Research shows that mental imagery influences consumer experiences while creating the want to buy. Most of this research conducted by psychiatrists and marketing firms are focused on “imagery vividness”. They use powerful and clear images in marketing campaigns so customers envision themselves owning the advertised product. This is known as mental ownership. Although the consumer may not physically own the product yet, mental ownership strongly predicts attachment, which significantly increases intentions towards getting the mere-mentally owned product or service to an actual purchase.
For example, phrases such as “Yes, I can see myself driving that car” indicates that mental imagery of ownership is present in the consumers’ mind. It shows that consumers use their imagination to decide on what to buy. Several studies show that the more vivid and strong mental imagery is, the more a positive attitude toward a product or service improves.
Although the HVAC and plumbing industries may not be as glamorous as a car purchase, we can still effectively use mental ownership to influence our customer’s buying decisions. This is not a slick persuasive sales technique, but sharing the benefits of being happily involved with our main products, accessories, and services with the homeowner.
Many salespeople in our industry already do this through a sales system that they have been taught to use or learned on their own. Yet, most technicians aren’t comfortable with a “sales process” and don’t want to sell in the first place. So, I would like to address mental ownership as it applies to a service or maintenance call, and those salespeople that may not use this imagery can learn from this as well.
Let’s look at three criteria that need to be met for mental ownership to occur and to be an influencer.
Customers Must Feel
First, for a homeowner to be able to develop a sense of mental ownership, they must feel or experience an image that is presented by the technician on a call. Just passing out literature or a line card of products and services does not help create images of mental ownership. People develop a sense of mental ownership if they visually see a problem or feel a need, and the price for the solution meets the value presented.
Create the Need
Painting the picture with visuals such as meter readings, showing the dirt in the system or worn part, using videos, pictures, water test, etc. creates powerful mental images of a problem or a need for an accessory product. Talking to the homeowner about issues with their equipment and relating it to everyday imagery such as overpaying the utility company and family allergies will create mental ownership. Mental images are then able to come to one’s mind spontaneously or naturally since in most cases, their family’s health and budget are easy to imagine. Mental ownership considerations and consequences impact everyday life and differentiating between what they don’t have and should have is a routine thought process in consumers’ minds.
Cause and Effect
Powerful visuals and explanations of the cause and effect of maintenance and service issues must be able to influence how consumers feel and behave toward your product or solution. Mental ownership significantly influences how consumers feel about and behave toward an owned object. You create a want and need with proper communication during a call.
When your technicians are on service and maintenance calls, there initially is no actual ownership by the homeowner of any piece of new equipment, surge protector, water treatment, IAQ products, etc. because the need has yet to be discovered. Once evidence of a challenge in the system is discovered, or the age may suggest replacement vs. repairing of the equipment, then mental ownership helps the homeowner want to buy. But that picture has to be painted by the technician. There may be a great need for some or all of these products, and creating mental ownership within the homeowner’s mind will lead to getting them happily involved with the products that we offer.
Mental ownership is defined as a sense of ownership for a factually not owned product. The phrase ‘a sense of ownership’ denotes that mental ownership is more than merely imagining a situation of possession. It requires a shift in the person’s reference point. A homeowner’s initial reference point when the call begins is that the technician is going to fix the problem or perform the required maintenance. They do not typically think of accessories or replacing the system. With that said, a technician can’t just begin the call with, “Hi, would you like to buy a UV light for $1,200?” because there has been no shift in the homeowner’s reference point to create mental ownership of an IAQ concern.
Research shows that vivid mental imagery about an object leads to mental ownership, which, in turn, leads to the typical consequences of actual ownership. Meaning if communicated correctly by the technician, the homeowner will shift their point of reference from, “just fix it”, to “I can see myself owning that new piece of equipment and experiencing those advantages.”
I can see the wheels spinning in most of your heads now. “Well, that all sounds plausible, but it also sounds like you’re asking my technicians to sell, and they don’t like to sell!” While that may be true, when we survey technicians across the country and ask, “By a show of hands, how many of you became a technician to sell things?” Overwhelming, no hands are raised. Then when asked, “Why did you become a technician?” The overwhelming answer is, “To fix things and service the customer.” When a technician understands mental ownership, they find that it revolves around fixing, servicing, and doing what is in the best interest of the homeowner. And they see evidence of these “fixes” every day, yet they may not know how and when to communicate these concerns and solutions during the call.
We have a saying in our company concerning sales: “Sales is the transfer of your belief to someone else, and the reward is money.” That assumes that the technician “believes” in the product and services that they represent. Then has the passion and ability to “transfer” this belief to the homeowner by showing visual evidence of an equipment concern. Through routine and thorough evaluations of an HVAC or plumbing system, technicians discover worn parts, dirty systems, chlorine in the water, hard water, and other conditions. These affect the performance of the plumbing and HVAC systems, and may even create health concerns. So, showing the homeowner these discoveries and professionally explaining the consequences of doing nothing creates a vivid image in the homeowner’s mind (mental ownership) that in many cases will result in actual sales. This creates ownership of a product that is a beneficial permanent fix!
When conducting technician “How and When” IAQ communication training, my team and I explain that the “fix it” mentally comes with the responsibility to fix the current issue at hand. Also, the responsibility to prevent it from happening in the future. Future homeowner concerns include controlling utility overpayments and possible health concerns aggravated by indoor air and water contaminants. All of which can be handled with regularly scheduled maintenance, proper service, and the advantages of accessory products.
Although the vast majority of technicians do not think of themselves as being in sales, they collect money every day in exchange for replacement parts and services. That is sales! So, we use S.A.L.E.S. as an acronym to make a point to technicians about sales vs. service. Within the word SALES service resides:
Service All Legitimate Expectations Sincerely. Meaning that part of their job description is to Service (what they were hired to do) All (not some or only those that they feel are important) Legitimate (honestly and ethically) Expectations (what is expected from the company and the homeowner for proper diagnoses and suggestions) Sincerely (with passion and the belief that what they are doing and suggesting is in the best interest of the homeowner.
Steve Mores is the Vice President of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions
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