Jim Baston continues Charlie’s journey as the serialisation of his service oriented book beyond Great Service continues…
The last time we left Charlie, he was trying to make sense of a comment a past customer made to him.
The comment has helped him to realise that his company is missing a tremendous opportunity to add significant value to its customer relationships. He recognises that asking questions during the contract that gives them more insight into the goals and needs of the customer, will allow them to go beyond simply maintaining the equipment by making recommendations of products and services that could help them address their challenges and achieve those goals. In other words, they could proactively take steps to help the customer to be measurably better off by the end of the contract than they were at the beginning.
This is an important revelation for Charlie as he comes to see the service business as more than a maintenance and repair activity. He recognises that the real value that his company can provide is to use their collective experience and expertise to be a “technical” partner for their customers. Using their unique knowledge and understanding the needs of the customer, would allow them to make recommendations that will help their customers achieve their business goals.
Using their unique knowledge and understanding the needs of the customer, would allow them to make recommendations that will help their customers achieve their business goals.
The challenge for Charlie is that he sees the task for the service people as selling and this doesn’t go over very well with the service team. He introduces the subject at a service meeting.
[Charlie] … brings up the issue of selling by simply asking, “So what do we have to do to encourage you to sell more of our services to our accounts? I am convinced that we could grow our revenue significantly, if you guys would just spend a little time talking to the customers about the other things we can do.”
The group sits in silence for a few minutes. There is a lot of shuffling of feet and a few uncomfortable grins as people look at Charlie, and then around the room at their peers. Finally, Angus speaks up, and Charlie is surprised by his response. “With all due respect, Charlie, it’s not our job to sell. We have a sales person that does that. You need to find a way to get him to sell more. Anyway, I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but whenever I’ve brought opportunities forward, I’ve been disappointed with the way they were handled—if they’ve been handled at all.’
“Just last week, the building manager at Marsh Estates wanted to know when I was going to get my sales guy to show up to discuss our energy audit program. I brought that to John over a month ago. Frankly, I was embarrassed, and I’m gonna think twice before I make a recommendation like that again!”
John is Novus’ service salesperson for maintenance contracts and small project work. He reports to Lauren Baker, Director of Sales and Marketing. Although John does not report to Charlie per se, he has an informal dotted line of accountability.
Charlie was taken aback. From his perspective, Angus was very good at generating new work. He had the least number of contract hours of anyone in the place, and yet was never one who was short of hours. “How can you say that selling is not your job Angus, you’re one of the best ‘salespeople’ in the place?” inquires Charlie.
I’ve never sold a thing in my life. I leave the selling to the guys with the expense accounts and the company cars. I simply keep my customers informed, and keep my eyes open for things that they should be doing to improve the operation of their facilities.
Angus smiled and said, “That’s where you’re wrong boss. I’ve never sold a thing in my life. I leave the selling to the guys with the expense accounts and the company cars. I simply keep my customers informed, and keep my eyes open for things that they should be doing to improve the operation of their facilities. I could never be a salesperson.”
… Charlie looks around the room. “What do the rest of you guys think? Don’t you see the value of selling our services to the customer?” … Pete sits forward in his chair and says, “Angus is right—we’re not salespeople. We have no business trying to sell the customer anything. We’d lose our credibility with them.” At this point, the room becomes animated and various techs chip in with their comments. Generally speaking, they are all in agreement.
Now Charlie is in a quandary. He recognises that he can really help his customers by making recommendations aimed at helping them achieve their business goals, but he can’t do that without the direct involvement of the service team. And, based on the reaction from the service techs to his suggestion, he won’t be very successful in getting them to participate.
Thinking about your business:
- Do you have a formal or informal expectation of your field service team to generate opportunities in the field?
- How enthusiastically does your field service team participate in this activity?
Next time we will look at this role of making recommendations as an integral part of the service provided.