A couple of years back, I invested in a new air conditioning unit from “Acme Air Conditioning.”  “Jimmy,” my trusted technician from Acme, has been coming out to do the annual maintenance on the unit since it was installed. After the last check, Jimmy tells me the air conditioner is running perfectly but suggests I invest in an expensive upgrade to help ensure the ongoing safety and reliability of the unit. He even goes so far as to give me a quote for replacing the unit with a new and improved model in case I prefer that option to purchasing the suggested upgrade. My first question to Jimmy is: “You told me all the necessary safety and reliability features as were included in the “premium” air conditioner you sold me three years ago, why are these no longer adequate?” And my second question is: “Considering my AC unit is 3 years old and is running perfectly, why are you trying to sell me a replacement already? Are you pulling my leg now, or were you pulling my leg 3 years ago when you sold me this “top-of-the-line, full feature unit” you promised it would run efficiently for at least 10 years?” I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples of trusted service relationships you’ve seen sour because of a similar upsell strategy that fell flat.

Developing Your Upsell Strategy

Upselling can be particularly tricky for service organizations. A poorly executed upsell strategy can quickly undermine the relationship that has been built up between a customer and their service provider. For many service providers, the service technician is that “trusted advisor” and the face of your organization to the customer. Field technicians can be their greatest advantage for service organizations that want to upsell new services to customers if they empower them with the right skills and training to be effective. Here are four steps for developing a winning field service upsell strategy.

Train Your Techs to Sell

The first step is to decide what you want your field technicians to do. Do you simply want them to be on the lookout for possible upsell opportunities and report those leads back to headquarters, or do you want your field technicians to be responsible for upselling services to the customer while onsite? Either way, you must empower your field technicians with the right set of skills and tools if you want your upselling strategy to succeed.

A step-by-step approach:

  • Make sure you identify what product skills and soft skills your technicians will need to successfully drive service upsells.
  • Provide access to training: Have your field technicians shadow more experienced technicians and provide them with scenario-based learning opportunities.
  • Make sure technicians are educated on upsell offerings and know how to speak to their value.
  • Teach techs to articulate how the upsell is a valuable extension of the service they are already providing.
  • Finally, but most importantly, make sure field techs learn to identify what the customer needs. In this way they won’t just be trying to sell an upgrade; they will be able to convince the customer of the value of what they are considering buying.

Identify the Customer Need

Effective upselling comes about when you identify a need or a problem for the customer, and you can respond to that need with a solution. Every time you touch a customer, you can connect with that customer and better understand what drives them. In the case of my tech Jimmy, if he had been given a script to follow, and asked me about how my machine had been running, if I’ve had any issues, or if I have any questions, he probably would have learned that my air conditioner had been running just fine, but I had been experiencing more dust allergies than usual and was worried these could be related to the air conditioner or ducts. With this information, he could then have offered me an “Air Quality” upgrade to my existing maintenance contract to add a UV light to the air conditioning unit and yearly maintenance and cleaning of the AC ducts. I would gladly have signed up for this upgrade.

Educate Your Customers

Sometimes the assumption is that the less a customer knows, the more you can convince them to buy just about anything. Assuming that works, it will work once, after which you will lose a customer who feels they have been duped into buying something they didn’t need or was not of value to them. Instead, keep your customers well informed. When your techs go out to service calls, have them spend the time to explain to customers what they will be doing and why. If the service call leads to an upsell opportunity, make sure you can offer your customers different options. Have your tech clearly lay out the differences between the various options they are proposing, the pricing for each option, and the value that each option will bring to the customer. If you take the time to explain things to your customer, if you are transparent in your proposal and you can show your customers that what you are proposing will bring them value, it will be a much easier sell!

Turn Your Customers into Raving Fans

Finally, I would like to end with an important but frequently overlooked point. Every time you talk to a customer is another opportunity to turn that customer into your biggest fan. Be honest with the customer about what they really need. Maybe you won’t upsell that customer anything today, but you’ve created a foundation of trust that will enable you to sell them additional products and services when the time is right. My trust in Acme and Jimmy was eroded the moment he tried to sell me something I knew I didn’t need. If Jimmy had been trained on upselling techniques, he would have known to look up the history of my air conditioner before offering me an upgrade. He would have remembered that the unit was only three years old and had been sold, installed, and maintained by Acme Air Conditioning.  He would have avoided the mistake of offering to sell me a new unit and would probably have offered me the Air Quality upgrade instead, therefore turning me into a raving fan instead of a customer looking for a new service provider!

For more insights on using technicians to upsell products and services, check out my colleagues’ article, Frontline Revenue: Take Your Field Service Lead Program to the Next Level.

ABOUT Sara Cerruti

Sara Cerruti is a senior director of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. She has over 20 years of experience in driving business process optimization and digital transformation initiatives in industrial businesses including Oil & Gas and Power. Sara combines Lean Six Sigma transactional and shop floor experience with business process transformation expertise to help customers achieve results by effectively leveraging technology to drive productivity and growth opportunities.