Sales is the Engine that Pulls the Train

Posted by Mike Gorman on January 21, 2015
Sales is the Engine that Pulls the Train
Mike Gorman.
Without sales a terrible thing happens: nothing. In our corner of the shelter industry, the role of salesperson is played by craftsmen, technicians, diagnosticians, and others calling themselves designers, estimators, or consultants. Very few want to be called salesperson and fewer willingly expose themselves to sales training. The result may be that the public is able to buy our products and services at bargain basement prices, often below cost. This purchase is made from a pool of contractors that appears to be constantly drained by those closing up shop and constantly refilled by those just starting up.

The aversion to the label salesperson is not unique to contractors, but in reality everyone who breathes practices sales techniques in some way. The employee who marches into the boss’s office bent on a raise must sell the boss on his or her capabilities perhaps citing historical performance to justify the raise. Couples deliberate about where to spend those precious 10 days vacation until the more convincing of the two persuades the other that Ireland would be better than the Caribbean in March. The child following mom through the cashier’s lane in the market clutching a bar of candy indeed knows enough to ask for the order several times before overcoming objections and closing the deal:

“Mom, can I have this candy bar?”

“No,” replies Mom as she begins to unload groceries onto the checkout stand.

“Mom, I really want this candy bar,” insists the child a few moments later.

“Absolutely not! I’m not buying candy!” Mom replies forcefully.

After a few more moments, the insistent child asks again, “Mom, why can’t I have a candy bar?”

“You’ll spoil your dinner!” Mom replies, not realizing that the persistent child has just smoked out the real objection as Mom occupies herself with the duties at hand.

“I’ll save it until after dinner, I promise!” replies the child, eyes gleaming with the knowledge that the objection has been overcome.

“Oh, all right,” replies Mom with a sigh.

The point is that all of us are salespeople, but not many people want to be known as salespeople. It’s not a title we hope our children would strive for when they grow up either. For that reason, I prefer to call myself a decision engineer.

The decision engineer’s mission is to create a project that can be delivered in a satisfactory manner for all parties, while creating a customer for life who will refer other clients his or her way. Promising more than is delivered is sure to create the unsatisfied customer, while the opposite can earn the right to a customer’s business for life. How the homeowner views the outcome of a remediation or remodeling job or new home construction often depends on the selling process. The decision engineer who does the best job of informing the prospect about everything they need to know to make the right choice of contractors has the best chance of converting the prospect to a client, on his or her price and terms. These better-informed clients have a benchmark by which they can measure their experiences during the process. This allows them feel good about their purchasing decisions. While people don’t like to be sold anything, they do enjoy making wise buying decisions aided by a problem-solving consultant. They like to feel that the decision engineer cares about them and has an interest in creating the best solution to their problems, and they want to enjoy a friendly relationship with the contractor they choose to buy from.

The seams of the shelter industry are bursting with talented poor people who are truly gifted at what they do. One skill often separates these artists from fortune. Selling is as much a skill as singing, writing, dancing, acting, or painting. We can learn to sell by observing, listening, reading and practicing. As with most skills, attention to detail allows people to advance. The most talented contractor in the world would starve to death if no one were willing to pay for his or her products and services. You could argue with reason that understanding how to sell insulation or HVAC upgrades is as important as knowing how to install them.

Not long ago, I found an alarming example of how talented building science contractors are failing in the sales process. In Colorado and Oregon governmental agencies involved in renovating homes are trying a new approach. These agencies are engaging ‘energy advisors’ as an intermediary between the homeowner and the contractor to expedite the sales process, and claiming increased success rates in closing the deal. This appears to be an indication that the contractor is not getting the job done.

The industry offers more opportunity than can be imagined, but likely only those who realize that sales is the engine that pulls the train will get their share.


Mike Gorman delivers seminars and provides telephone and on-site coaching with clients ranging from government agencies to Fortune 500 companies and individual contractors regarding sales, marketing, and estimating.  To learn more about Mike and TechKnowledge Systems, click here.


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