Mentoring Salespeople

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Of all the people who help form the public's opinion of a remodeling company, perhaps the single most important is the salesperson. The salesperson creates the agreement under which everyone — the bricklayer, the plumber, the installer, the office manager, the production manager — performs.

August 01, 2005

 
Mike Gorman
Contributing Editor
 

Of all the people who help form the public's opinion of a remodeling company, perhaps the single most important is the salesperson. The salesperson creates the agreement under which everyone — the bricklayer, the plumber, the installer, the office manager, the production manager — performs. Training must be thorough and ongoing.

Mentoring is not a substitute for structured sales training, which should include estimating, specification writing and consumer financing as appropriate for your company. But a sales trainee should be paired with a seasoned salesperson to learn how and when to set appointments, interact with prospects, collect money, execute change orders and package the project to hand off to the production department.

Mentoring offers the trainee a sense of being valued by the company; access to someone who understands the company's culture, personnel and ways of working; and an objective, supportive, non-threatening source of support in developing new skills. The mentoring period should allow for the completion of several sales transactions, from first call at least until the job is turned over to production.

Keep in mind the mentor can't share every moment with the trainee. Instruct the trainee to spend time assisting whoever answers and routes incoming phone calls. This provides a great chance to see the company from the inside. Later, have the trainee visit jobs in progress, take photos and even work with your crews. Schedule a weekly meeting in which you review photos and answer questions about the project.

By seeing the jobs in progress, your new salesperson will be able to speak about the photos with first-hand knowledge. Have the trainee construct his or her own presentation book according to your model, using the photos. As the trainee gathers confidence with each presentation, the book becomes the story outline for story telling. When the story is told so well that the prospects can see themselves using their new kitchen, windows or room addition, the sales process is working most efficiently.

When the trainee is able to deliver the presentation efficiently and professionally, it's time to throw out a challenge. Give the trainee a lead for the simplest kind of product or service possible. Instruct him or her to set the appointment. First, the trainee will gather information. After a mentoring session, the trainee will prepare the proposal and meet a second time to make the sale. Observe what happens, and decide on more or less mentoring as required to prepare him or her to work alone.

Outside your company, there is an increasing array of learning opportunities including seminars, conventions, trade shows, college courses and certification programs maintained by trade associations. Encourage trainees to participate in outside training by paying all or part of the costs and offering a reward for satisfactory completion.

To stimulate productivity, ongoing training must update learning and redefine the rules of the game to encourage the kind of risk-taking necessary to satisfy customers. Have regular sales meetings and review product performance in terms of sales volume, number of leads consumed to create a sale, dollars of production per lead and estimating accuracy.

Continuously explore what worked and what didn't work. If small errors are punished, people will avoid responsibility; however, if errors are not understood, people will not learn. When problems, bottlenecks or roadblocks are encountered that hinder performance of salespeople, ask their opinions. People tend to support best that which they help to create.

Compensation during the training period must consider the learning curve. Begin the trainee with a weekly draw against future commissions. Commissions may range from 6 to 9 percent of the volume generated the first year, 1 percent more in following years. Commission earnings should always be tied to the profitability of the jobs as well.

A timetable should be included to provide measurable performance standards. If there is a first-year goal of $600,000 in sales, set a monthly quota of $50,000. Chart the progress of the trainee with the expectation that first month's sales would fall short, in six month's time the goals should be met, and then they should be gradually exceeded to reach the annual goal.


Author Information
Mike Gorman coaches contractors on sales, marketing, estimating and systems. Contact him at mgbok@aol.com, 800/218-4179 or www.techknowledgeonline.net.


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