Once you’ve completed your planning and identified the actions necessary to engage your field professionals in proactive business development, it’s time to implement your plan. As you set out to make your vision a reality, here are some factors to consider.
Before you implement your plan, make sure processes and systems are in place to support your technicians in the field. If you are not prepared to handle the increase in opportunities and some fall through the cracks, your plan will be set back, perhaps indefinitely.
There are likely to be several people and groups within your organization who will benefit from this initiative. Of course this will depend on how your company is organized, but some examples include:
- New contract sales manager and sales team. This group benefits because they can use the service approach to differentiate their proposals to their customers. They can also tie in your approach to contract commitments such as an annual review of recommendations and improvements made.
- Project management. If projects are handled through a different group in the organization, they stand to gain significantly from the efforts of your technicians in the field.
Make sure all stakeholders are aware of these benefits and the role they can play to support your initiative.
Be clear that service technicians who embrace their business development roles will experience great benefits to their careers. However, despite your best efforts, some may still see this as an attempt to turn them into salespeople. It is important that you be aware of this and ensure that your approach, language, processes and support tools continually refer to the great service that they are providing. It may also be helpful to engage leading members of the field service team to act as champions to support your goals from within the team.
The approach you are embarking on will be of substantial value to customers so long as they recognize your efforts as part of the service to help them improve their businesses. Keep this in mind as you determine how you will communicate with existing customers in general, and specifically how you would like your field service team to describe the service to them.
Identify one or two (or more) individuals who are respected members of the field service team and work to gain their support to champion the initiative within the team. These champions can show leadership and reinforce the message to those who may be skeptical or struggling with the approach.
The success of your initiative can only be demonstrated if you can show a measurable change. Good intentions are not enough. You will need to document evidence of your success. Now is the time to determine how you will measure that success and, if you are not tracking those factors yet, how to get started. Some measurement criteria you should consider include:
- Average number of opportunities generated by each technician
- Total spin-off or project revenues generated
- Ratio of spin-off or project revenues vs. contract base
- Spin-off or project revenues by each technician
- Ratio of unplanned emergency service work vs. contract base
- Overall customer satisfaction scores
- Customer satisfaction with the opportunities identified by technicians
- Customer retention scores
- Employee satisfaction scores
- Employee (technician) turnover
- Impact of more predictable labor planning
A Word about Commissions and Rewards
There is a lot of debate about whether to provide technicians with some type of commission based on a percentage of the revenues or a flat-rate reward (e.g. $50 per opportunity) to encourage them to embrace this approach and reward them for their efforts. I personally would encourage you to think very carefully before implementing such a system. Here are my reservations about doing this:
- A reward system based on lead generation communicates “sales” and may contradict your insistence that this is a service.
- A commission scheme may encourage the wrong behavior and create an environment where the customer’s interests are not paramount — such as encouraging the technician to promote a product or service for the sake of the commission.
- It makes it hard for the technician to answer the question: “Are you getting any compensation for making this recommendation?”
- A commission system can be difficult to manage.
- Mistakes or misunderstandings may occur that discourage the team from fully participating.
- Not all members of your team will have the same opportunities for generating quality leads.
- How would you feel if your car mechanic was paid a commission on parts sold?
I have found that technicians take their role as service reps seriously and, once they recognize the service aspect of what they are doing, they willingly accept it without the need for external reinforcement. If you want to recognize the efforts of your team, why not consider a team-wide reward? You could base it on revenues generated and/or by any number of other factors including customer satisfaction and retention scores.