True story: A friend and I went to a concert, but discovered the tickets were sold out. My buddy, the top salesman at his business, told me not to worry about it – he’d buy tickets from a scalper. I was pretty reticent: scalpers charge an arm and a leg over the ticket price, and you never know what kind of seats you’re going to get. He told me to wait by the entrance and he’d be back soon. Within ten minutes, my friend had secured us two seats, in the Club Section, for under face value.
That’s what a good salesperson can do, when left to do what they do best.
It takes a special kind of person to do sales. Sales is a skill honed through years of experience, training, trial & error and no small amount of blood, sweat and tears. But more than that, it takes a special kind of personality to do sales, and this is a critical point that contractors must remember: being a great contractor doesn’t mean you’re a great salesperson. Just because you know your profession inside and out, doesn’t mean you know how to sell your skills.
But there’s a strategy you can implement with your sales team that will keep the pipeline full and jobs on the books. It’s a strategy that any contractor can implement and benefit from, but it takes discipline.
Keep Sales People Selling
Do you show up at every landscaping job and watch your crew install French Drains? Do you stand there and remind them how deep to dig the channel, or how much rock needs to go at the bottom? Hopefully you don’t, and the same thing should apply to sales. Your best strategy is to keep your sales team out in the field, doing what they do best: selling your services.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It should be, but it takes discipline, mostly because the sales process brings in revenue, and revenue is the lifeblood of your business. The key is to eliminate all barriers between your sales people and your eventual clients. Consider your sales process right now. Have you done everything you can to empower your sales team, or do they call you frequently asking for the same sales tools or materials over and over? Do they know your pricing inside and out? Do you know where they are in the sales cycle? Do they?
An efficient and effective sales team is in the field selling what they’re good at selling. To look at the flipside of this coin, it means your sales team is in the office as little as possible, and your salesperson who has landed the last five kitchen remodels is not focusing on roofing jobs. Look at the data, determine what each member of the team is best at, focus them on that specific channel, and ask them what tools they need to close those clients.
Let ‘Em Loose And Step Aside
Once you’ve empowered and motivated your sales team, it’s time for you to step aside and let them do what they do best. This can be a difficult proposition for most business owners. As entrepreneurs, our companies are forged from great ideas and hard work. On top of that, if there are no sales, there’s no business, so the temptation to micromanage the sales process can be overwhelming.
But don’t give in to that temptation. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it’s important to let your skilled salespeople do their own thing. Remember, the personalities of sales people are generally the same:
- They are money motivated
- They want unlimited earning potential
- They want as few barriers as possible to exceed their targets
- They want clarity on how much they’ll be paid and when they get it
- They want what they are promised
In order to leverage this personality most effectively, you must do the following:
- Sit down with your sales team and negotiate a compensation plan that motivates them. Listen closely so that you understand their individual motivations.
- Plan specific times during the month, quarter and year that your sales team gets paid. It also helps to show a running tally in their pipeline.
- Create a simple pipeline-monitoring process. This process should give you the minimum amount of information you need about potential jobs, leaving the maximum amount of time for your sales team to be closing deals and not filling out paperwork.
Then sit down, shut up and watch the revenue roll in.
Don’t Be Greedy – Let Your Sales Team Do That
Another thing that’s difficult to do when you’re an entrepreneur with your own business: write a check to your salesperson that’s larger than the one you wrote to yourself. You probably remember the early days when everyone got paid except you? Then you finally take a paycheck, only to see your salesperson taking home more than you do. When you see that extra zero on the check, it’s tempting to think of commissions and bonuses as being an easy target for budget cuts.
Don’t go there.
As difficult as it may be, you have to acknowledge that your sales team may make more money than you do. Again, that’s what keeps them going. Your sales team must always be motivated, because they feed on the idea that the market holds untapped potential. If you take that away – if you nickel and dime your sales team, or worse yet, fail to deliver on promised bonuses and incentives – you’ll see jobs dry up fast. Remember, if your sales team is making money, everyone is making money. The revenue they generate pays for the entire business.
Most of all, don’t revise your team’s compensation structure downward during times of prosperity, or when it looks like recurring clients are providing the bulk of your revenue. Sales people are just as likely as anyone else to walk away from a business…and take their customers with them.
The most important sales strategy you can adopt is one that leverages the “sales personality” to empower and motivate your team. Give them the tools they need, structure a comp plan with unlimited earning potential, create a pipeline process that keeps them in the field longer, and then get out of their way. You’ll be glad you did.