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Everyone is in Sales
By Andy O’Nan

Whether you realize it or not, you are a salesperson. Everyone in your organization is, because everyone can be responsible for gaining (or losing) customers. From the intern to the safety staff, each person can affect the bottom line. Everyone needs be aware of where you are going as a company, how you plan to get there, and their importance in that process regardless of their role. A culture of salesmanship is essential.

Good salesmanship doesn’t mean successfully pushing your products or services on others. Good salesmanship, on an employee level, is friendliness, a positive attitude, and a genuine interest in being helpful. On an organizational level, good salesmanship must reinforce a thorough understanding of the company’s core functions and each employee’s roles and responsibilities relative to the core functions.

The selling process is a central tenet to every company, whether the product is goods or services. Understanding their role in that selling process, helps employees to see how they contribute to the bottom line and how they can take initiative in their role. The only difference between the direct sales staff and everyone else is the stage of the sales process they carry out. Everyone contributes to the sales process, even if they are not negotiating contracts. To maximize opportunities in the sales process, companies need to actively promote a sales culture (even if you don’t call it that). All employees should be able to succinctly explain the company’s mission, products and value in a casual setting. All employees should be educated on what an ideal sales opportunity looks like for their company and how to take action when appropriate.

Although these principles may be common sense, leadership should never assume that everyone is on the same page. For example, it may not be natural for someone from the IT department to identify an opportunity and then ask questions to find out more information to pass to the sales team. However, with some training (and even incentives), employees can be encouraged to contribute to company objectives more often, even when they are outside their normal scope of duties.

Taking no action in creating a sales culture among your employees could cost your organization opportunities that will go completely unknown and unmeasured. In the case of customer service, the impact goes well beyond unmeasured leads and into relationships and reputations that leave long lasting effects.

We must regularly communicate the importance of each employee’s job functions as it relates to customer success. We must look for and recognize exceptional service in the company at all times. We must encourage employees to take ownership of their role in the sales process, and to learn from those along the sales chain as much as possible. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples of non-sales team staff directly impacting the sales process.

Front Desk Example
Many opportunities start somewhere other than the sales/business development department. Validating your company, closing new business deals, and even earning higher fees all start with relationships. Rita was the receptionist at a large architecture firm. Her company consistently announced new project wins in an email. The win announcement also told the story of how each job came to fruition which Rita always found interesting. On Sundays, Rita regularly attended church and it was the center of many relationships in her life. She was speaking with a fellow parishioner one Sunday after services who was proudly discussing a recent promotion. Rita’s friend was now an executive at a successful local business. He explained that the company was growing fast and was outgrowing their current office space. Rita was reminded of the win announcement stories. She was aware that this would be a potential opportunity for her firm and asked her friend if they were going to be looking to move or build. As it turns
out they were having a hard time finding a facility to meet their anticipated needs and were considering a new corporate headquarters. Rita took the initiative. She asked her friend if she could introduce him to the right person at her company to discuss potential solutions. The project later became a landmark design project for her company!

Marketing Example
A contractor’s marketing director, Judy, plans to step up her company’s outbound communications by increasing newsletter distribution. For years, the company website included an opt-in for people who wished to receive updates, news, and announcements. The opt-in list was relatively small, so Judy added all company contacts including suppliers, subs, prospects, and customers alike. Over the next few months, the company’s IT department started to get an increased number of employees’ emails not reaching their destination. The issue culminated when a customer became upset when they did not receive a response to several email requests to solve a warrantee issue. Judy’s emails had caused the company email domain to be flagged as spam on several email systems. Good organizational salesmanship must include interdepartmental dialog about external communication practices. This includes everything from how the phone is answered to customer satisfaction surveys. In this case, Judy’s actions went against best practices in marketing, namely opting-in without permission and using bcc to send mass email instead of using email distribution software. Also, in a sales culture, everyone is encouraged to promote voluntary opt-in, it’s not just a marketing tactic.

Superintendent Example
Steve was a valued and experienced construction superintendent. Last February, his company’s shop was extremely busy and was not keeping up with the workload. This was putting Steve behind on his schedule which was frustrating and stressful. He had left several voicemails with the operations manager requesting help, but he had not heard back. Steve had a great relationship with the owner’s project manager and that afternoon he shared his frustrations very candidly and regrettably blamed the shop for issues in front of the customer. No one had told Steve, but his company was jumping through hoops reacting to the problems including flying four people in from another office to reinforce their shop crew. To make matters worse, his company was chasing another major project with the same owner. Based on what the PM heard, he recommended his office omit Steve’s firm from consideration on the other project assuming that they were over capacity. Steve’s company was able to get back on schedule, but unfortunately they lost out on the second opportunity due to the lack of communication. Steve clearly should not have let his frustration get the best of him, but it’s also essential that the management team fully communicate the resolution efforts and the extent of the company’s commitment to him and the customer.

Trainer Example
John was recently hired to provide product training for customers of a construction equipment manufacturer. He was new to the business, but he was an experienced trainer from a related industry. He was articulate, enthusiastic and eager to help. He had received training on the new products, tested very well, and demonstrated that he was great at projecting himself as an expert in the room. As a result, management felt he was ready to start teaching the intro classes to new customers, without the full review most employees must pass. Unfortunately, John’s command of the room led him to confidently answer questions even when we wasn’t 100% certain of the answer. In one intro class, he guessed at several answers and the customers knew it (because he was flat wrong). This intro training was many of the customers’ first interaction with John’s company and quickly caused them to lose confidence in the product. Management of first impressions is critical, and training on how to respond to product inquiries is crucial for every employee. You never know who, when or what potential or current customers will ask when they get someone on the phone or in person. Good salesmanship does not mean pretending to know all the answers, it means finding and giving the right answer, even if it takes asking someone else.

I’m sure everyone, sales and non-sales staff alike, can tell a story about how someone in their company upset a customer or maybe even lost one. Thankfully, there are also many positive stories of people going above and beyond, taking pride in the their craft, and winning the hearts and minds of their customers, from wherever they sit in the sales process. Firms in the AEC industry rely on repeat customers year after year, to the tune of 80% on average - all the more reason to make sure your firm is taking the steps to make salesmanship a part of your company culture. Make sure everyone understands where you are going and what has to happen to get there. After all, everyone is a salesperson.

Andy O'Nan, Business Development Manager at JB Knowledge, has 15 years of construction industry experience both in the field and in the office. JB Knowledge is a leading software firm serving the construction and insurance industries known for the products SmartBidNet, SmartCompliance, and SmartReality. Contact Andy at andy.onan@jbknowledge.com or www.jbknowledge.com.

 


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