BUILDING MATERIALS SALES EXCELLENCE
PODCAST MARK MITCHELL AND CARLOS QUINTERO
Mark Mitchell: Hello, this is Mark Mitchell from Whizard Strategy. Thank you for joining us for this podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about sales, not sales to builders or architects, just overall sales in the building materials industry. If you have listened to past podcasts, you know that I like to have guests who are specialists – who are experts in their field – and specifically specialists in building materials.
Today, I have my co-author from the new book that we’ve written, “How to Become a Building Industry Sales Rainmaker,” Carlos Quintero. Carlos, welcome.
Carlos Quintero: Great to be here, Mark. Thank you for inviting me.
Mark: Carlos and I first met several years ago, and he’s the first person that I’ve met that really focuses on building materials. He and his company have a lot of experience and an impressive client companies in the industry. The other thing that really impressed me about Carlos was his approach on how to improve sales performance. There are many sales training companies today, but many don’t specialize as Carlos and his team has done. Carlos and his team today focus nearly exclusively in the building industry.
So I really like the way that Carlos counsels companies. There is a quote he really likes. It stood out to me. So many building material companies approach to improving sales is one-dimensional. They either introduce a new marketing program or two, or maybe they elect to train their salespeople. But the better companies look at things differently. So Carlos, what was that quote again?
Building Materials Sales Excellence is About More Than Training
Carlos: I’ll share with you the quote in a second. As background, we find that many organizations think that sales success is all about the salesperson. And while there’s solid truth there, our research shows that there are many reasons for success in sales. Success is also driven by the quality of the product, the nature of the product, and the market appeal of the product. Success in sales is also influenced by an organization’s pricing strategy, by competition, and by other factors that contribute to sales success.
We have always felt that sales is really a holistic process that requires the involvement of many people in order to drive profitable revenue growth. Years ago I read a book entitled “Improving Performance” by Geary Rummler, who affirms that organizations operate successfully as a ‘system.’ Let me read that quote now:
“An organization behaves as a system regardless of whether it is being managed as a system. If you pit a good performer against a bad system, the system will win almost every time. We spend too much of our time fixing people who are not broken and not enough time fixing organization systems that are broken. Over the long haul, strong people cannot compensate for a weak process. All too often, management relies on individual or team heroics to overcome fundamentally flawed processes.”
The reason that quote was an impactful one for me is because it aligned with the way that we work with our clients. We know that success in sales is driven by looking at everything you touch when you’re trying to sell to an organization. It’s how everyone in the organization touches the customer.
Mark: So, you seek to raise the bar of the whole sales organization. You take your weakest performers and help them as well as your stars. Everybody is involved in improving performance.
Carlos: Right, it’s not necessarily about the salesperson alone. I’ve seen over and over again where great salespeople in one industry shift to another industry and they fail, and it’s not necessarily because of the scale or capability of the salesperson. There are other factors in play and so that’s the reason why I talked about the holistic in the approach that the best organizations take today.
Mark: Carlos, the other thing I’ve noticed is that there is a real shortage today of qualified people. And there is a real demand for sales stars, particularly in building materials. I get contacted at least once a month saying, “Mark, do you know any sales stars that are working somewhere else” and you are at risk of losing people today if they feel like they are the star within a broken system.
Carlos: Well perhaps so and clearly the top talent always is in demand, but ultimately, the strategy of a senior executive should be how do I help my stars continue to succeed, but then how do I help the entire organization raise its overall performance. And so that’s the position that we have taken.
Mark: Okay. So, Carlos, I have to admit before meeting you and before you and I wrote the book together and the other things that I’ve learned from you, I have to admit that I too was guilty of thinking that way.
Carlos: You, guilty? ?
Mark: Thinking of the individual salespeople as “let’s improve individual salespeople, let’s get some sales training,” – I fell right into that, and I feel like the majority of the building material companies that I work with see it that way, and I was really amazed. You really opened my eyes when I looked at your holistic approach to improving sales, and I’d like you to share with our audience that approach and the different components of it.
Carlos: Sure. There are many, many things of course when you’re thinking about the holistic approach that I challenge. Where do you spend your effort? Is it in technology, is it in the process, and is it in reorganizing the sales source? There are many, many things that you consider. So the challenge always is to pick the right ones. Our experience has been that there are typically five areas that are essential that an organization needs to consider. So let’s me go through them and feel free to ask questions along the way if you like.
The first one is really the most important one, and that is the SALES MANAGER. All the research continues to prove that the sales manager is the most important ingredient to sales success. I don’t care how good a salesperson you are. How he/she coaches you, challenges you, engages you, supports you, and encourages you; if you don’t have the right coach and the right sales manager, you’re not going to be a success.
Mark: And I just want to make sure, that is not only the vice president of sales, the highest level sales manager but it’s the regional managers, the territory managers, everybody if I understand right, everybody that is supervising somebody.
Carlos: Right, because it starts from the top. Everything we know is that leaders must be champions of whatever strategy because if you’re not practicing yourself as a model, then people will not follow what you want them to do.
Mark: Yeah and I may be stealing some line from the future here but it also seems to me that by doing that effectively, you’re training the salesperson to be qualified to be a territory manager and a territory manager to become a regional manager and one of the regional managers to become the vice president of sales.
Carlos: Sure, that does apply, particularly for the very large companies who have two or three levels.
But many of the people in the building industry don’t have that many levels.
Carlos: So number one is that the Sales Manager is the most important player and it’s critical for an organization to spend effort, time and attention first to develop excellence in the sales manager role. The best sales managers get serious about reviewing not only activity certainly but how they review results on a monthly basis, how do they review what each salesperson is doing month to month. So, that’s the first one.
The second one is SALES PROCESS. We have found over and over again, particularly in this industry, that probably 85% of the companies have not documented or written down their sales methodology or their sales process.
Mark: Wow, that’s interesting.
Carlos: So our challenge to an organization is how can they improve that which they haven’t defined? So get serious about defining the sales process. If you’re able to define the sales process and document it, you are in a much better capacity. So, that’s the second one.
Carlos: The third one is what you are discussing early about training. Training is still important but we choose to call it SKILLS MASTERY. And the reason that’s important as a term is: get serious about skill, just as the athletes get serious about their athletic ability and practice all week in order to do a ball game at the end of the week, get serious about mastery and define what are the skill areas that your guys and girls have to master and then get serious about practicing it.
Don’t just send them to a seminar or get a speaker at the national meeting that’s going to pump them up and then you think that you’re ready to go. Mastery is tough work. It requires repetition. It requires relentless practice. So, Skills Mastery is the third one.
Let me repeat. The first one was sales manager, the second one was the sales process, define it and document it, and the third is skills mastery.
The fourth and some people say that this is the most important is who well you RECRUIT Top Talent. What is the caliber of the man or woman that you’re recruiting, and how much time and effort are you putting in to recruit the right profile.
It’s so expensive to train someone and develop them and get them started and get them going and then eight months later, you figure out that it’s not the person, man you have lost a lot of productivity and you’ve lost a lot of money and so – spend the effort upfront trying to narrow your bet in essence because every hire is always a bet and people can do very well in all the testing and all the evaluation and then don’t do well but if you spend a lot more diligence understanding the talent that you’re recruiting, you might be able to make some better decisions.
And finally, the last one that I think is so important is this issue of ACCOUNTABILITY. Many managers don’t want to have the heart-to-heart conversations with a salesperson. And it doesn’t mean that you have to be a jerk every month trying to have a heart to heart with a sales guy but what it does say is that you’re being hired to produce growth. You’re being hired to generate business for the company who are paying you in most cases a base salary plus commission structure perhaps. Net net, you are expected to deliver results.
Now, that said, you have got to be careful that you’re not pinging on the person every day particularly if they have a long sales cycle. It has to be thought through strategically to simply say “What are you doing to advance this opportunity forward.” You must do the right things to build accountability in the sales force.
Mark: Yes, that’s great. Carlos, what this all sounds to me is the analogy of like a professional sports athlete that the professional athlete is constantly,
Carlos: Sharpening the saw.
Mark: If he… let’s say he’s a golfer. He probably has a coach who just helps him put. If it’s a team, they are replaying the last week’s game and so when a big sale is won or lost, to sit down and not just… I hear too often, well the other guy’s price was lower, done, as opposed to let’s go back through from the beginning the whole process of how we approached it.
That when you use the word “skills,” I’m thinking of relating it to becoming a better player all the time and so every one of your steps to me I think about whether it’s a professional golfer or a hockey team or football team, the steps they take to really be serious about this. They don’t just take one player or take the player and say here’s the training program for you. It’s a holistic approach.
Carlos: Sales has evolved of course for many centuries and for the last hundred years, sales was all about relationships and the personal relationship that you have with someone and relationship is still very important. In fact, if not the most important, because people do like to buy from people they know that they can trust. Nevertheless, relationship today is defined differently. There’s a personal relationship that you can have with someone and there’s relationship with trust but then there’s the relationship with everybody else in the company, a relationship with the credit department, a relationship with shipping, a relationship with quality control, a relationship with…
Mark: Customer service.
Carlos: Customer service –the holistic approach applies there too, that everyone’s responsible for sales and the leaders who really want to build a strong sales culture need to be holistic in their perspective in these areas that we discussed but also looking at the other functions in the organization instead of operating in separate silos. That you know is one of the challenges in the industry, how do we have integration and how do we have everyone responsible for the customer experience.
And so, the truth is that that’s the theme that I think is critical and important. We, in sales, love to be left alone. We like autonomy, “Leave me alone, let me go sell, don’t give me more stuff to do.” And I respect that because that’s also one of the reasons I got into sales many years ago. I like the freedom and I like the autonomy. So it’s ultimately the balance between autonomy and science.
So, what’s the art of sales and the science of sales? What we’re observing over and over again is that more and more organizations are getting serious about the science.
The reality is that the sales profession is becoming a little bit more scientific but yet, we always want to guard the importance of autonomy, the importance of flexibility while at the same time, we try to get a little bit of consistency through practice, through mastery, through sales management excellence, sales process and through accountability and if we do those things well, we have a chance to indeed be able to create lift in the sales force.
Mark: Yes, that’s very insightful. Yeah, I noticed that. I always tell my clients that the building materials industry is 10 years behind most other industries when it comes to marketing but I also think they’re 10 years behind when it comes to sales and while you have shared with me some results that are really impressive with companies that have gone through your program or engaged to, I also look at, for some companies, how low the bar is because their competition is doing such a poor job and imagine if you really take a job to me, you set yourself apart in a way that’s hard to compete with.
Carlos: It’s ultimately being at the leading edge and with most organizations that we try to work with; we challenge them not to compare themselves to the competitors but rather to compare themselves to what they can be FIRST! And sometimes, they should benchmark themselves with people from other industries and not necessarily their own industry because maybe the industry is weak in that particular area.
Salespeople need to see themselves as advisors and not reps. This industry is very, very still dominant in the word rep. Yes, they are representatives, but the truth is you want them to be helpers, you want them to be advisors and you want them to be business professionals that have high business acumen.
And so these are the five ideas or themes we try to promote with our customers and we just think that the building industry has lots and lots of opportunities for building manufacturers to get serious about the rhythm that they can have with sales forces.
Mark: Great. Well, Carlos, I’ve really appreciated having you here. Any final thoughts that you’d like to leave our audience with?
Carlos: Just to affirm that if you look at sales as everyone’s responsibility, you have a better chance to win. Thank you for having me Mark.
Mark: Yes, you’re welcome. Carlos, if we’ve piqued anybody’s interest and they’d like to learn more about Sales Effectiveness, what’s the best way for them to either get in touch with you or find out more.
Carlos: Well, they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is www.saleseffectiveness.com and they can certainly can get our book together from Amazon, of course.
Mark: Of course, you need our book.
Carlos: And they can certainly reach out to me at 770-842-8744.
Mark: Thank you, Carlos.
Carlos: You’re welcome.
Mark: It’s been a great time and as always, I hope that our listeners got some value from this and I look forward to you tuning in to my next podcast. Have a great day.