Sales Coaching, Is it Worth It?
By Tom Woodcock
I’ve been penning articles for this esteemed construction publication for years. My hope has always been that I help the industry move forward in regards to sales dynamics. Now, I speak of what I know best, sales training.
Having trained tens of thousands construction personnel over the years across the country, I’ve witnessed the value training brings. The companies that invest in training their people in regards to sales reap definitive improvements in sales performance. Those that don’t often make significant mistakes in the sales process. They feel the results of that amateur sales approach in both revenue and profitability numbers. They are either frustrated with their sales team or blame customers and the marketplace for their failure. In reality, without training, what would they expect?
Why doesn’t the construction industry embrace training their people to sell?
There are several reasons. I’ll try to outline the most prominent.
- Performance Based Selling: Contractors historically have believed that they get the next project based on how well they performed on the last. If we do a good job, the client will use us on the next. This philosophy has long since faded away. Performance is the ante. It’s expected by the client. Competitors tout their performance as much as you do. Throw in extensive contract language and litigation methods, and the project
owner feels very insulated from poor performance. Sorry, performance is not a sales vehicle in this day and age.
- Price Selling: Price is the weakest sales methodology. It merely requires a calculator. Estimating to the point you make as little as possible on a project to win it is a losing business format. The companies that function this way the most are usually the least trained in sales. They put little value on customer relationship and sales work. They also rarely have any sales or marketing strategy. Their close rate is meager.
- Wrong Personnel Selling: It’s rare when I find any contractor with a dedicated business development rep (sales person truth be told). They have estimators or project managers, who excel in calculating and math principles, doing their sales work. Really? You’re expecting a numbers person to have strong people skills? Owners of construction firms back off the sales effort as they begin to get work. Then they wonder why business tanks 6 months down the road. Having the right, trained person in place to get work will easily bring a great ROI.
- Disrespect of Sales Trainers: This one hits close to home. The lack of respect of professionals that train people to sell is pervasive. The concept that they don’t understand “your” sales situation is extremely shortsighted. If sales is the most important aspect of your business, and it is, professionals that focus on teaching sales are worth their weight in gold! Find the right one and use them!
Now, being a sales trainer you’re probably thinking I’m being a bit of a homer. To be honest, I’ve actually toned down my perspective. I’ve seen spending on marketing go through the roof while the company makes no investment in training personnel to follow up on that marketing. They may as well set the money ablaze!
I have worked closely with dozens of companies to train their people and retool their sales efforts. Those that implement the changes see success fairly quickly. The ones that balk at change usually struggle in the same fashion they already are. Often they’ll increase spending on their marketing, buy a $1,000 sponsorship at a golf tournament, and don’t show up. They’ll attend networking events with no clue as to how to work the event. Many can’t even name their top ten customers. They’ve set zero customer targets and hope the bid invites come in the mail. Amazingly, they refuse to train their people because of expense.
Structuring a sales training program that is geared towards your personnel and specific trade is a must. Put the proper sales format in place and work at it diligently and it will produce.
The root of any training program is targeting your top end revenue, profitability or both. Reducing estimating time by raising your close rate allows you to sell more effectively. The process builds upon itself and your greatest challenge will be keeping up with the volume on the performance side of the business, which, hopefully, you’ve got down pat.
I tend to be very selective about which contractors I’ll do training for. If you’re not willing to incorporate the proper sales practices and implement an accountability plan, I’m not interested. Expecting a sales trainer to wave a magic wand and fix your sales dynamic is a bit pie in the sky. This is especially true when you’ve neglected doing any training for years.
The good news is you can turn around a sales effort fairly quickly if you roll up your sleeves and get after it. The alternative is to continue to find excuses to leave your team untrained in relation to selling. I hope my contractor clients compete against you if you choose the latter!
Tom Woodcock, president, seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer to the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached at his website: www.tomwoodcocksealthedeal.com or at 314-775-9217314-775-9217.