If the average “useful” life of an air conditioner is around 12 years, by the law of averages, your technicians should generate a replacement lead on 8% of the systems serviced.  Do they?  For most contractors, the answer is no.

Lead generation is not natural for technicians.  Making repairs is natural.  They are on a service call to get the system working again.  Short of a cracked furnace heat exchanger or DOA compressor, anything beyond a repair isn’t a consideration.  Yet, with the right expectations, atmosphere, process, training, and incentives, technicians will generate replacement leads.  Moreover, the replacement leads they generate are the highest quality leads you will encounter.

According to Ron Smith, the first step in successful technician lead generation is setting the expectation that technicians will generate a certain amount of leads.  The best way to set expectations is to get your technicians to help.  Ask them how long a system should last until it’s replaced.  Remember, it’s not how long it will last, but how long it should last.  If the technicians answer 12 years, then statistically, they should encounter one system that’s ready for replacement on every 12 calls.  If the techs each run 20 to 25 calls during a week, each should generate two leads.

Technicians are not salespeople.  If they were inclined to sell, they wouldn’t be technicians.  Many don’t like sales, believing “sell” is something you do “to” people, and not something you do “for” people.  Pressure some techs to sell and resentment will build.  You don’t even have to apply pressure for the resentment to be present.  It could be long festering resentment developed under a previous employer.

Technician antipathy towards selling is displayed in the form of a bad attitude about lead generation and negative peer pressure towards the other technicians.  There’s often an inverse correlation between technician skills and sales skills.  Thus, the most skilled techs, who are the most respected by other technicians, often have the worst attitudes.  One technician can create an atmosphere within your service force that makes it practically impossible for much in the way of lead generation.

This creates a dilemma.  You count on supertech, but his attitude is holding the company back.  If you can convert him so that he sees the potential benefit to the homeowner, to himself, and to the company from presenting options to homeowners, he will become an evangelist for the new approach.  If he won’t change, a career or company change might be in order.  

You want to create an atmosphere where technicians believe their role is to present people options.  They don’t need to force, coerce, trick or manipulate people into making a replacement or getting a repair.  Of course, that’s exactly what happens when the technician proceeds right to a repair on an older system without at least offering the option for a replacement.

The process used to pass off the lead is important.  Leads, especially technician leads, are too valuable to get lost.  Many contractors require their technicians to call the office from the customer’s home, connect with the lead coordinator (who may wear more hats than lead coordinator), and hand the phone to the customer to set the appointment.  If possible, the company will send a comfort consultant immediately, while the technician is still present.

The point is the technician should know exactly how to handle the homeowner’s interest in a replacement.  The person in the office assigned lead coordinator duties will know exactly how to handle the lead, set the appointment, and schedule the comfort consultant.  No balls get dropped.  No leads get lost.

Technicians do not generate leads naturally.  They must be coached.  They must also believe what they are doing is good for the customer.  Often, it helps to draw an analogy the techs will relate to.  

For example, you could say, “Once I had this old pump shotgun.  It worked, sort of.   The pump action just wasn’t right.  I took it to a gunsmith and he repaired it for $200.  He didn’t ask.  He just fixed it.  If he would’ve told me it was $200, I would’ve said forget it and gotten a Remington 1100 semi-automatic.  What do you guys think?  Why do you think he just fixed it?”

Once you’ve established that offering homeowners option is the right thing to do, training begins.  The best training is a mix of one-on-one and group training.  The training should include some role playing.  Provide the tech with some questions to ask.

•    When was the last time this broke down?  

•    Are the breakdowns becoming more frequent?

•    What is your electricity bill during the summer?

Based on the responses, the technician might comment, “You know, this is starting to get a little old.  You might want to think about replacing it in the next year or two.”

He might also say, “It sounds like the breakdowns are coming more often.  I can get it running, but you might not want to pour any more money into it, especially with your utility bill.  Do you want me to fix it or would you like to check out a replacement?”

Finally, technicians need incentives.  However, a lot of technicians aren’t money motivated.  Spiff them for leads and they will take it, but it may not light a fire.  

If money alone isn’t working, set a budget for an incentive based on hitting a lead generation target for a month or for the season (e.g., leads from 8% of all calls) and work with each technician to design an individual incentive program.  One might be motivated by the opportunity to attend a training class.  Another might want an iPad.  Yet another might want fishing tackle.

What gets rewarded gets done.  The trick is finding the right reward.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable.  Download their FREE HVAC Marketing Toolbox app that’s filled with money-making ideas for a contracting business for the Android or for Apple phones and tables.