When your technicians make proactive recommendations that will improve their customers’ situations, they’re providing a valuable service. Most firms recognize this and are putting in place programs to formally encourage this proactive behavior.

However, oftentimes these companies are disappointed with the results of their efforts and struggle to understand why their technicians aren’t enthusiastically embracing the initiative.

If you are among the disappointed, then you may wish to examine the fundamental barriers that may be hindering your success.

1. The Salesperson Paradox

The harder I sell, the less effective I am.

Customers trust the service technician to give them objective advice based on their knowledge and experience. Unlike salespeople who are compensated for what they sell, service people are compensated for what they know, and for using that knowledge to do their job well – installing, fixing or maintaining things. They are viewed as honest brokers – “telling it like it is” with no hidden agendas. It would seem natural that they could build further revenues and profit if they just put a little more effort into selling to those trusting customers. The paradox, however, is that the moment the customer senses that the service technician is starting to “sell,” then the bond of trust with the customer starts to erode.

2. Service Technician Self-Image

If I had wanted to become a salesperson, I would have.

Generally speaking, technicians do not see themselves as “salespeople.” Many techs enter their field in order to use their knowledge and expertise to provide a service to others, and may resent the idea of acting in any form of a sales role. Unless they clearly understand the service value of promoting their services to customers, most will resist what they perceive as sales activities or, at best, go through the motions halfheartedly.

3. Systems and Processes

No one responds to the opportunities I find.

Often the service technician’s attempts to proactively promote business are not fully supported by their firm’s processes and systems. Even if the technician is convinced to sell the benefits of their company’s services or products to the customer, the lack of systems to efficiently and consistently handle any resulting inquiry by the customer will often short-circuit the technician’s efforts.

4. Communication Skills and Comfort Level

I’m just not comfortable doing this.

For many technicians, having a proactive discussion with the customer can be uncomfortable. They may not be certain how to initiate a discussion about the benefits of their services. They may be afraid that the customer may say “no.” Regardless of the reason, whenever anyone is confronted with a task that they are uncomfortable doing, they will try to avoid it. Our technicians are no different.

5. Resistance to Change

This is too hard. I’d rather go back to the old way.

People are naturally resistant to change. Change represents uncertainty and causes discomfort. When the technician is not confident in something new they are trying, often the path of least resistance is to revert back to the old way. Sustained change requires reinforcement, support and encouragement. This means that ongoing coaching and support of the technicians by the service manager is critical to ensure that the new skills are adopted and applied in the right direction.

When executed effectively, engaging field service personnel in business development through the promotion of products and services is an excellent way to differentiate a service business and boost customer retention and revenues. Like any strategy, it must overcome fundamental barriers in order for it to be effective. In my next article, I will discuss ways to overcome these hurdles, and how to engage your field service team as an integral and enthusiastic part of your business development strategy.

ABOUT Jim Baston

Avatar photoJim Baston is president of BBA Consulting Group Inc., a consulting and training firm located in Ontario, Canada. Since founding BBA Consulting Group in 2001, Jim has focused his attention on helping technical service companies develop and implement strategies to transform field service personnel from reluctant into enthusiastic promoters of their company’s products and services. He is also the author of several books about how service companies can improve customer satisfaction and revenue, including "Beyond Great Service: The Technician's Role in Proactive Business Growth."