Service Contract Sales Secrets: Q&A With Michael Blumberg

This article was originally posted on Field Service Digital as in interview between Derek Korte and Michael Blumberg.  Michael will be hosting a FREE Webinar on February 28: Key Strategies for Increasing Extended Warranty Revenue. Click here to register for this event. 

Most service organizations know that long-term service contracts are one of the holy-grails of service revenue and profitability. Yet, despite their importance, many organization don’t know how to effectively market and sell them. Michael Blumberg, president of Blumberg Advisory Group, recently released new industry research with some key insights for service executives on this important topic. We sat down with Michael to ask a few questions about his findings.

What surprises you most from the survey?

The top take away is that the configuration of extended warranty and extended service programs has a tremendous influence on the sale of these programs. In other words, the length of coverage, level of customization, processes engaged and resources employed in delivering the warranty and entitlement levels offered play a key role in driving sales. This is an “eye-opener” because many companies have the view that a warranty is a warranty. However, our findings suggest that the more distinctions that can be made about the program, as defined through the configuration, the more effective the company will be at selling it.

Is there anything more important to service profitability than contract attachment and renewal rates?

Some field service executives may argue that KPIs associated with service costs and productivity such a first-time fix, cost per service event, mean time to repair, etc. are more important to service profitability. However, without service revenue there can be no profits at all. Contract attachment and renewal rates are the KPIs which measure how well a company is doing with respect to securing this revenue. The truth is that service contracts can be very profitable in and of themselves. One reason is because they provide an annuity for the service provider in the form of a recurring revenue stream. The second reason is because a sizable percentage customers who purchase a service contract require very little service or no service at all. This means the service provider doesn’t incur significant costs in servicing that customer.

How do companies successfully market and sell service contracts to customers? After all, they do little good if customers don’t buy them.

Most companies rely on sales aids (e.g. brochures) and direct sales. Usually, these activities occur at the product point of purchase. However, companies who continue to sell service contracts after the product sale are likely to generate additional service revenue. Other sales and marketing tactics which have proven to be effective include customer testimonials, reputation management, telemarketing (i.e., outbound sales), public relations (e.g., press releases, article placement, etc.) and analyst reviews.

You identify 50 percent attachment rate and 75 percent renewal rates as best in class. Why are so few service organizations able to achieve those levels?

First, service organizations need to adopt the right mind set about extended warranty and extended service programs. They must understand that service is separate, distinct, and unique from products. This means that service leaders must place as much time and effort into configuring, marketing, and selling service contracts as their counterparts in the product organization place on designing, marketing and selling products. After all, service won’t sell itself. Just because the customer owns the product doesn’t guarantee they’ll buy the service. Second, the service organization must have the right systems and processes in place to market and sell service contracts. For example, processes and systems that facilitate a company’s ability to configure, price, and quote customized service contracts. It is astonishing to learn that approximately, one-third of the survey respondents utilize spreadsheets to perform these functions.

How do you envision new technologies (e.g. IoT) impacting traditional service contracts — and how will smaller firms keep pace?

These technologies will either make selling service contracts a dream or a nightmare for service providers. While recent technologies like IoT, AI, and big data will make it possible for companies to deliver outcomes, it is the service contract that defines what exactly the outcome will be. It provides the terms and conditions, the hours of coverage, the level of availability, the resources provided, and the processes engaged in delivering the agreed upon outcome to the customer. In many ways, selling an outcome based contact is no different than a traditional service contract. That’s why companies of all sizes need to become proficient at configuring, marketing, selling, and managing service contracts. Gaining mastery over this function is how smaller firms can keep pace.

Register for Free Webinar on February 28

What Smarketing Looks Like

(And Why Your Company Needs to Adopt It)

This article is reposted with permission from Tenfold Blog (www.tenfold.com).

Smarketing is a new buzz word in the world of sales and marketing. Actually, it’s a contraction of sales & marketing. Hubspot defines smarketing as: “…the alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication between the two.”

Since a company’s end goal is always the same, it makes perfect sense to integrate sales and marketing processes in the pursuit of those end goals. Establishing this common ground makes the process of acquiring leads and converting them a lot smoother. It also makes more sense for a consumer to undergo a more cohesive experience. A disjointed experience between sales and marketing can lead to consumer confusion and lost opportunities. A consumer should never feel like they’re being tossed around.

Instead of treating sales and marketing teams like two competing units, a company that takes a cooperative approach makes them all part of the same team. Bringing them together as allies will positively impact a company’s bottom line as well. In fact, some companies that have joined their sales and marketing forces reported a 20% revenue growth.

So, what does smarketing look like within a company?

It starts with a framework

First, a company’s sales and marketing teams need to be on the same page regarding their target market and what they consider a warm lead. They should also know what their respective objectives are. How many leads should marketing be bringing in? How fast should sales follow up with a lead? How many times should they follow up? Making sure everyone is aligned makes the process so much more straightforward. It’s like a team playing together on a  soccer field; the infield and the outfield both know when and where to send the ball. A clear sales and marketing strategy is vital.

Using common terminology

In addition to functioning within the same framework, a company’s sales and marketing alignment depends on using common terminology for the entire funnel process. Having set terms and terminology will not only make the discourse between departments clearer, it will also make the process more streamlined for the customer. If sales is using one set of terminology and marketing is using another, they risk sending mixed messages to the consumer.

Frequent sales and marketing meetings

Saying that a company’s sales and marketing teams work together sounds nice in theory, but it must also be put into practice. Regular meetings provide the physical coming together of the sales and marketing teams and focusing on a common purpose. Sales and marketing management should also work closely together to ensure objectives are being met or to establish those objectives.

The purpose of the meetings is to track their collective progress and hone the smarketing process. Bringing ideas, resources, and suggestions together in meetings can bolster the entire process. Bringing the teams together face-to-face as allies reduces any antagonism, replacing it with the constructive opportunity to build on each other’s success instead.

Create boundaries

Even though the purpose of smarketing is to bring the sales and marketing teams together, there must still be delineation between their respective responsibilities. Clear boundaries must be set between where marketing ends and sales begins so intrusion can be avoided. After all, sales and marketing are two different specialties that require different skills. Employees must know what their particular roles are in a company and how they fit together to keep friction to a minimum.

Closed loop reporting

Anyone from sales or marketing should be able to tell where a particular lead is in the sales and marketing process. They should never be left wondering: “Hey whatever happened to that guy I met at that seminar in June?” They should be able to open up a program and see exactly where that guy is in the buying process. Business 2 Community recommends using both marketing automation software and CRM software to provide data access for both teams and build transparency.

Closed-loop reporting also offers more opportunities for two-way discussion and input between sales and marketing teams. They can check in with each other to enhance the process or give each other valuable customer insight. Aligning sales and marketing processes makes both sides feel they’re working towards a collective goal.

The moral?

Creating a sales-marketing alignment plan can boost a company’s bottom line by creating an opportunity to build each other up rather than tear each other down. Environments, where the sales and marketing teams are competitive rivals, don’t make much sense when the main objective is the same.

To create sales and marketing alignment, a company needs to improve the relationship and conversation between the departments. Smarketing puts sales and marketing on the same team for the benefit of the company as a whole. Now that’s smart marketing!

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