Sales Management, Plumbers, Heating and Cooling Guys

We built a brand new house about four years ago.

We actually bought an older house, with the idea of adding on to it, making a few remodels and then living in it.

We really loved the house, but realized about half way through our remodel plans that the house needed so many revisions, it would break our budget. We instead decided to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch. Believe it or not, this was the cheaper way to do it.

It was a gut wrenching decision, not only because it was a beautiful house, but also because I really hate paying for things twice.

Oh well.

We figured that this would be the last house we would ever buy, so we may as well do it right.

So we did it right.

The High Pressure Heating and Cooling System

One of the things we decided to include with the new house was a state-of-the-art high pressure heating and cooling system. We live on Cape Cod, Massachusetts so the winters aren’t too cold and the summers aren’t too oppressively hot.

But in the middle of August it’s brutally hot.

Since we had decided to “do it right”, we got the central air conditioning in addition to the regular heating component.

We also decided to get many of the other systems in the house state-of-the-art as well. The fire prevention system, the lighting system, the water heater/plumbing system, the sprinkler system are all basically computer systems that require some technical expertise to make sure they properly function.

All of them require annual maintenance to keep them in top working order.

However, out of all these complex systems we have in the house, only the company that installed the heating and cooling system send us regular reminder to make appointments to do “semi-annual maintenance checks”. The mailer comes every six months with an email.

Now, I’m no HVAC technical genius but all this really amounts to is two guys coming into the house, taking a look at the heating system and replacing the air filters.

Solely because of their letters and emails, I call them, they call me back and then they come by and check things out once or twice a year. Just to see if everything’s alright.

After their visit, they send us a bill for a cool $180 for a mere 30 minutes of work.

Not a bad hourly wage to say the least…

And for a heating and cooling system that would cost many times that amount to replace, I figure its a small price to pay.

Amazingly, they are still the only company that contacts us every year, twice a year to make sure everything is working well.

The Sales Management – Sales Rep Contract

I once took over a ten person sales team, which every member was in the bottom half of the national rankings in the 600 salesperson sales force.

In my first sales meeting with them (after a mere two days on the job), I decided I would take a slightly different approach to my leadership with them.

In an effort to be helpful, I had carefully put together 30 or so snazzy power point slides to dazzle them with all the things I expected from them to achieve sales success. At the last minute though, I tossed that idea and decided to simply use a chalkboard to write down what they expected from me in order to be successful.

After their last sales manager (who was clearly lacking certain key leadership skills), I figured this would be a great way for me to introduce myself as the new guy who actually cared about what they wanted most.

So I asked them the question and wrote their answers on the board.

The list was pretty long, but the top three were:

  • Call us back when we call you
  • Follow up on projects we are working on that need help
  • Let us know where we stand

Simple enough.

I then asked them what I should expect from them. That list was not quite as long, but it was fairly extensive.

We made the agreement that we would both honor both sides of the agreement. I would do what they asked and they would do what I asked of them.

By year’s end, 50% of them were in the top half of the sales force and three won the top sales award for the company…

Don’t Be The Plumber

With all the talk about businesses having a tough go of it right now, I’ve always wondered why the heating and cooling guys are the only ones who faithfully contact us to do follow up.

I mean, that $180 is pretty easy money. Money like that is ripe for the taking with the other systems we have in the house.

For example, the hot water heater we have is notoriously finicky. It needs constant TLC.

Does my plumber email to remind me to service it? I mean, he has my email address after all.

Nope.

I spend the $180 with the heating and cooling guys because they:

  • Call me back when I call them
  • Follow up on periodic maintenance of my heating system
  • Let me know where I stand

Simple.

And it’s good business.

Sales Management Training and Heating and Cooling

In sales management, one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from the rest of the average sales mangers out there and lay your own personal foundation for success is to simply do the same thing the heating and cooling guys do:

  • Call your sales reps back when they call you
  • Follow up on projects we are working on that need help
  • Let them know where we stand

Most plumbers, subcontractors and sales managers miss this critical point to success.

At the very least, basic follow up is essential to sales management success.

Not only do your salespeople want it, but they need it. In fact, they demand it.

So ask yourself:

  • Are you calling back your salespeople when they call you?
  • Do you have a scheduled weekly meeting with each of your salespeople to review your combined actions to help close the sale?
  • Do you actually provide valuable feedback to your sales reps during semi-annual and annual reviews of your salespeople?

If you are doing at least some of these things, then you are more heating and cooling guy than plumber.

If you’re not however….

Sales Management Training | Don’t Forget This One Tip When Hiring a Salesperson

We almost forgot one of the most important sales management training steps in hiring…

My bad. I almost didn’t include it because it was left out of my last post.

But if you don’t include it in your sales management training interviewing arsenal, you could really leave yourself open to making some fatal hiring decisions.

And I don’t want that to happen…so here goes.

Get to the “whys”

Get them talking, but ask them to focus on the “whys” behind the decisions they made in their life. The answers to those questions will give you insights into who they really are. Everyone is the sum of all the decisions they have made in their lives. Ask them about those decisions.

In asking them “why did they do what they did?” questions, you are cutting to the core of their nature. Taking a new job is a huge event in someone’s life, these decisions/thought processes are “windows into their true character”.

Simply ask them about the decisions they made and the “whys” behind each decision.

When you got married wasn’t it one of the biggest decisions you ever made in your personal life?

And the spouse you decided to marry tells a lot about who you are as a person.

Just like a “marriage” to another company tells tons about who that person is.

Ask the interviewee a question like: “Why did you leave Paychex to go work at AT&T? What were you hoping to accomplish?”

Or when they left Paulie’s Walnuts, Inc. to go to Phil’s Cashew Company, my personal favorite question is:

“What was missing from your current situation at Paulie’s Walnuts Inc.?”

When you find out the “whys” behind this question, you get a window into their soul. Then probe into each decision. Get specific. Have them give you examples.

The more specific the examples they give, the better it is for you.

And the better your chances of making a killer sales hire.

In our next sales management training step in the interviewing process, we get to the question and answer section. This isn’t the time to snooze…its time to wake up and make sure you use this all important segment of the hiring process to get the best salesperson possible.

Sales Management Training | The Most Important Sales Management Task

What’s the number one complaint of salespeople?

Time and time again, the biggest complaint of salespeople is that they claim that they “aren’t clear on what’s expected of them”.

Setting expectations is the lifeblood of good sales management, and when it comes to setting expectations for your sales force, be abundantly clear on what you expect of them. Additionally, put a little twist on a tired corporate buzz word.

Sales management presentations are full of buzzwords and platitudes. And one of the best ones is to “set the bar high”. This hackneyed buzzword has been overused and abused so often that today it completely lacks impact/punch. But I would dare to guess that it still gets used hundreds, if not thousands of times per day.

So in this kind of hyperactive world of getting top results, the corporate sales objectives are getting more aggressive. And as a result your sales goals are more aggressive every year.

So instead of setting the bar high, Continue reading

Sales Management Training | Five Proven Methods to Motivate Salespeople

The greatest leaders the world has ever known universally consider their effectiveness in dealing with people as their greatest assets when it comes to motivating and leading others.

In this sales management training we will enumerate a number of simple everyday techniques sales management professionals can easily employ even while performing mundane everyday tasks that will motivate and lead their sales teams more effectively.

1.      Use humor as a motivator.

Instead of taking your salespeople to task the next time they make a mistake, try using humor instead.

One of the most successful industrialists of the 20th century, Charles Schwab ran US Steel throughout the early 1920s. He had an uncanny knack for using humor in just the right spots to motivate and lead his troops.  One day, he was taking a walk through one of his steel mills when he spotted a group of his employees enjoying a cigarette break directly in front of a “no smoking” sign.  Refraining from yelling at them, he calmly walked up to the steel workers, handed them each a cigar from his breast pocket and said, “I’ll appreciate boys, if you’ll smoke these on the outside.”

How did those employees feel? They certainly got the message not to smoke in the factory. But Schwab had accomplished the task in a genius stroke of humility, generosity, as well as humor. Wouldn’t you want to work for a manager like that?

2.      Avoid criticism if at all possible.

One of the best ways to motivate a salesperson is to avoid criticizing them directly.  Criticism doesn’t change behavior; instead it oftentimes has the opposite effect: it makes people resentful.

When at all possible, bring about change using a positive approach by not calling attention to failings directly, instead do it indirectly so that the salesperson saves face and keeps their prestige intact.

3.      Avoid direct orders

Oftentimes, giving options instead of orders is the most effective way to spur change in behavior. Instead of saying “do this” or “do that”, consider instead saying “have you ever considered this?” or “Do you think this might work instead?”

If you let your salespeople figure it out for themselves and learn from their own mistakes saves their pride and gives them an honest feeling of importance both motivates and leads at the same time.

Furthermore, this kind of sales leadership encourages a feeling of cooperation instead of resentment.

4.      Instill a desire to achieve

All things considered, salespeople are a pretty self-motivated bunch. So to persuade salespeople to do something that you want, create within them a desire to do it. A major secret to sales management success lies in the ability to get the other persons point of view, and to see things from that person’s perspective.

See what’s in it for your salesperson first. What is it that they really want?  Then help them go get it. If you can align yourself with their goals, together you can achieve incredible things together.  If you can help instill that desire in them and also lead them to aspire to even more, that’s what sales leadership is all about.

5.      Speak to people’s interests.

The last key to motivating salespeople is to simply get to know them.  Get to know what they want, get to know their families, get to know their kids, get to know their desires and understand what’s most important to them. As a sales leader, unless you know your salespeople and figure out what’s most important to your salespeople, you’ll never going to be able to get what you want.

The road to great sales leadership is to understand what’s most important to each of your sales staff, then talk about the things that he or she treasures most.