By Garrett Smith
Sales is the lifeblood of any company. You know the saying, “Nothing happens until something gets sold.” Yet, for all of its emphasis and importance, many businesses face an avalanche of problems when it comes time to scale their sales force. From finding the right individuals, to creating a compensation model, training them and then coaching them to succeed, a lot goes into making that success a reality.
This scenario is one many growing snow contractors face, including ours. We can no longer wear as many hats as we once did, meaning sales could no longer be a shared enterprise. We needed to hire a dedicated sales representative.
I think I can do it. Can I try?
Every year we hold our yearly offsite planning meeting during the Snow and Ice Symposium. The biggest part of this year’s meeting was how to scale our sales efforts, a role that Operations Director Connor Kolb and I had shared during our infancy. We knew we could no longer handle these efforts collectively and needed to dedicate a person to it to achieve our goals.
The problem? No one on our team had any experience or any remote interest in sales. At least that’s what we thought. Then James Kubik, one of our service managers, stepped up. During our planning session, James revealed that he thought he could do the job and was interested in giving it a shot.
I was a bit shocked and initially uncertain, but then it made perfect sense. Who better to send out to quote customers and explain what we do than someone who has been leading the charge for the past several seasons? We were sold, but could James close a deal?
“I was a little nervous because I’ve never sold anything before. I had never really thought I’d being doing the office stuff and so I anticipated the worst. After I got started and I learned that there was a process behind sales (just like servicing a lot), I felt much more comfortable,” Kubik says.
A summer crash course
With little time to spare, we sprang into action. We were fortunate to have documented 80% of our sales process, and given my experience working with sales and marketing professionals, we put together a sales training gauntlet.
Over the first two weeks of July, James worked directly with me to learn everything he could - how to identify good prospects, find their contact details, get a meeting, present our services and negotiate a deal to close. James was given a blueprint from which to architect his sales success.
After completing his basic training, James worked closely with Connor and me to identify a list of potential customers. Over the next two weeks, James used a combination of emails, phone calls and social media invites to set meetings to discuss the customer’s needs or establish our ability to bid on their request for proposal.
“I think that having the right mindset is important. Garrett really emphasized that being a successful sales professional requires staying positive and remaining persistent, a lot like fighting a bad winter storm. As I started to get more practice at each of the steps, I was surprised at how easy it came to me,” he says.
The results were impressive. He spoke with over 80% of the prospects. Over a third that he spoke with were interested in having WNY Snow Removal bid their services, more than doubling our potential pipeline. He even closed a deal in his first full week. Not bad for someone who just a few weeks earlier had never sold before, let alone executed an entire outreach campaign by themselves.
“This entire experience has definitely put me out of my comfort zone. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t worry a couple of times as to whether or not I could do it, but in the end, I am glad I did it,” Kubik says. “Having a training program and support from Garrett and Connor helped. I’m not sure I would have gotten anywhere just trying to do it myself.”
State of the Industry 2017
- 27% - Respondents whose gross sales for snow and ice services were less than $100,000. Small companies often struggle to grow without a dedicated sales person or team to help take the next step.
Garrett Smith is co-owner of WNY Snow Removal in suburban New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.