was the last time you had service on your system?”  “How did you like the way it was working before this happened?”

You may notice that these questions are all related to the customer’s experience of their problem and your ability to solve it.  It isn’t salesey at all, and it builds a solid foundation of trust.

If you listen carefully, you will also pick up clues that indicate what the nature of the breakdown is and where you should start looking for it.  This will save you time on your diagnosis.

This will give you the opportunity to do what you do best:  Be a great technician and apply all of your technical knowledge and skill toward helping that customer in the best possible way.  They will be happy to pay a premium for your ability to solve their problem , not to just fix their machine.  They will want to enroll for your service agreement and possibly go for that upgrade.  If not today, then next time.

And there will be a next time and you will be their first choice.  You will find that customers will be asking you to make sure to write down your name or give them your business card so they don’t forget you after you leave.  As they are signing their name on the bottom of your service contract, they will ask, ”Can I ask for you next time?”

When you review your completed service invoice, look at the description of work performed, the parts you used and the time it took.  Look at the amount collected and realize that you customer did not pay that amount for those parts or for that labor.  They paid for relief from their problem and for peace of mind.   That is your true service.

Always be in service.

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