Think of the service fee as a qualifier. Customers committed to investing in repairs before the technician arrive boost the conversion rates on repairs – we seek these customers and want to build strong relationships with them.
Follow these alternatives to free estimates, but avoid waiving the service fee before arriving at the call – it increases no sales, an expensive error.
As outlined in previous blog posts, customers who give pushback on service fees represent a red flag – mark them as ‘low priority’ in the system.
Calls that request an estimate on repairs are frequent, and whether a service fee is charged depends on who provides the estimate. A qualified plumber prepared to make the repairs in one call should charge a fee; however, a salesperson sent to give an estimate shouldn’t charge a fee.
My point: Be careful about the term free estimate.
A free estimate is a code word for; I want your free advice and consulting.
As previously mentioned, the Sandler System outlines the steps to a successful client meeting.
Step six of the Sandler System is the presentation; however, in my experience If I am not able to complete the previous steps, I may leave without a presentation – which is perfectly acceptable. As a presentation outlines possible solutions, the customer must be qualified before proposal is given.
Offering free estimates during the qualifying phone call sets businesses up for free consulting without gaining any reward. Customers use your expertise and then go to the competition.
Has this happened in your business?
It certainly happened to me many times.
Step (1): Bonding and Rapport.
Step one refers to a simple communication loop, where a connection with the customer is established – flow should be natural and in sync. If you sense you’re out of sync with the customer, don’t feel obliged to continue. In these situations, the call is unlikely to progress.
Step (2): The Up-Front Contract.
The Up-Front Contract is a verbal agreement, and an opportunity to understand the customer’s agenda. Moreover, the customer understands our agenda. Consequently, the length of the meeting is established by both parties. Only if an agreement is achieved do we move on to the next step.
Step (3): Pain.
Pain can be any negative emotional state, which results in frustration, anger, fear, or deep concern. Without a compelling emotional reason for the customer to buy, then you’re wasting valuable time and resources. Many times we buy things that we don’t need and the only reason we buy them is emotional. The purchase may take away fear or simply make us feel good.
Why does Inna, my wife, continue to buy shoes? The purchase makes her feel good. When she wears them she feels good. Why do I not push back? I am avoiding pain. It’s me avoiding pain and her feeling good.
Step (4): Money
It’s vital to assess the availability of sufficient funds before a suitable solution can be provided. Without money, it’s pointless pursuing the prospect.
A personal experience that comes to mind here was with the president of a bank, who informed me – during the first meeting – the bank didn’t have any finances for my services or products.
Why was I there?
Then, he explained, in three months there would be resources available. In response, I suggested he reach out to me in three months time. I left without a presentation as the money step couldn’t be closed. However, I left with a clear next step to meet again in three months.
Step (5): Decision Step
Establish if the customer can say yes or no. In other words are they the decision maker. If they are not the decision maker, I have to decide whether I present to them. Here, I am fully in control of the sales process and it is my choice.
Provided I’m satisfied with all five steps; I can develop the relationship and progress to offering a solution. In a situation where I am not comfortable, I have the courage to say no.
To illustrate this courage, I’ll share an experience with the president of a large corporation; I’d contacted via a cold call where we’d arranged a face-to-face appointment. On the day of the agreed meeting, the president had forgotten and arrived late. When he showed up he was frustrated and hurried me to his office, where his opening line was; “well, show me what you got.’’
Warning signal: Have I established rapport here?
In this instance, the prospect advanced to step six ignoring the five prior fundamentals.
“Honestly,” I responded, “I haven’t got anything.”
As his frustration grew, we both questioned why we scheduled the appointment. I had agreed to a meeting with the president to discuss issues the business faced, and whether my company was able to provide a solution that met the needs and budget of this corporation.
Understanding the problem is the first step to providing a solution – up until this point, I hadn’t received this information. When the prospect recognized the importance of this, his attitude softened, and eventually, we built rapport.
Ultimately, on this occasion, we couldn’t progress, as his business partner wasn’t available to agree on a course of action. As a result, I left without delivering a presentation but agreed to a future meeting with both partners in attendance.
To avoid confusion and grow revenue in your business, stop promising and providing customers with free estimates.
Meet prospects without charging a service free, but have the confidence and courage to leave without doing the presentation with unqualified prospects.