Great sales people can help construction companies land the big jobs.
Photo credit: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This spring we have been helping multiple clients find salesmen. Normally, finding good sales candidates is rather difficult. One of our clients was fortunate to quickly fill the two sales positions we had planned and budgeted for. Then the unexpected happened: another candidate knocked on the door with a nearly irresistible offer.
What to do?
Should we expand the budget?
Should we let go of one of the new salesmen we just hired?
Is this a tough decision?
Not really. It's almost a no-brainer decision.
The moral of the story is: never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Sometimes things aren't too good to be true. This was one of those times. When a proven salesman walks through your door and offers a low risk compensation plan thank your lucky stars.
Finding Good Sales Staff
The hardest position to fill in any company is sales. There are so many people who think they can sell. There are few who really can. Never close the door on a proven salesman unless his financial demands are out-of-line.
Rainmakers know they will sell and sell well. Many will ask for a high commission rate. What most will not do is expect you to pay a high salary in addition to the commission.
That's the case of the man who approached our client. He is offering to work on 100 percent commission. No salary. Not even a draw.
Granted that is a little unusual; however, certainly not unprecedented. Great salesmen don't put their employer at risk by demanding a high salary.
Something else great salesmen typically don't do is ask for leads. Rainmakers chase their own leads. They build their own referral networks. They know that leads you hand them are unlikely to be from quality prospects. Rainmakers will dig up quality prospects themselves. Less wasted time that way, and also more protection for them in case you try to strong arm them some time in the future.
Rainmakers don't ask what you can do for them - they tell you what they can do for you. They reverse the risk. They make themselves easy to hire.
Of course, they do expect to be well supported. They expect your operations team to do quality work, start and finish on time, and to communicate well with the onsite customer. They expect your office staff to provide proper and timely billing and collections. They expect you to provide them with the items necessary to be successful such as a cell phone, marketing materials, business cards, an appropriate expense account, and a vehicle or proper auto reimbursement.
Don't limit your search to salesmen in your own trade - or even to the construction industry. Certainly don't limit your search to men. Some of the best sales professionals I've met in the last couple of years are women owners of construction companies. Sales talent comes in every shape, size, gender, nationality, etc. There is no profiling of a rainmaker.
Something to keep in mind about your construction business: you are a service company. You are not a manufacturer. Service companies live and die by the quality of their personnel.
Value Sales Adds to Field Personnel
If you happen to be an operations focused person, you're probably wondering why we're sitting here claiming sales people are so hard to find when you feel like it's good field and operations people that are so hard to find.
In our work with dozens of contractors and chatting with hundreds more we've come to the conclusion that excluding a handful of high-risk trades (e.g. tree trimming, cell tower installation) good workers are available if you can afford to pay them a competitive rate and you treat them right.
Good estimators, operations managers and foreman are also readily available. Sure, you're quite likely going to need to steal them from your competition; however, you should not hesitate to do that. Remember, one of your key objectives should be to build a company that is an employer of choice. Employers of choice get to cherry pick the best talent.
If you are struggling to find and retain good operations or office personnel, look at your profitability, look at how you treat your employees and look at how well you hold your leaders accountable for doing their jobs correctly.
Your ability to hire well is directly tied to your profitability. If you can't secure good, well-paying work you can't afford to recruit or retain the best workers. Now we've come full circle.
You need to hire great salesmen, or to be a great salesman (woman) yourself, to land well-paying work. Without them, you will not land good work. You will not be able to generate healthy profits. You will not be able to keep really good field, operations and office personnel. And that will lead to constant fire-fighting, blown budgets and never-ending sleepless nights.
As you can see, it's all inter-related. Great sales enable you to build a great staff.
So, when that great salesman walks through your door offering to join your firm for minimal risk, thank your lucky stars and don't look the gift horse in the mouth.