Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products
March 2005 Volume 44, Issue 2
A Dealer's Perspective
by R. Mark Reasbeck
Welcome to the fifth year of the new century. Didn’t we just go through the “Y2K” ordeal?
Somehow I think there is a computer geek in a trailer park, still grinning about how he pulled that practical joke on the whole planet. Maybe it was D.B. Cooper? If you’re under 30, go ask your parents who he was.
The simple fact that you can read this (thank a teacher) means that my contract to write this column for free was renewed. Since my last column, something big happened at my company: my salesman quit.
Let’s face it, the window business is all about sales. Product plays a part, service helps it to continue, but without sales, you don’t need a support staff—although you might need a support group. Since I run a small company (15 employees), when someone is missing it leaves a big hole.
When I received the letter of resignation, my mind went through about 20 random thoughts at one time. Did he make copies of our price books? Did he tell customers to wait on orders because they’re moving? Are the ongoing jobs in chaos? Do we have all customer contact information? What about that pile of blueprints in the salesperson’s office—old jobs, jobs to be bid? And the big question ... “Now what?”
“I Need A Window Salesperson”
I basically now have two scenarios. Do I hire an experienced window salesperson or do I hire an experienced salesperson with no window background? To all you business owners out there, I bet you’re with me when I say this is a time when you find yourself talking to yourself a lot!
I decided to place a classified ad. It was very simple. “I need a window salesperson, must have builder experience. Fax resume, phone number.” First of all, why is it that if you want to sell your ‘93 Dodge pickup, you can run an ad for a week for $6, but if you want to hire someone, take them off the unemployment rolls and put money back into the local economy, it costs $114.00 for 3 lines, 3 days? I think of this as a “prosperity penalty” because I am able to employ people. In any case, I received about 16 replies. I read them all. I wondered how saying “builder experience,” could possibly be interpreted to mean you have managed a deli in the local Albertsons Grocery store and you’re now ready to sell windows.
So which is it, an experienced person who may have worked at the competition or an up-and-comer whose greatest asset is their willingness to learn? The pluses of the veteran are that he has current connections and relationships. On the down side, he may have burnt several bridges that don’t surface till later. Another positive, he has an established way of doing blueprint take-offs and bids; the converse, they have an established way of doing blueprint take-offs and bids.
In my case, we have existing accounts that could be taken over immediately, but I don’t want to hire someone who’s made the list of builders not to call on by having turned the company down in the past. Plus, a confident, experienced salesperson is most interested in how soon he can get to the “commission zone.” I’m a little leery when the base salary is his greatest concern.
The inexperienced seem to have more of the “little train that could” attitude. They are waiting to prove—if mostly to themselves—that they can achieve success if someone will give them the chance. But do I have the time to show them the ropes? By the ropes, I mean from the very beginning: “This is a single hung, it goes up and down.” If I can’t commit to the training of that person then he is doomed to fail. He will become frustrated, and I will have a gaping hole in sales at the end of the month.
At the time of this writing, there are four candidates with window experience. Since Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in America, the longest anyone has lived here is since January 2004: Welcome to Boomtown. If you’re reading this and you have years of window sales experience, and are currently unemployed, RUN. Escape while you can. This business is a pane in the glass. Come back next month to see if experience was victorious over tenacity.
Nothing to Do With Anything
In my travels during the day, I find myself in offices waiting for meetings to start or for someone to get off the telephone. You can’t help hearing office chatter, and sometimes it gives me a new perspective on life. One day last week was one of those can-you-wait-for-the-architect-to-explain-your-problem kind of days. I agreed, because it’s easier to get an audience with the Pope than to see an architect. During the wait, four ladies who all work in the same office started to talk about what they were wearing to an office party.
“My husband won’t let me wear a silver dress, it has to be red.”
“Well I’m wearing a short black cocktail dress.” (Hmm, I wasn’t aware that women had special drinking clothes.)
A third lady chimed in and said to the lady who had to wear red, “I have this gorgeous, shiny gold cocktail dress that would look darling on you. You’re about a six aren’t you?”
A nod of confirmation along with, “Sure, six or seven.”
The dress peddler continued with, “And I’ve got this darling pair of gold shoes to match, you want to borrow them for the party?”
“Oh wow, would you?”
Just in time, I got the call to see the architect. On the way back to his office, I thought to myself, never in my life would I call my buddy Eddie and say, “Ed, I got this really cool pair of Levi’s that I think would look great on you, and you might want to borrow my Coleman Hiking boots to complete the ensemble ...”
I’m done. Size 11 shoe.
R. Mark Reasbeck is owner of Legend Windows for the West, a Las Vegas-based window dealership.
© Copyright Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.