Finding and keeping a good remodeling sales team

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More than ever, it’s important to build a good sales team. Professional Remodeler’s Jud Motsenbocker talked to Charlie Gindele and Andy Wells about how they do it.

January 03, 2011

Highlight's of this month's Remodeler's Exchange appear below. To listen to the full discussion, click here.

This month featuring:

Charlie Gindele, President, Dial One Window Replacement Specialists, Laguna Hills, Calif.
Gindele started Dial One 27 years ago. The residential window and door replacement company installed 617 projects in 2009 and had about $6 million in sales, with an average job size of about $10,000.

Andy Wells, General Manager, Normandy Builders, Hinsdale, Ill.
Normandy is a 31-year-old design/build firm with an average project size of more than $100,000. Normandy’s designers are also the company’s salespeople. Wells joined the company 13 years ago.

Jud Motsenbocker: I want to ask a question and I’m going to give you two answers and you have to pick one or the other. In hiring salespeople, do you find a salesman and teach him the remodeling business or do you take a remodeler and teach him the sales business?
Charlie Gindele: I would hire a salesman and teach him the business. I can take someone who’s got sales aptitude but they may have been selling other products and I can teach them enough about what we do.
Andy Wells: What you’re missing there is would you hire a designer and make them a salesperson. Great question, but I would say hire the remodeler and make them a salesperson. For me, hiring people that can sell has been difficult, because they don’t necessarily have the passion for the design side. It’s a much longer sales process than selling windows and doors; it’s a different sales process.

Motsenbocker: Charlie, how have you found your most successful salespeople?
Gindele: Probably my best salespeople have found me. In other words they were people that have been in the industry, worked for competitors and were not happy there for one reason or another, and perceived us as a desirable place to work and they’ve actually pursued us.
Obviously, that doesn’t happen everyday, so we’re out there looking for people actively. We’ve worked with craigslist; a few years back we used a head-hunter. I’ve had some success with some of my existing sales reps referring people that they know.

Motsenbocker: What characteristics are you looking for when you’re looking for that salesperson?
Wells: Considering “Would my wife buy from this person?” It’s not real scientific. We have a few people interview, and then we try them for a trial period. We’re commission-based, so somebody has to be able to put the onus on themselves to perform. So what am I looking for? Somebody who’s up for the challenge and is excited, and having energy.
Gindele: I think the energy, the people skills are important. We’re looking for someone who is a high utilitarian, somebody who likes to make money, who values money, who uses money as a measuring stick.

Motsenbocker: How about bringing a field employee in as a salesperson? Has either one of you had success with that?
Gindele: We haven’t done that anytime recently, but years ago we tried that. A lot of people have the misconception that if you understand how to build it, what else could there be that you have to know to go out and sell something? We have tried that with a few people, but we never really had the type of success we would have hoped for.
Wells: We have a production staff of field superintendents that run the job and run the trades. Most of them have come from the field and become professional managers. Taking the step to go to sales, I would say, most of those guys would not want to. They would not want to live on commission or work on nights and weekends and do all the things that we do.

Motsenbocker: What type of training do you put them through after you’ve hired them?
Wells: Lately, a couple of people I’ve hired I’ve teamed up with one of our salespeople and give them more than the average number of appointments to work as a team. The seasoned person can train the new person on some of our systems and our methodology.
The goal is the first two jobs they sell together they split. The seasoned person gets another person to do pricing, to do design work. That allows them to run more appointments.
We have a weekly sales meeting every Wednesday and a newer person meeting every Tuesday, so weekly training and one-on-one training with our design manager on their specific jobs.
Gindele: We’ve done something similar. I’ve had new reps ride with seasoned reps for two, three weeks in some cases and the seasoned rep is the mentor and they kind of take that person under their wing, and in return for that whatever the new rep sells in their first 60 days, we pay them 1 percent of that as a compensation for their time.
After that, I bring them in house. I do product knowledge training, using our systems and our processes and our forms and pricing jobs. It gets them used to pricing, it gets them used to using our forms and filling out contracts and price quotes.
The last thing we do is actual sales training: How to make a presentation, how to make a measure call, which is when we go out and meet with the customer initially and try to find out what their problems, what their pains are and what other solutions they’ve looked at.
We do a lot of role-playing in real life scenarios. By then, you know whether they’re getting it or not. Anytime we’ve short-circuited that process, they almost always fail. When we do the whole process, which is about five or six weeks, we have a high likelihood of success.

Motsenbocker: Andy, the number of products that you encounter, how do you handle training a new salesperson?
Wells: It’s ongoing. I am pushing our product reps to come in and train more. To come in and get to know our newer people and take them to our showroom, train them what’s in there, train them what’s new. We’re leaning on our sales reps, because we’re a fairly good sized account for some of these people. They recognize that these newer designers will be selling more of their product, so it behooves them to have them up and running.

Motsenbocker: How do you compensate the salesperson?
Wells: It’s been a lot different these last couple years than the years before. Many of the people I’ve hired recently are straight 100 percent commission, so they’re not making any money for a while. Some of them I’ve paid a small draw to and that draw is only for that 13-week period when we’re evaluating them.
Gindele: I’ve always been of the school that the best producers are people that get paid for what they do, so we’ve always been 100 percent commission. I’ve found recently that there are some good candidates who need a little bit of a safety net when they come on board.
We’ve always paid them a stipend while they’re in training, but once they’re actually out in the field, it used to be you sell something, you get paid; you don’t sell something, basically you’re working for free. I’ve modified that to get some decent people in here from time to time with different draws.

Motsenbocker: How do you keep your best salespeople?
Wells: We pay them a lot, first of all, so it’s worth them being here instead of somewhere else. The best thing that’s developed here is a great company culture. I don’t think we intentionally developed a certain culture. It just became what it was. Everyone’s very family oriented and on the same team. They genuinely like to be here. With that said, we also pay them very well so it doesn’t look greener somewhere else.
Gindele: I would echo everything Andy said. I think another thing that’s important, you’ve obviously got to be fair and straight with them. If they feel like they’re being cheated or shortchanged, they’re probably going to walk.

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