Technicians Can Make a Great Sales Force
SHERYL S. JACKSON
Continued success in any industry relies on retention of existing customers, the addition of new customers and the expansion of services purchased by customers. In service industries, the key point of contact is the employee going to the home or business to provide service. Many pest control management companies rely on their technicians to “sell” the company to existing and new customers. While the overall strategy may be the same, the actual design of incentive programs, expectations and training differ based on the unique needs of a company or the market served.
Plunkett’s Pest Control serves 22 states with multiple technicians in each state, but the dedicated sales team is small—only six people who focus on larger commercial contracts. The company grows through a well-trained, prepared team of technicians who have the tools and support to propose new services to existing customers as well as new prospects. “We like to say that we have a strong sales team of 500 people,” said Aly Silva Mulgrew, president of Plunkett’s.
Developing a team of technicians that are qualified to identify and treat pest problems and embrace the concept of sales starts with hiring the right people, said Silva Mulgrew. “We are not looking for sales-specific experience, but we do want people with strong people skills,” she said. “We rely on a consultative sales approach—identify a problem and recommend a solution.”
Part of Plunkett’s orientation process is training and role-playing conversations that are focused on educating customers about potential issues and solutions that Plunkett’s can provide. “It is important to give people an opportunity to practice because it builds their confidence in their ability to do something they may never have done before,” said Silva Mulgrew. Training continues as new technicians are paired with supervisors and experienced technicians who model how to present new services to customers and help them practice conversations.
McCauley Services, which has locations throughout six states, has no dedicated sales team and relies on 40 service technicians to provide services, sell new services to existing customers and sign up new residential and commercial customers. “A dedicated sales team doesn’t make sense for us because we don’t serve large metro areas, which means we drive long distances between calls and prospects,” said Justin McCauley, CEO of the business.
Because finding a technician who is interested in finding new business, as well as taking care of customers, is critical for his business, potential new employees undergo a ride-along with an experienced technician before they are hired. “We want to be very clear about our expectations for customer service and sales, and seeing the process is the best way to see if this is the right job for this prospective employee,” said McCauley. “Applicants hear the word sales and may not want to consider the job, but seeing how we are focused on a soft-sell approach, solving problems and relationship building gives people the confidence that they can do the job.”
Greg Schmidt started his company, Pest Solutions, over 20 years ago, but he has 34 years of experience in the industry. “When I started in the industry, it was common for technicians to be both service and salespeople—to treat current accounts, offer them any additional beneficial solutions and services and also sell services to potential new customers,” he said. “I started my company with the same model and strategy. One technician was responsible for sales, inspections and services in one area.”
While Pest Solutions’ growth was steady, it was slow. Then Schmidt heard from others in the industry that a sales team was needed to grow a business long-term. So two years ago, he added a sales inspector to his staff. “I really did not know how to manage a salesperson in terms of accountability and expectations,” he admitted. He also quickly learned that the addition of a sales inspector to the staff resulted in lower sales volume from technicians. “Their mindset seemed to change. They became staff who only handled service since we now had staff who handled sales.”
Because the sales inspector was supposed to enhance sales by offering services such as attic insulation and encapsulation, rather than replace technician sales efforts, Schmidt asked for feedback from technicians. “We now run contests that offer PTO and gift cards for campaigns such as mosquito control or termite services,” he said. “A core value of our company is to think like an owner and look for ways to grow the business, and these incentives encourage this thinking.”
Competitions, Bonuses and Incentives
Pest Solutions technicians can earn PTO and up to $200 in gift cards in contests. “In our mosquito contest, the technician must complete the sale of and have a signed service agreement for two new add-on services,” said Schmidt. “The names of techs who meet contest requirements are put into a drawing for the gift card and PTO.”
To keep technicians looking out for opportunities in their area that may require the sales inspector’s help, Schmidt also strengthened the referral program. “One lead slip earns the technician a $25 bonus, and if the sale is completed, the bonus doubles to $50,” he said. “Technicians also get a 15% commission for new services sold.”
McCauley’s technicians earn a commission equal to 10% of the first year’s agreement for a recurring service. “We talk about sales and share success stories in our weekly meetings, just as we discuss safety and other issues,” he said. “People also share problems they’ve noticed in their areas and solutions that customers want, so everyone can look for the opportunity to address the problem in their area.”
Plunkett’s technicians are compensated for different steps of the sales process. Bonuses are given for the initial ask, and a percentage of the sale is awarded to the technician. “This approach incentivizes initiative and follow-through because they can earn more for each step,” explained Silva Mulgrew. “Our enterprise resource planning (ERP) software supports their efforts by making it easy to create proposals on the tablet and email and obtain signatures.”
The ERP tracks activity to create a sales ranking that all technicians follow closely. “It’s a friendly competition throughout the year, with the Sales Master for the year recognized and rewarded,” said Silva Mulgrew. “It is a coveted badge of honor that recognizes the number of sales within a branch and across the company.”
When the sales were first posted on the dashboard that everyone could see, there was no announcement or launch of a competition, said Silva Mulgrew. “People started noticing the numbers and who was on the leaderboard in a matter of hours,” she said. “It has become a way for technicians, branches and regions to benchmark against each other.” The benchmarking is valuable because Plunkett’s doesn’t set a quota for technicians because the company wants to maintain a problem-solving approach versus a hard sell, she added.
Throughout sales competitions and distribution of bonuses, it is also important to be aware of technicians who might be struggling with sales, said McCauley. “If there is someone who doesn’t seem to have the confidence to present proposals or complete sales, a service or branch manager will ride with the technician to offer tips, demonstrate how to start a conversation and answer questions,” he said. “We want them to find their own voice, so they are authentic, but they need confidence.”
Most importantly, McCauley reminds technicians that, “We don’t sell services. We solve problems.”