Engaging our service technicians in business development can be a winning strategy — improving relationships with our customers while generating new business for our firms. However, implementing this strategy does not guarantee that the service team will enthusiastically embrace the initiative or that they will achieve exceptional results. Service technicians face 5 fundamental hurdles to success in this pursuit:

  • Hurdle 1: The Salesperson Paradox (“The harder I sell, the less effective I am.”)
  • Hurdle 2: Service Technician’s Self-Image (“If I had wanted to become a salesperson, I would have.”)
  • Hurdle 3: Systems and Processes (“No one responds to the opportunities I find.”)
  • Hurdle 4: Communication Skills and Comfort Level (“I’m just not comfortable doing this.”)
  • Hurdle 5: Resistance to Change (“This is too hard. I’d rather go back to the old way.”)

Here are strategies to overcome each hurdle and engage technicians in business development efforts.

Overcoming Hurdles 1 & 2: The Salesperson Paradox and Service Technician’s Self-Image Hurdles

When technicians perceive the promotion of services as selling rather than as an integral part of the service they provide, they may focus on winning the sale at the expense of serving the customer’s needs. If this occurs, they can be, and often are, perceived as acting like a salesperson and the bond of being a “trusted advisor” is lost.

The solution: Ensure that technicians understand that their recommendations should be based solely on solving the needs of the customer — not on the need to sell the company’s services. This must be communicated in everything that management says and does so that it becomes part of the service culture. Customers will appreciate technicians who embrace this role as they recognize the technician is looking out for their interests rather than trying to sell company services.

Overcoming Hurdle 3: Systems and Processes

Often the service technician’s attempts to proactively promote business are not fully supported by their firm’s processes and systems, short-circuiting the technician’s efforts and leading to those efforts being quickly abandoned.

The solution: We can eliminate this major demotivating factor by examining our processes and systems for holes that may cause opportunities to be mishandled. A system that ensures that all inquiries are handled quickly and efficiently every time will give our technicians more confidence in the system, and in themselves, to help their customers to achieve their business goals.

Overcoming Hurdle 4: Communication Skills and Comfort Level

Technicians who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with making proactive recommendations may avoid engaging the customer in conversation.

The solution: The good news is that, like any technical skill, good communication skills can be learned. Through training and practice, we can furnish technicians with the necessary skills that they can learn and master in a low-pressure setting that can be implemented in the field.

Overcoming Hurdle 5: Resistance to Change

Change is uncomfortable and, despite our best efforts, many of our technicians will revert to old habits simply because it is the path of least resistance.

The solution: This can be overcome by providing ongoing support to encourage technicians to take the risks associated with trying new skills. Coaching and supporting new behaviors also communicates that this is an important strategic initiative for the firm — not simply the latest management fad.

An engaged and focused field service team dedicated to promoting products and services to solve customer needs will add value to our customer relationships and differentiate us from our competitors. Our success will be enhanced if we help our technicians recognize their proactive role as part of the service and capitalize on their inherent purpose in serving the needs of our customers. We must also ensure that our processes and systems are designed to fully support the initiative and invest in skills training so that our technicians can have meaningful conversations with our customers. Finally, we need to support our technicians as they embrace these news skills with coaching and support.

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."