ICS Magazine

Up-Selling on the Home Front - Part III

December 10, 2004
Give your employees the tools they need to up-sell successfully.


"If you help your people get what they want, you will get what you want too."
- Sam Walton

"What do my employees want?" Ah. The eternal question. The list is long and varied as to what each employee wants from you as an employer. But one common denominator is more money.

And who can blame them? After all, why are you in this business? Did you all those many years ago just wake up one day with a burning desire to clean carpets? Or, more likely, did you just need to make a lot of money quickly (sounds good to me)? After all, we all want the better things in life, and your employees are no different.

But on the subject of "quick and easy money" for employees, a problem rears its ugly head: your workers are employees. Any quick and easy money the business is making right now goes to you as the owner, who has poured in his blood, sweat and tears over the years and quite correctly expects and deserves a return on his investment.

And yet, the question remains: How can you give your employees the opportunity for "big money" without giving up your current profits? Even better, could you profit as they make more money? The answer: add-on sales, especially the up-selling of carpet protectors, like Scotchgard from 3M and DuPont's Teflon, by your employees while they are already working in the client's home.

If your employees up-sell more carpet protector, they can earn their own raise with the generous commission you offer while making more profit for you at the same time. Carpet protective finishes really can be that profitable, but they must be sold. Here's how to help your employees help themselves:

Give your employees the training to sell the protector. You wouldn't send your people out to clean without a scrub wand. But business owners routinely send out carpet-cleaning technicians with no sales training at all, and then get upset when they don't sell add-on services. So give your techs the training to get the job done. In my business we used scripts, company meetings, "play acting" skits and sales contests to both educate and motivate our technicians (it should go without saying that you must pay your employees very well for the extra effort and time required to sell and apply protector). Train your people even in the little things like...

Face-to-face hints. Remember, most sales are made when the customer feels good about having the technician in her home. You must never assume that your technician - usually young and male - automatically understands the emotional dynamics of building a relationship with a homeowner who is usually older and female. A few reminders:
1. Respect her "personal space" - Try to maintain a physical space of 3 feet between the two of you. If you're close enough to reach out and touch the person you are too darn close. Back off!
2. Don't "loom" - If she is sitting, drop down to one knee and get on her level. Even if both of you are standing, if you are tall and she is short, kneel down by inventing an excuse such as feeling the carpet fiber.
3. Look them in the eye - The average technician feels a bit intimidated in the home of the customer. After all, the house may have cost more than he will make over the next 20 years! So the natural tendency is to avoid the gaze of the client. Big mistake: this sends a message of untrustworthiness and incompetence. Teach your technicians to respect their customers but to not be afraid of them. After all, they put their pants on one leg at a time every morning, just like the rest of us.
4. Poor personal hygiene is a big turnoff - Sure, carpet cleaning is a hot, sweaty, physical job. But no one will buy additional services if they are offended by your tech's strong body odor (all the more reason to always maintain at least 3 feet of distance between the employee and the customer). Ditto on an unshaven appearance, rumpled or dirty uniform, dirty shoes, etc. These are all negative moments of truth, and pretty much guarantee that the customer will want the tech out of their home as soon as possible.

Display an attitude of meticulous care and concern. Even if it does not come naturally, train your employees to become "Mr. or Ms. Fussy." Customers instinctively trust - and will buy more from - someone who obviously cares about and takes pride in their craftsmanship. While you never want to brag on your skills, you can and should explain what you are doing and why you are doing it this way to the homeowner as you work. This solid, quiet competence is extremely effective in gaining the confidence of the customer.

Sales tools. Create a carpet protector "Brag Book" with photos taken at your office of half the carpet treated and the other half untreated (hopefully there will be a discernible difference). You can also include testimonial letters, laboratory testing reports and mill recommendations. Manufacturers have lots of flashy resources available to help in selling their protectors to the homeowner. Make sure your technician benefits from them by putting them into an easy-to-use three-ring binder.

Just ask! The number one reason more techs do not sell more carpet protector? They don't ask! Therefore the customer does not even receive the opportunity to spend more money with your company. What a waste. Fight this tendency by giving the technician the time he needs to sell and apply the product as well as a generous financial incentive to do so. The other way to help your techs is to "make it easier to do it right than to do it wrong" by giving them easy-to-follow, word-for-word sales scripts. In the next article in this series on I'll share several powerful carpet protector-sales scripts.)

Friends buy from friends. It really is that simple. All of the above ideas do work. But the simplest, easiest way to up-sell more add-on services to any client is to build a close professional relationship with them. Once you have gained the confidence, respect and trust of the homeowner they are much more likely to follow your suggestions on maintaining - and protecting - their carpets.