Having worked with and for multiple restoration companies throughout the country, I have found that there is one common denominator when it comes to sales teams. There is a complete lack of passion and creativity to win market share in respective territories. More often than not, people have been hired as warm bodies to fill a void for the sake of having someone in that position. There are no identifiable goals that have been set, no metrics for tracking their success or lack thereof, no time to effectively manage and develop their skill set, and no clear path for the sales professional. They are stuck on mundane, ineffective routes, with no ammunition to differentiate themselves from the competition, handing out trinkets and business cards for the sake of a documented contact, and become robotic, anemic, and uninspired, to the point that they reek of lethargy, or move on to greener pastures. As a consultant, I’m met with the same question, regardless of geography, “How do we get more out of our sales team?” I hate to say this, but it needs to be said. You can be handed the book of success, but the execution lies with you. Execution is the key to day over day, month over month, and year over year success. It’s important to realize super star sales teams with stellar success take work and daily grind to execute goals. With that being said, you need to take some time away from your day to day operations and get in the field with your sales teams. You need to identify their strengths, weaknesses, passions or lack thereof, and their “why”. Document your findings and first see if they are actually going to be a fit for the long haul.
1. The Hiring Process
This is honestly where most restoration companies miss the mark altogether. Too much time is spent selling the prospective candidate over why they should pick you. Because a salesperson is great at what they do, doesn’t mean they are great for you. Let that sink in. Do you have a clear, defined culture in your organization? What does that look like from a personality perspective? What’s your mission statement, vision statement, and core value proposition? Does the prospective candidate embody these characteristics? Your interview process should be at least 3 meetings.
- The first interview should be situational and a feeling out period. Checking and testing the personality of the prospective candidate, “what would you do if” or “how would you handle” type questions, and most importantly, finding out the “why” they are there in the first place. Let’s face it…MOST great salespeople aren’t looking for jobs, why is this one?
- The second interview should be in front of the management team and admin team for a panel interview, as you’re looking for a cultural fit and the input of the executive team. The candidate should bring a list of 10-20 people they know they could do business with right now. This is a great baseline for 2 reasons: A) It’s a fantastic reference list for you to cross check. B) It gives them a starting point for their first 30 days as a new hire. You take them out into the field, meet their relationships, establish business, and show them the industry speak and protocol for a successful client/vendor relationship. BUT, if these contacts fail, you can part ways with the candidate with very little investment, because you now know they BS’d you in the interview.
- The third interview should be the prospective candidate selling you on them. “When can I start?” “What can I expect to make?” “What resources can I be reviewing, so that when I start, I can hit the ground running?” This is also where you need to set realistic expectations for the job. “This is a job of unpredictable circumstances. I need to know that you’re ok getting phone calls at 2am for clients that have issues that need to be addressed?” “You understand that disasters don’t always happen at opportune times…you could receive a call on Christmas day that we need to handle?” Paint a bleak picture and watch their countenance. You may notice red flags that would prevent this relationship from moving forward.
SALARY & COMMISSION STRUCTURE – You need to spend money to make money. Good salespeople aren’t cheap, and exceptional salespeople cost even more. That being said, salary shouldn’t keep a sales professional comfortable. It should make them hungry. They should be more focused on earning potential than resting on a nice fat salary. An overpaid salaried professional will typically be lazy and uninspired. Salary, however, should be commensurate with experience. Don’t think you can hire a monster for a $35,000 base. Secondly, commission should be tiered. I have found that when you pay a flat commission structure, it doesn’t inspire the sales professional to reach for a higher brass ring. For example – the sales professional is paid a flat 2% commission on all work sold and collected. There is no inspiration to go after bigger and better. But if you tier them, for example: $0 - $40k collected in a month = 3%, $40k-$80k = 4% and $80k and above = 5% with NO CAP. Never cap your commission, because that’s all the sales professional will give you. At that tiered level, it excites the sales professional to achieve higher results. It’s all about earning potential.
2. ONBOARDING & TRAINING
The restoration industry is a very unique and diverse culture, thus, the prototypical “throw them to the wolves” mentality is setting your sales team up for massive failure. Training should be extensive, ranging from industry speak, equipment and production immersion, organizational involvement, specific verticals, territorial expectations, CRM protocol, and specific goals and objectives. There should be a structured 90-day plan for setting goals, ride alongs, closing appointments, working a Top 10 and Top 25 wish list, executing the sales process step by step, and holding weekly meetings to go over weekly agendas, wins and losses, and providing continual development to the sales team. EDUCATION IS THE KEY TO YOUR SALES TEAMS SUCCESS. The more they know, the more they can articulate to prospective clients about not only the “what” you do, but the “why” you do it. Your new hire should ride with every department so that they fully understand each unique skill set within the organization. They should also work a water job, a fire job, a mold job, a bio job, and a general cleaning job, so they can effectively articulate what happens in those circumstances. You can’t sell what you haven’t done. Having a specific training protocol as well as a development protocol will ensure consistency within your team.
3. GOALS & OBJECTIVES
I am utterly appalled when I speak with sales teams who don’t know their numbers. What’s even more alarming, is that they haven’t been given goals to attain. How can a sales professional take ownership of role, territory, and affect the revenue base for the organization, if they have no idea what they’ve sold, collected, or have a target to shoot for? Sales professionals are competitive by nature. That is what drives them to exceed expectations, deliver more than they did last week, last month, or last year. Drives them to be #1 in their company, regionally, and even nationally. By not setting defined goals, you have taken that competitive nature away from them. Goals, however, need to be attainable and believable for them to be achieved. If you only did $1 million in sales last year as a company and want your new hire monster to do $2 million in sales their first year…it could happen, but you need to break it down to show them how to get there so it’s believable to them. Let them know how many water jobs, fire jobs, mold jobs, general cleaning jobs they need year over last, broken down into quarterly and monthly goals, layered with steps on how to garner those jobs. Show the average cost of each invoice for each job, so that they understand where the revenue is being generated. You need to have them track their jobs sold, revenue collected, referral source, no job percentage with the why it was a no job, and priority response close percentage. Ask them at random times what these numbers are. Hold them accountable for those answers, because if they can’t provide that to you, then how can you believe that they have taken ownership of their role? Goals are not a suggestion, and you need to challenge your sales team to find new and creative ways to hit their respective numbers, and there needs to be consequences when they don’t.
Everyone wants to work in an environment with no drama, no friction, and every day is a happy day. Structure, discipline, and accountability works. Look at the military. It is successful for a reason. We spend our time hiring grown-ups, yet we treat them like babies. If we forever treat people like babies, they will forever be babies. Sounds like common sense, right? If sense were common, everyone would have it. If we want our employees to be grownups, we have to put systems in place for them to be grownups. One of those systems is accountability. If we set the precedent that the CRM tool needs to be updated daily, and one of the team members doesn’t do it, are there repercussions for that lack of execution? If you check their GPS report to find that they are sitting in a parking lot for an inordinate amount of time, what are the ramifications for those actions? If sales numbers are not met, what is being done? Sales professionals want accountability, direction, structure, and even discipline. It makes us better, more focused, and holds us to a higher standard of execution. Failure comes down to one of 3 things: Leadership hasn’t provided them with all the tools to be successful, lack of execution on the part of the employee, or they don’t care. ALL of which leadership has control over, including the last one, which is a prompt dissolution of their employment with your organization.
This is one of the most important facets of all of this. Are they consumers of your culture or contributors of your culture? A consumer takes. They can be a drain on morale, efficiency, accountability, profitability, and provide no emotional equity to your organization. An example of a consumer would be that they have no input in your meetings, constantly make excuses rather than provide solutions, bring morale down with negativity or snide comments, and don’t meet the expectations that are set. Contributors lead from the front, are out of the box thinkers, solutions oriented, students of the game, fresh ideas, morale boosters, and constantly exceed goals and expectations. Culture starts with leadership, and there can be no deviance on the culture that is expected in your organization. When there is a deviance, it needs to be addressed. Your sales professionals should eat, sleep, and breathe your mission statement, vision statement, and core value proposition. Culture is the number one source of devotion to an organization but is also the number one source for attrition. Failure to deliver on the promises you have made employees, management by fear, or lack of management altogether, a stressful, disorganized work environment with no recognition for a job well done, all are contributors to bad culture. The ultimate test is to honestly and humbly look yourself in the mirror and ask, “Would I want to work for me and this organization?” That answer will determine where your culture lies.