8 Steps for Improving Commercial Salespeople

BY BOB MIODONSKI Of CONTRACTORs staff ORLANDO, FLA. A slow economy is only one reason why nonresidential business may be sluggish these days. Wendell Bedell, president of Building Services Institute, listed at least five other factors for contractors who attended his workshop, Why Commercial Salespeople Fail: A Blueprint for Success. The first and major reason salespeople fail is due to a poor sales

BY BOB MIODONSKI

Of CONTRACTOR’s staff

ORLANDO, FLA. — A slow economy is only one reason why nonresidential business may be sluggish these days. Wendell Bedell, president of Building Services Institute, listed at least five other factors for contractors who attended his workshop, “Why Commercial Salespeople Fail: A Blueprint for Success.”

“The first and major reason salespeople fail is due to a poor sales attitude,” Bedell said Dec. 4 to contractors gathered here for the Design Build 2003 Seminar sponsored by Contracting Business magazine and co-sponsored by CONTRACTOR and HPAC Engineering magazines. A proper attitude blends a belief in the company’s services and products; enthusiasm; persistence and follow-up; optimism; consistency; and empathy for the customer, he said.

Citing a study published in the Harvard Business Review, Bedell said that 50% of commercial salespeople lack core competencies such as organizational and communication skills and never should have been hired. Another 25% have potential but were not hired to sell the right service or product. That leaves just 25% of the salespeople who are a good match for the sales job and make 80% of a company’s sales.

Yet, even the successful 25% of the sales force is operating at only 40% of capacity for a variety of reasons, Bedell said. Besides a poor attitude, these include a lack of formal training, failure to use available technology effectively, poor selling processes, and inadequate marketing and lead-generating processes.

To address these shortcomings, Bedell presented his eight-point “Blueprint for Success”:

1. Adjust attitude to fit the sales job. This step includes taking responsibility when something goes wrong, ignoring the status quo, and developing skills through listening to audio tapes and attending seminars.

2. Develop sales competencies. These include core behaviors such as leadership, problem solving and alliance building that are required across all job functions and skill specific behaviors that are required to be successful as a salesperson.

“When you’re in front of a customer, you’re a consultant, not a salesperson,” Bedell said. “You’re helping them to solve their problems. We’re here to find their pain.”

3. Identify existing and new target markets. Bedell suggested that contractors buy business-to-business lists of target customers, prioritize which customers to pursue based on highest return on investment and then identify differentiating unique selling propositions for each customer segment.

“Don’t waste your time on prospects that are a 50% or less chance of closing,” he said. “There’s so much else out there.”

4. Brand services and messages. After creating a differentiating brand for each of its service offerings, a contractor should create a unique selling proposition for each brand and then review promotional materials, proposals and sales letters, modifying them so they are all consistent to the brand message.

“Name your service agreements ‘Protect’ or ‘Protect Plus,’ for example, or else you’re like everyone else,” he said.

5. Invest in sales technologies and software. Contractors must take advantage of programs that help salespeople manage their time, scheduling and contact information to improve their efficiency. They also should leverage off-the-shelf estimating, proposal and presentation templates, he said.

6. Make a weekly sales tasking plan. Salespeople should advance all deal opportunities to closes. They also should work to achieve 100% reach into existing and new target customers to make them aware of their company’s offerings and then report their actual performance vs. their tasking plan.

7. Create an effective sales process. This step includes contacting target customers to obtain decision-makers’ names, sending customized messages to target customers, and setting up appointments during non-peak selling hours. Bedell suggested that salespeople schedule weekly new business development from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, avoiding Mondays and Fridays.

“The minute you stop foraging is the time you go dry,” he said. “It’s all about grabbing your unfair share of the market.”

8. Get a top performer coach or mentor. Finding someone inside or outside the company who is willing to share his or her experience can greatly benefit a salesperson’s performance. Contractors interested in training offered by BSI can visit www.bsig.net for dates and locations. They also can call 800/240-2823 to request a membership CD or send an e-mail to Tony Italiano, member relations manager, at [email protected].