Field Service Management

Is Cross-Selling Right for Your Field Service Engineers?

Published by in Field Service Management

Using field service software isn’t the only way to help your technicians grow revenue. If you want to see how a field service engineer can drive revenue through cross-selling, look no further than Ghostbusters (the original, of course. I look at remakes the way I look at Temple of Doom; they don’t count).

cross selling, field service engineer

After catching their first ghost, Slimer, there’s a great moment where Bill Murray and Harold Ramis collaborate to add revenue to their first sale:

Egon and Venkman demonstrate how cross-selling can drive revenue. Venkman mentions three related services the Ghostbusters can provide beyond catching: entrapment, proton charging, and storage.

They’re all services that the customer needs and wants (though I wouldn’t recommend Ray’s strong-arming, amusing as it is). In cross-selling those three services, the boys in grey add several thousand dollars with a point-of-service sale.

cross selling, field service engineer

Cross-selling if you strong arm could also result in this… and a bad Yelp review.

Unfortunately, not every business has a born salesman like Peter Venkman. Cross-selling, and the related practice of upselling, can definitely grow revenue.

Are they a field service technician’s responsibility, though?

The answer to “should your field service technicians cross-sell and upsell” may be a little more complicated than the answer to whether or not you’re a god.

The State of the Debate

If you ask whether or not field service technicians should cross-sell, you’ll get an answer in one of two broad camps.

The first argues that field service technicians are uniquely positioned to cross-sell, upsell, and add revenue. They come into customers’ homes and  places of work, instantly creating a more intimate relationship than is available over the phone or online. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! We’ll call this the “field service technicians are the keymaster” school of thought.

This role was actually written for John Candy.

This role was actually written for John Candy.

The other argument goes like this: field service technicians aren’t salesmen. Expecting them to be salesmen and technicians is a tricky mix that doesn’t always work out. We’ll call this the “cross the streams” school of thought, because it can go very wrong, but also has the potential to go right. More on that later.

cross_the_streams

Keymaster arguments tend to focus on the numerous opportunities field service technicians have to sell, while don’t-cross-the-streams arguments focus on whether those opportunities turn into success.

A natural (cross-) salesman

Kristina Hill of IFS points out that field service technicians are already primed to sell because of the level of customer intimacy endemic to service businesses. She says, “A field service technician may come to a person’s residence or place of work… the best field service technicians develop close relationships with their customers, often becoming trusted advisors.” Hill does have a point about the benefits of the customer-technician relationship, but there are more dynamics to the picture than just that.

Some take longer than others to be trusted.

Some take longer than others to be trusted.

Also, sales technicians “have already done what a sales guy would have had to do to close a deal,” just as part of their job. Technicians have “built a relationship with the customer, become an expert problem solver,” and “established trust” because they’ve solved customer problems before.

Bruno Desmet echoes this, adding that “field service technicians have all the prerequisites to become service ambassadors.” For instance, they’re “far more at your customer’s premises than your sales team,” and they already “make customers happy by fixing problems.” Most of all, field service technicians “have credibility, because they are not supposed to sell.”

In other words, field service engineers are as well-suited to sales as parapsychologists were to catching ghosts.

Don’t cross the streams…?

Despite the potential field service technicians have to also be salesmen, however, some thought leaders have reservations. They argue that opportunity doesn’t necessarily equate with success.

Not everyone has the “millions of registered voters” defense available.

Not everyone has the “millions of registered voters” defense available.

Even the keymaster school of thought sometimes acknowledges that there isn’t an automatic relationship between sales opportunities and closed sales. Desmet also acknowledges that making salesmen out of technicians requires steps to “cultivate this behavioral change,” such as incentivizing sales, training technicians in upselling techniques, or using field service software. The issue with those steps is that they require extra resources in the form of time and possibly money.

A further question, though, is whether moves like re-training and incentivizing will lead to successful sales. Don Stephens argues that the technician-as-salesman model has potential, but only “if handled properly.”

Since “the typical technician will often point out all the flaws of a product before getting to the benefits,” Stephens suggests a two-tiered approach. He says, “The easiest way is to have techs identify opportunities and then call in a sales agent to work with the customer. A finder’s fee would motivate techs to make the call.” From there, sales can follow up on the lead and hopefully provide technicians with further opportunities.

Even with a sales-service tag team, though, education and re-training would still be necessary to help techs “recognize when there is an opportunity for a sale.” As a result, the tag team strategy would require an investment in the form of time and training.

The technician’s tendency “to fix equipment and then move on to the next customer” will need to be retrained into a tendency to see the bigger picture of “how things are being handled,” then recommend further products or services.

Bill Pollock says the choice to emphasize cross-selling and upselling depends on the organization’s goals and people. Whether or not a business can make sales a part of service “depends on the organization itself,” and the “composition, skills and learnability of their field technicians.” Uniting sales and service also depends on the company’s priorities, whether that’s sales, or other metrics like fixes per day, or customer satisfaction.

Understanding your field service engineers’ individual strengths and interests is also important. Do your field technicians want to cross-sell and upsell? Or are they more interested in the pure service aspects of the job? If your technicians aren’t interested in selling, “that’s a kick-out factor,” Pollock says. Efforts to get uninterested workers to sell, even if there are incentives, frequently “fail or collapse under their own weight.”

Spores, molds and fungus probably aren’t your technicians’ interests. Though I could be wrong

Spores, molds and fungus probably aren’t your technicians’ interests. Though I could be wrong

Pollock also points to the difficulty of measuring the sales factors you may want to incentivize. “It’s like trying to quantify stuff that leads to the assist and basket in basketball,” he explains. “There are many techs out there setting the stage for” potential sales, like those who informally pass tips along about customers whose ROI might benefit from a new machine, or a different service.

When someone asks you if you’re a salesman, you… say… POSSIBLY

Pollock does see a lot of future potential for this strategy as service technicians’ demographics change. “There are hundreds of organizations out there, if not thousands, in which many technicians are Millennials… [They] tend to be more malleable. I’d argue this makes them better suited for cross-selling and upselling.”

None as cool as this device, though

None as cool as this device, though

The fact that Millennials are digital natives helps, too. Pollock argues, “Millennials are used to capturing what they need, real time.” He adds that this generation is “more likely to know what products and improved services the company has to sell,” especially if the company uses a field service app that makes such information readily available.

Service Fusion’s field service management software provides one example. Their app has a picture-driven product catalog that a technician can use to show customers various options. “When service technicians are listing products, they can illustrate them with pictures and videos,” Service Fusion CEO Max Paltsev says.

Service Fusion’s app also displays related products, like which thermostats are usually bought to complement a new HVAC system. Paltsev compares this to Amazon’s “suggested product” feature. The potential for a visual cross-selling tool like this is lucrative: Amazon says that 35% of its product sales come from recommendations. Further encouraging is the tendency of customers to react similarly well to service recommendations.

Service Council expert Sumair Dutta suggests that the “group that doesn’t want to be sold to in the field” is shrinking. A Service Council survey found that 90% of customers who received recommendations from a service technician reacted positively. The argument over whether field service technicians should sell or not “has progressed from to sell or not to sell, to sell or to recommend.”

Note: customers reacting positively doesn’t always mean free Chinese food.

Note: customers reacting positively doesn’t always mean free Chinese food.

Conclusion

If you’re a manager, have your field services technicians upsold and cross-sold successfully? If you’re a technician, have you been able to increase revenue by getting a customer something else they need? Is cross-selling something that you’re genuinely interested in? Please tell me in the comments below. I’m ready to believe you.

Better yet, if the software you use has helped you cross-sell or upsell, mention that in a review.


Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe is a former Capterra analyst.

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