I’ve worked with hundreds of people responsible for their company’s sales effort. I’ve seen some incredible individuals who seem to be in the mix on every deal they go after. They nail it and ask little in return, except for their bonus or commission check. Their companies thrive and their profit margins are strong. The economy doesn’t affect them whether poor or booming.
They are producers. Simple and true. They may not be the thriftiest among us, but who cares if they bring home the bacon. For those of you out there who fit into this category, I salute you.
Then there is the “other” category. These folks complain about every aspect of sales. They blame the economy and complain that everything is all about price. They find fault with their own company and seldom act proactively. They will argue with you that sales work doesn’t make a difference, but when they get a deal they’ll tell you how they got the inside track on the project or received inside information. It can drive a manager crazy! These responses are very simple to explain: They’re excuses.
I promise you! I have contractor clients that are securing work in minimum or no-bid competition. They are winning them without being the low number. They are getting good margins and repeat business. Their clients call them first or have them on a short list of options. These contractors set aside time in every work week specifically for sales work. They market properly and do the extras to develop relationships. These folks are networking and are not qualifying away opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all of them come by it naturally. Some of them were also excuse makers at one time. The change came for some when there was virtually nowhere else to go but sales work to gain profitable business. A few were sweating things out before they turned the corner. The first step to excelling in the way you sell is to quit with the excuses. It may seem like I’m being harsh, but do we really have time to waste here?
When I begin working with a someone who is a sales agent for his or her company, the first place I start is how that individual is using his or her time. Most of us get things thrown at us regularly that take us off task. Having a plan in place that forces you to incorporate sales time can start to stabilize your schedule. The more you learn and yes, train your customers, the more control you are of your schedule. My next step is to find out why they feel they’re not having the sales success they’d like. This flushes out the excuse. Trust me, there are only about three to four total sales excuses in the construction industry. They might have slight variations, but really they’re all very common although they feel unique to each person. Then we set a sales strategy for specific customers and targets. If you were to only accomplish these few steps, you’d be doing more than the majority of contractors – or for that matter, most companies in general.
The pressure to perform in a construction environment as competitive as the current one is great. Many are experiencing failure at a rate they’ve never seen before. The easiest explanation is to find fault in some other area besides one’s sales work. The more difficult response is to adjust your sales approach and put the same level of attention to that effort as you would to finding profitability on a project. Freshening marketing, finding time to connect through business oriented social networking and setting an aggressive call schedule takes time, combined with planning. Finding excuses not to take that time will only result in the same pattern of sales. If that pattern is trending down, deeper it will go.
So many contractors are looking for ways to get an edge or find new opportunity. How do you propose to do this if you are continually excusing a weak or ineffective sales effort? Multitudes of contractors across the country are struggling with the challenge of getting business. Productivity for most contractors is at an all-time high. Field performance is at a premium. Many are working ridiculous hours and giving the operations aspect of their business everything they have. They’ve cut cost to the bone. Still, they see no light at the end of the tunnel. As we head into the winter we are entering a prime sales season. Filling your pipeline with quality opportunity now will bring results in the spring.
Construction lives and breaths with sales, just like any other business.