If there is a secret to building a superstar sales organization, it’s about choosing the right people, selecting the proper methodology and insisting on high levels of preparedness.
Understanding just what qualifies a salesperson as a superstar is crucial, as well, and evaluating salespersons by volume alone can put a remodeler on the wrong track.
While volume is a factor in the equation, it’s also important to ask if the salesperson sells profitably. On the surface, two salespeople who each sell $1 million would look like top performers, but if salesperson A ran half as many leads as salesperson B to sell that same million dollars, then salesperson A is extremely more profitable — and salesperson B may actually be unprofitable, explains, Brian Smith, senior account executive for Dave Yoho Associates, one of the oldest and largest home-improvement consulting firms in the United States.
Of course, there is more to being a sales superstar. “Our abundant research proves that selling is a science, not an art. Top performers understand how people buy,” Smith says. While they may buy emotionally with their right brain, they weigh that decision logically with their left brain. “The top sellers in an in-home, one-call-close environment understand how to appeal to the customer’s value system and balance their presentation both emotionally and logically,” he says, “all while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.”
"Our abundant research proves that selling is a science, not an art. Top performers understand how people buy.”
Brian Smith, senior account executive, Dave Yoho Associates
It takes a certain type of person — and more than just a script — to do this, he continues. Yoho Associates has a profile system to identify potential top salespeople, and while there are as many as 20 to 30 behavioral profiles identified by the tool, Smith says, Yoho’s research indicates four of these profiles have the potential to become a successful top seller.
The task, after identifying an individual who fits one of the four profiles, is to teach them how to use the methodology and follow the script.
It’s not just about the script, Smith says. “If it was just the script then why does a company have 10 salespeople, and one is a top producer and nine are average?” he asks. “They’re taught the same methodology but the key is learning to present that sales methodology in response to the customers’ value systems and needs instead of [the salesperson’s] value system.”
Building rapport with customers is an important aspect of the sales process, Smith says. Having established rapport, and following a proven sales methodology, the salesperson then presents the company’s product or service in response to the customer’s perceived needs.
“When that happens,” Smith says, “many customers want to buy from this person; it becomes an easier task.
“When you have an organization that is well trained, their salespeople are service minded and they put customers in a hugely comfortable position where they want to buy,” he adds.
“Two of the main driving forces of the top producers are their high level of optimism and a high level of dominance — meaning they’re not afraid to ask for the order. At the same time they understand they are going to be met with resistance and they understand their job is to keep the customer at ease and continue to sell past that resistance without making the customer feel intimidated or uneasy,” Smith explains.
Resistance is part of the territory. Customers don’t want to feel that they’ve been sold a product but, rather that they’ve bought it — that it was their decision. Resistance, too, comes from the extraordinary amount of information available to consumers, making them more skeptical than ever. A good salesperson anticipates the negative information that his prospects may have heard or read about the remodeling industry and certain practices of those in the business. The salesperson then counters this with positive information about his company, Smith says.
Salespeople needn’t be discouraged, he adds. “More and more business is being sold today on the first visit than I can ever remember.”
"Practice, practice, practice.We don’t let them learn on the leads; we let them learn before we give them the leads.”
Brad Pompilli, president, Tri-State of Branford
Indeed, top sales performers are highly optimistic, Smith contends. “Most issues don’t shake them; they cover their appointments wherever and whenever; they seldom complain; and they understand their job,” he says.
“They are system followers,” he continues. “They’re scripted, rehearsed, prepared and ready to deliver their presentation in any situation without prejudgment or reaction,” he continues.
Finally, Smith says, “They believe wholeheartedly in the company and the products they represent, and it almost pains them if they hear anything negative about the company; they’re loyal and very trustworthy.”
“Practice, practice, practice,” is Brad Pompilli’s secret of success. He is president of Tri-State of Branford in Branford, Conn., a full-service specialty remodeler and a company that rigorously follows a scripted sales program.
Where does he find sales superstars? He doesn’t. “We generate our own salespeople; we do not hire salespeople because we have a complete scripted package that we teach them. When we have a person who follows our system, we can train and monitor [that individual],” he says.
As for recruiting, “I don’t have any,” Pompilli says. “I have salespeople waiting to work here.” Pompilli says he’ll hire just about anyone who’s willing to practice and learn the system. “We hired our Fed Ex driver,” he recounts.
“Willing to practice and learn” aren’t just idle words. Candidates are brought in for a full day of training. There’s a quiz halfway through the day and some homework. “You come in the next day and you don’t pass the test — you’re gone,” Pompilli says.
One of the biggest benefits of the system is that when there is a problem, such as when a salesperson is below Tri-States’ minimum slug, he can immediately be pulled in to determine where the problem lies. Slug, Pompilli explains, is net sales to lead issued (NSLI). “It’s always because they are off the system,” he declares.
Tri-State’s program is fully scripted. It trains a salesperson how to knock on the door, how to introduce him/herself, how to get to the table, how to close the deal and how to walk out the door.
The system includes plenty of practice and role playing. “We don’t let them learn on the leads; we let them learn before we give them the leads,” Pompilli explains. “Before they get a lead they learn our system 100 percent.” Some of the salespeople add a little of their personality to the demo and others don’t, he adds.
Pompilli’s advice for any remodeler who is selling a product and doing a one-sit close: If you don’t have a system, get one now.
Rick Grosso, a consultant and trainer specializing in one-sit closing, has a lot in common with Brad Pompilli. In fact, Grosso played a large part in developing Tri-State’s scripted sales program.
Grosso sees a dramatic correlation between sports and selling. Salespeople want to win and they hate to lose, he says.
Paying the Price to Win
Because they want to win, they are willing the pay the price that’s necessary to prepare. “The superstar,” Grosso says, “is constantly striving to get better and is never satisfied with his or her performance.”
Ego is one of the most important things for a person to be successful in sales. “They want to be the best; that’s why they win all the contests. Whenever there’s a contest they excel. It has nothing to do with money; ego is the name of the game, and money is only the scorecard,” Grosso says.
On the other hand, he cautions, salespeople also “have to learn how to put their ego in their back pocket, ask questions, put the customer on the pedestal and take the ‘I’ out of the conversation.”
"The superstar is constantly striving to get better and is never satisfied with his or
Rick Grosso, consultant and trainer
As a result of hard work, superstars are so prepared that they’re very confident in the home when it comes to a close. “How do you get confidence? You get confidence by being good, and you get good by being prepared. You get prepared by putting in the time, effort and energy, and school is never out,” Grosso says.
Another requirement for good salespeople is that they work within the corporate culture and belong to the team, Grosso advises. He cites a basketball team with several Hall of Famers on its roster but which still couldn’t win against a team that had less accomplished members but who worked effectively as a team. “If you have a superstar that doesn’t fit your corporate structure, he can destroy what’s going on within the company,” Grosso warns.
Grosso’s advice for a company that doesn’t have an effective system is to not be afraid to go outside of the organization to seek help from experts. The average business person is a salesperson or installer who had an “entrepreneurial seizure,” in the words of Michael Gerber (The E-Myth). “They truly don’t know how to run a business so they should go outside and start with seminars and also network, network, network,” Grosso advises.
In addition, when it comes to great salespeople, management has to constantly raise the bar. People will sell in direct proportion to how inspired they are and how much they believe, Grosso contends.
Grosso recalls the businesses that made money in what he calls the Disneyland Days of roughly 2004-2006. “They really made money,” he says, “because it was so easy. It was happening not because of them but in spite of them. Then business got tough and they were clueless about what to do.”
A lot of them are gone today, Grosso comments. “The strong survive and adapt. You have to constantly keep adapting. Look at your numbers; look at what’s happening in the marketplace. There are guys just now getting out of big-ticket ‘want’ items. It took them two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to figure out somebody moved their cheese.”