When it comes to selling, technicians can find themselves in unfamiliar territory. But selling and service are often one and the same. Giving customers choices — not ultimatums — is a form of great service. SmartVan spoke with Joe Crisara, a former contractor with 20+ years of experience in the field and CEO of ContractorSelling.com, about the routines technicians (and customers) fall into, how to break them and why great sales just can’t happen without great service. 

You speak a lot about converting normal service calls to leads. What do you mean by that?

Every call starts off as a routine. Everybody expects the minimum. The client’s routine is to ask for as little as possible, and the technician’s routine is to do as little as possible so they don’t waste time.

When we fall into routines, we fail to offer the opposite of a routine — an event. An example would be starting out with a small repair, and then offering a renovation that would include a complete replacement or overhaul of the product. It’s going to cost more money and will take more time. It won’t be as productive initially. But, at the end, the client gets the best service.

Any tips for dealing with customers who think they’re being pushed into a more expensive option?

Approach every call like a science experiment. Present the best, middle and least expensive solutions to people, and do an experiment to see which one they pick. If the customer asks which one you recommend, remain neutral. The only influence you should have is by offering the solutions and maintaining your neutrality, so the customers don’t feel like you’re trying to push something. You lose credibility by recommending the top option; and if you recommended the bottom one, you insult people.

The most persuasive thing that any technician can do is to put the information out there. I always tell people that the cheapest thing I could do would be to completely renovate the product. The most expensive thing would be to keep fixing it, and then renovate in the end anyway.

Good sales come from having great service. If you want your sales to be great, your service has to be great, and you can’t be afraid to offer your best services to your clients. Technicians and salespeople should realize that it’s really in their best interest to offer clients a range of services and allow the client to choose, as opposed to telling them what they should choose.

So it’s a matter of framing the options so that the best one is the obvious choice?

It does seem obvious, but you’re giving people information and asking them what they prefer. It sounds really simple, but most technicians are afraid to even tell people the negative stuff. It’s like a doctor who finds cancer, but decides to let it go this time because he doesn’t want to bother the patient. That’d be malpractice, and the doctor would be out of business. But contractors do it all the time. They don’t mention the bigger problem because they’re afraid the customer will get upset. The truth is customers get more upset when you hide the truth.

A lot of technicians feel like they’re not worthy of getting the bigger job or offering the better solution. When you do the job wrong, you’re asking the client if your solutions are worth the price. When you’re doing the job right, you’re asking if their family is worth the solution.

For the average contractor, it’s a day-to-day struggle to stay in business. They pay for marketing, new software and update their company in every way, but they don’t upgrade the way they sell. They have antiquated sales methods but modern technology in every other part of their company. What happens is they end up with red carpet technology but brown bag revenue to pay for it.

There are two kinds of contractors: those who have modern sales and will be able to sustain their technology investment, and those who don’t and will wind up back in the Dark Ages. If they don’t learn how to sell, all those investments will fall flat.

Can you share any specific examples of how giving customers a choice has paid dividends?

I work with a company called Jon Wayne Heating and Air Conditioning in San Antonio, Texas. They were doing very well when I first met them, but they made a commitment to offer their clients options, not ultimatums. By offering people a range of solutions, the company increased its revenue by 5X. They realized if they were going to be a world-class company, they had to have world-class solutions.

By doing that, it increased sales but it also created accountability with the clients. If they chose a better solution that had more warranties, the company assumed all of the liabilities and risk. If the customer chose a cheaper option, then the customer assumed the risk. That’s a communication that they made with all of their customers.