Plumbing, Technician Tips, Business Tips, Productivity, Management, Operations
A Plumbing Sales Training System That Increases Your Average Ticket Prices
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One of the most common concerns we hear from plumbing contractors is that their average ticket prices are lower than they’d like them to be. And often, compounding that challenge, their plumbing techs aren’t particularly interested in improving at sales.
Plumbers tend to pride themselves on their technical skills — their ability to fix most anything with their hands. But the notion of learning slick-talking sales techniques frequently doesn’t appeal to them since many don’t consider being a sales person as a part of their chosen profession.
But the only way to solve the problem of low average ticket prices is to change that mindset. Some plumbing business owners are leveraging sales training programs to help their techs improve at sales.
The best of these programs frame the sales process in a way that actually resonates with and transforms the techs going through their programs. The secret: showing plumbing techs that their technical skills are, in fact, a key part of the sales process.
We recently interviewed the good people over at Go Time Success Group, a service industry coaching, consulting, and training agency. In this article, we provide a detailed look at their “CARE” framework for plumbing sales — a process that any plumbing business can benefit from.
Then we review in detail how using a plumbing software solution, like ServiceTitan, can help contractors apply a CARE-based system to their own companies, ensuring that their techs’ plumbing expertise translates into hitting sales targets.
Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our software can help you grow your business.
How to Use CARE to Design an Effective Plumbing Sales System
One of the things that we like best about Go Time’s CARE formula for sales success is that it doesn’t ask plumbing contractors to add flashy bells and whistles to their approach, or require their employees to adopt pushy methods to convince customers to buy things they don’t need.
CARE works so well because it helps plumbers perfect what they’re already doing: connecting with homeowners, assessing their needs, recommending solutions, and executing them.
The trick is that CARE codifies these basic elements into a system, ensuring that contractors and their employees take full advantage of the opportunities available to them during every step. That way, they can be all but certain that they’re no longer leaving any revenue on the table.
Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
Connecting with a potential customer begins with their first phone call to a company, and, generally, their initial conversation with that company’s customer service representative. Naturally, this conversation should be pleasant — polite and cordial. But it’s also an opportunity to gather valuable information: What does the homeowner need (or think they need)? What are their preferences? What are the specs of their current plumbing?
All of this data will be useful to the tech who ultimately responds to the call. But in the process of collecting it, through a series of friendly but probing questions, the CSR also sends an early signal to potential customers that they’re dealing with a methodical, knowledgeable, and process-driven company. In short: real professionals.
First-time customers tend to have some understandable concerns — about the potential severity of their plumbing problem and the financial investment that fixing it is going to involve, about the competence and honesty of their plumbing contractor, and the people that work for the company. So communicating from first contact that they’re in good hands is key; it’s the first step in overcoming objections to potential sales down the road.
Some of the most successful plumbing contractors take this a step further, having CSRs provide a value statement over the phone: a brief history of the company that emphasizes the depth of their experience; EPA certification; any community service involvement; that all techs are background checked; and any other differentiating merits of the business.
Once an appointment is booked, and well before the tech arrives, successful contractors have their techs reach out to the homeowner directly, often via text, to give them a narrow, accurate window for their arrival. Some companies also like to have their techs provide a personalized value statement of their own, with a few personal details thrown in about family, hobbies, and the like, to give it a human touch.
Upon arrival, it’s the tech’s job to deepen the rapport that they and their CSR have already begun to develop. For contractors, a good rule of thumb is to have their tech take a step or two back from the front door, and be prepared to initiate a casual conversation with the homeowner with a question related to some observed detail about the property: the presence of sports equipment, a satellite dish, a swingset out back.
The folks at Go Time Success Group recommend using a system for personality assessment known as DISC to determine how best to communicate with different homeowners. You can read about DISC in detail here. But the basic idea is that everyone falls (mostly) into one of four categories: Dominant, Influencer, Steady, Compliant. If a tech can quickly determine which group a potential customer seems to be a member of, they might be able to figure out how to best tickle their buying bone.
Note: One could argue that connecting with a customer begins through marketing, even before that first phone call. And we strongly suggest that plumbing companies make an effort to track how, exactly, people end up calling them — via word of mouth, social media, mailer, etc. We’ll talk more about best practices for keeping track of which marketing initiatives are working and which ones aren’t in the next section of this article.
Assessing the Customer’s Needs
The assess portion of a CARE-based plumbing sales system is where the tech’s skills really get to shine — and where, if properly deployed, they can translate into big sales increases. Again, the key to making this happen is having a well-defined process, and being sure it’s followed on every call.
Many contractors and technicians focus too narrowly on the project at hand, as presented by their customer. Whatever the plumbing service — whether it’s a drain cleaning, a faucet replacement, or some other kind of home service — the service technician goes in thinking they’re going to fix the problem that’s placed before them as quickly as possible and leave. As a result, they end up leaving a lot of money on the table, missing add-ons left and right, and their tickets reflect it.
By focusing not merely on the single plumbing issue that’s causing the most immediate pain, but conducting a comprehensive assessment of all of the homeowner’s needs, techs can often turn up lots of additional work, while also solving problems that the customer didn’t even know they had — and demonstrating their abilities and value in the process. Where other plumbers have failed to notice things, this is also an opportunity to differentiate oneself from the competition.
If a tech answers a call to replace a rusted pipe, for example, it’s an excellent time for them to check out the status of the water heater. Perhaps it’s in need of maintenance — or better yet, 12 years old and approaching the end of its natural lifespan. The most successful plumbing contractors have a process in place that encourages this kind of serendipity during the assessment process, nudging technicians to take the blinders off and identify every place in a given home where they can add value.
The most skilled and observant techs tend to end up being the most effective working within this kind of system. Still, based on our observations, they perform optimally when these holistic plumbing assessments are performed methodically, step by step — rather than as a freestyle based on recommended practices.
Many of the best plumbing contractors use one or more checklists for this purpose. Often, one is designed to guide techs through a thorough inspection of the home, and another is used to gauge the owner’s needs and preferences. The latter, often called a Comfort Survey, generally runs about 10-15 questions. It helps further assure the customer that they’re dealing with a truly professional company, while also involving them as an active participant in the project of improving their home.
Comfort Survey questions can also subtly help techs gather information that will prove useful when it comes to the recommending step in the CARE process. For example, they might ask a customer: How long have you been in your home? If they get an answer like 15 years — a substantial length of time — that tells the tech that the person they’re talking to has probably made a large investment in their home already. As a result, they’re likely to be less sensitive to sticker shock than someone who’s only been in a home for a year or two.
The natural step after assessing a homeowner’s plumbing projects — and the one that most every contractor takes — is to recommend solutions. But this, too, is an opportunity to maximize sales revenue that many plumbing techs sometimes neglect to take advantage of.
The plumber we described earlier — the one who’s inclined to enter a home thinking they’re going to solve a single problem as quickly as possible and move on — also tends to simply tell their customer what needs to be done, without presenting a range of options. This approach can damage whatever rapport they’ve established, by making the homeowner feel disempowered, if not cornered. If that one option strikes the customer as unsuitable or too expensive, the call is pretty much over. In the event of a sale, this approach also wastes an opportunity to increase the bottom line.
In our experience, the best approach is to present options, empowering the customer to make a decision based on the service tech’s expertise and recommendations, which can be framed as a function of the customer’s needs and wants that they learned about during the assess stage. This is another moment when techs can show off their plumbing knowhow, while improving customer experience and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
At the same time, one doesn’t want to overwhelm the homeowner with information. Three options — Best (priciest), Better, and Good (least expensive) — presented in that order, will do. The idea is to make it easy for the customer to make a decision, and, presented with three options, many people tack toward the middle — already an upsell from the least expensive option.
Executing the Job
Plumbers spend so much time and energy trying to get business that it’s easy to feel like the job is done once a customer says Yes. But getting to Yes is merely the first step, and any effective plumbing sales process will dictate, with a high degree of specificity, what the next steps are and how they should be performed.
Even small businesses have lots of moving parts. And in general, at this stage, the best plumbing contractors have a system that ensures that all of those parts are working in concert. That way, business owners can be sure that all of the necessary documents are signed — and that everyone who should have copies gets them — that an install date is booked and added to a company calendar, that necessary parts are ordered in a timely fashion, and that a downpayment is taken.
If there’s no sale, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of following up — and doing so in a diligent, systematic way. We know that this is an area that a lot of shops struggle with. And we feel so strongly about it that we’ve actually gone to the trouble of writing a whole post about it, here.
How a Service Software Solution Like ServiceTitan Can Help Plumbing Contractors Implement a CARE Sales System
We have a lot of plumbing industry veterans on our team, with endless sales expertise between them. Nonetheless, we can’t take credit for the CARE sales system we described above. And yet, a tool like ServiceTitan is particularly well-suited to help plumbers implement all of the key components of CARE in their own shops.
It’s one thing to know these principles in the abstract — perhaps use them to give pointers to employees here and there — and quite another to turn them into a well-defined system that plumbing techs, CSRs, and service managers apply to each and every call. Below, we’ll detail how to do it, marrying CARE and ServiceTitan to dramatically improve sales.
How ServiceTitan Enables Connection
Many of the best practices for connecting with potential clients that we described in the previous section can be challenging to implement piecemeal. When a plumbing company is using ServiceTitan, however, they become part of a seamlessly integrated, largely automated system.
The software initiates the process from the moment a call comes in. As the CSR solicits all of the information the technician will need and schedules a home visit, ServiceTitan’s call booking feature records the audio. When the tech is ready to make their visit, they can listen to the original call, arming themselves with all of the data they’ll need to perform a methodical, thorough, and efficient assessment.
Example of a customer’s profile. With ServiceTitan, the full history of every customer interaction is right at your fingertips.
For business owners, having the audio is a big help for making tweaks to phone scripts and coaching CSRs, in order to improve potential customers’ first-touch interactions with their company. Where applicable, ServiceTitan also automatically attributes incoming calls to the marketing initiative responsible for them, yielding invaluable data about how strategies might be adjusted in order to get the most out of marketing spend.
Around the same time techs are listening to the audio from the CSR call, they can use ServiceTitan to send a message to the customer, providing them with a window for their arrival time. It’s at this point, depending on their employer’s preference, that they might also send along a mini bio of their own, increasing the homeowner’s sense of comfort and familiarity.
Customers can even track the tech’s vehicle to their home, ensuring that everyone stays on the same page, timing-wise, and reducing the chances that the tech will encounter a homeowner who’s been waiting around, aggravated and impatient, upon arrival. There’s practically nothing more difficult, after all, than selling to a customer who’s angry with you before you even show up.
How ServiceTitan Facilitates Assessment
By the time a plumbing tech using ServiceTitan reaches the assess stage in the CARE process, the software has already made their life a lot easier, streamlining and systematizing all of the discrete steps that make up the connect phase. And as they move through the home, conducting the sort of thorough, methodical, holistic inspection we described earlier in this article, ServiceTitan will do much the same.
Forms and checklists are great methods for helping techs do detailed and comprehensive assessments. But if they’re working with pen and paper, as many plumbers do, it’s all too easy to skip a step or make an illegible note — to say nothing of losing track of the paperwork altogether later on.
With ServiceTitan’s digital, automated forms, there’s no opportunity for any of those mistakes. Employers and service managers can also set up the software so that techs are required to follow each and every prescribed step before moving on with their assessment, ensuring that no question goes unasked and no key element of the home unexamined.
If they want to be even more hands-on, they can monitor service calls in real time, coaching their techs based on the information that they’re gathering, and which gets transmitted back to the office — also in real time. Using the software’s alert features, owners and managers can set up triggers, so that they get a notification when a photo is transmitted, for example, or an inspection form is completed. If they see an opportunity that seems to have been overlooked — a rusty water heater, say — they can draw their tech’s attention to it, setting up an opportunity to skyrocket the value of the call.
In combination, these features give owners/managers greater flexibility, allowing them to send out greener techs in confidence, with the knowledge that they can coach them remotely. And in addition to codifying the lessons of CARE into a well-defined, easy-to-follow process, ServiceTitan also demonstrates to customers that the company they’re dealing with operates according to a clean, professional system.
How ServiceTitan Helps with Recommendations
ServiceTitan completely eliminates the common bugaboo we described above, where techs give only a single solution for whatever plumbing problem their customer needs solved. Much as owners and service managers can require techs to proceed, step by step, through forms and checklists during the assess phase, they can use the software to ensure that a range of options are presented as potential recommendations.
With ServiceTitan’s sleek customer-facing interface, which can be preloaded with fully customizable catalogues and templates, techs can present Good, Better, and Best options in an attractive, educational format. It allows them to show very clearly why the Better option is superior to the Good option, and why the Best option is, well, the best — a clear advantage to any plumbing contractor trying to increase their average ticket prices. It doesn’t hurt, either, that ServiceTitan makes financing available with the touch of a button, giving customers one less reason to say No.
ServiceTitan also allows service professionals to instantaneously create clean, branded, digital estimates in-home, so there’s no lag time between their visit and the delivery of a bid, as can often occur in plumbing shops that rely on pen and paper.
How ServiceTitan Helps with Execution
After the sale, too, ServiceTitan helps plumbing contractors make sure that all of the steps that go into execution are followed to a T. Customers can sign a digital contract on the spot, and get a copy emailed to them instantaneously as a PDF. The same documents get sent back to the office for safekeeping, while CSRs can consult ServiceTitan’s highly dynamic and flexible scheduling and dispatching features in order ensure that the right techs get assigned to the right jobs efficiently.
Because they have access to all of the parts, templates, and catalogues they might need at their fingertips, CSRs can see right away whether they might need to send away for a particular sink, pipe, toilet, or other piece of equipment, reducing the possibility of misunderstandings with the customer about when the work is actually going to take place.
In the event that the tech doesn’t make a sale — or that the homeowner doesn’t ultimately pull the trigger on all of the potential purchases discussed during the visit — a note goes automatically into the Follow-Up tab of that customer’s digital file within ServiceTitan. That way techs, CSRs, or service managers can set up regular alerts, reminding them to follow-up with the customer to see if they’re ready to make a decision.
Follow-up is truly an essential part of any effective, well-defined plumbing sales process, necessary to making sure no revenue gets left on the table. In one instance, a plumbing contractor we know used ServiceTitan to help them increase their revenue by more than $1 million a year by instituting a more systematic process for following up on unsold tickets.
Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our software can help you grow your business.
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.