I have worked with many building materials sales people and learned what the rock star salespeople have in common. Before developing a marketing strategy or program, I spend time with the sales people and their customers. If a marketing strategy doesn’t help a sales person make more sales, it has no value.
I ride with sales people on sales calls, I also interview them on the phone, at trade shows and when I am speaking at their sales meetings. I have worked with new sales people and very experienced ones.
I have learned to quickly identify an incompetent sales person, a mediocre one who may or may not have the potential to improve and some amazing rock star sales people.
Here’s What Makes A Rock Star
They have a deep understanding of their customers. If they call on roofing contractors, they really understand the roofing contractor business. They can sit and speak intelligently with a roofing contractor about any issue they face.
They can discuss labor, insurance costs, OSHA, the local market, the most common reasons for a callback and more. They are well read, following industry publications, blogs and other sources of information. In many cases, they are better read than the contractor.
They understand what a contractor’s financial statement should look like, and where most of them fall short. They know the different challenges a contractor faces, from when they start their business to when they retire, sell out or turn it over to the next generation.
If their customers are builders, distributors, architects, dealers or big boxes, they know the same types of things.
Rock stars are also very knowledgeable not only about their own products but also about their competitors’. They don’t just know what’s wrong with the competition; they also know what’s right about them and when a competitor may actually be a better choice.
Unfortunately, most building materials companies do not invest in this type of training. The rock stars have to find ways to teach themselves.
The best salespeople have a very high level of confidence. Not a cockiness—just a rock solid confidence. You’re asking a customer to take a risk anytime you are making a sale. You’re asking them to change, and change means risk to them. You may not see the risk, but the customers not only see risk, they can feel it.
One of the most effective ingredients of a sales call is the confidence of the salesperson in themselves, their company and the product they are selling. Customers read a sales person’s body language and the tonality of their voice to gauge how confident they are. No matter how creative your sales tools are and how well you memorized a script and boned up on technical details, it will all fall flat without lots of confidence.
A great way to build confidence is to make some sales call without any sales tools. It’s just you and the customer. You become much more aware of how the customer is watching than you are when sales tools are in play.
It’s easy to think they are looking at the sales tools when they really are watching you to see how much you really believe what you are saying.
When I work with a company whose sales aren’t growing as fast as they would like, I usually discover that the message in their sales presentation is off target. The way I get it on target is to make sales calls myself with no tools. Based on my customer interviews and sales calls, I get a good idea of what sales message will lead to an order.
Too often, salespeople feel they need something in their hand or they can’t make a sales call. These tools play supporting roles with rock star sales people. They really don’t need many of them.
Salespeople who want to become rock stars should build this confidence by—I hate this saying—pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and making some calls without any tools.
When I’m at a trade show, I like to walk into a booth and ask a sales person, “So, tell me about your product. Why is it better?” It amazes me how often they will seriously look me in the face and say “Performance and Quality.” I have to work very hard to not burst out laughing.
What company can’t claim performance and quality? That’s the cost of entry. These sales people don’t even get to sharing the features of their product.
Better sale people will tell me about those features, such as performance measurements, the materials, and installation and warranty information. But what they rarely do is to tell me what these features mean to me.
The rock star sales people will add a benefit to every feature: “Our product is made of XYZ and, as a builder, the benefit to you is A, B and C.” It amazes me how many salespeople don’t know how to talk in benefits that relate to the customer.
Even when a sales person mentions a benefit, it is typically a benefit that has little or no meaning to their customer. Telling a builder that a product saves energy is not a very powerful benefit since he won’t be living in the house he builds. A builder wants to hear about benefits like, “Our product is a more cost effective way for you to build in energy savings.”
Rock stars know that benefits sell.
What I see is a lot of well-meaning sales people who have not been given the training, support, and coaching to turn them into rock stars.
There are lots of additional things a great sales person should do that can be learned in any Salesmanship 101 book. But it’s these three consistent issues that make a rock star sales person stand out in building materials.
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Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions.
“1) an attitude of gratitude
2) helping people by serving them
3)being trustworthy because you do what you say you are going to do
4) confidence because you practice all the above
VP, Sales & Marketing
“I agree that the knowledge base is critical and must be constantly developed. Too many people learn the products but never learn the pinch points of their customers. I’ll share this with my team and ask them for comments.”