QR: In your recent article in QR magazine, you emphasized a high need for more professional skills when hiring, training and managing those who are actually presenting (hopefully selling) home improvement/remodeling contracts to consumers. You also conducted two webinars about the same subject matter and, as an outgrowth, questions were raised.
Dave: We subscribe to the theory that the interviewing process for many organizations is flawed. This theory is supported by statistics that indicate selections are often made without supporting information, which would identify otherwise hidden skills and knowledge about those applying for sales positions.
The most important consideration is how the person fits the position as well as the policies and programs of the organization.
QR: You stress the benefit of a scripted and practiced interviewing process, which occurs when an applicant responds to a posted job opportunity by phone. What are your prime objectives in a phone interview that occurs prior to a face-to-face interview?
Dave: The prime objective is to determine whether the person on the phone meets the criteria you believe is important for a face-to-face interview. There are specific questions that will enable you to determine if an interview with this person “makes sense.” Your interview should be scripted and the answers you receive catalogued. If during the interview you determine this person does not meet the criteria, you can politely thank them for their time on the phone, saying you will turn this over to the person conducting the interview and if there is interest they will be called.
QR: The following question was proposed by a reader: We are a remodeling company. We find it difficult to attract the person who fits “design and build,” and also has acceptable nonpressure selling skills.
Dave: To be clear with my answer, you could substitute remodeling company with HVAC, roofing, insulation, cabinet facing or water conditioning. Whatever the specialty of your company, in all these cases, questions come to us indicating these companies feel they are so different from other companies who offer products or services to homeowners they should be treated differently.
This is a sad and often costly error. Yes, the design and build company needs someone who understands design, code, structural and other forms of “know how” that goes into delivering the product.
QR: Therefore, do you believe this question implies a misunderstanding?
Dave: What most of these questioners overlook in their recruiting and hiring are the skills needed to uncover the customer’s value system; moreover, understand the customer’s buying habits. You also confuse what you perceive and sometimes is high-pressure sales tactics. On that, we agree. But, in these statements, you deny the premise of sound sales communication skills.
Over the years, our techniques and measurement methods have been used by the medical profession, dentists, ophthalmologists, civil engineers, those who design and sell electronic products, and those selling complicated insurance or investment products. Face it — all of the above need to find those individuals who can deliver product information to others on a credible, sensitive, rapport-building level that the customer accepts.
QR: So you don’t deny the technical qualifications required?
Dave: Beyond the quality and technical support of your product or service, you need someone who will present your product to homeowners, understanding the misinformation they may be dealing with, understanding the competition they may face and understanding comments such as “we’re getting other prices,” “we’ll get back to you,” and “we never make a decision without consulting with ___.”
Face it — these statements represent the reality of what your efficient technician may be incapable of dealing with. So, we humbly bow to your desire to have an honest, integrity-laden person who cites the facts without exaggeration. However, you also need someone who can bring in enough business to cover the high cost of marketing your services. A reminder: What are your needs? If this includes someone to work with customers to increase your revenue and profitability and your current methods are not doing that, then at the very least examine the need for change in your recruiting and hiring practices.
QR: When a remodeler is seeking more than just an estimator and does a search for a salesperson, do they look more for industry experience or more for right attitude when hiring?
Dave: Industry experience is helpful, although we do suggest you avoid hiring from your competitors. You may end up inheriting practices, habits and methods that are not in the best interest of your company, which in the beginning you might overlook because you believe their past sales history in your industry is helpful.
Successful hiring programs take industry experience into consideration, but it is not the major factor. Many times, it is the prevailing attitude you uncover during a face-to-face interview. This then can be verified by questions, which are developed as an aftermath of profiling.
QR: I noticed your reference to behavioral profiling in June’s article. Is this some sort of testing?
Dave: On the contrary. This profile is not a test. There is no pass; no fail.
It is a descriptive instrument that enables management to gain insights and information which might otherwise be overlooked, then conduct a more effective interview.
If the applicant is hired, it becomes a guideline for training and management, as well as a learning tool for both the applicant and management.
The profile is not a clinical instrument. Its intent is to describe behavior along selected dimensions. Analyzed correctly, it aids the interviewer to determine if the applicant has behavior adaptable to the job role.
Through abundant research and case history study, we have narrowed down those individual profiles that have been most adaptable to the role of selling. Moreover, it indicates which of these appear the most adaptive to short cycle selling.
QR: How does someone who has little or no knowledge of profiling find out more on the subject?
Dave: I will, as I did for those responding to the earlier article, email you readers who request it a copy of a 35-page readout on the behavioral profile without charge or obligation — and judge for yourself. If you have this information prior to an interview, how much better you will be at defining the applicant’s adaptability to selling remodeling projects in the home.
QR: How does a contractor look past the initial meeting when an applicant for the position often displays only their best behavior?
Dave: Two things to remember: First, it is difficult to be objective and like most decisions. Hiring a salesperson requires some analysis. Secondly, this is the purpose of a profile. It enables you to uncover information, which in turn will enable you to ask questions specific and theoretic, which will help you determine the three things that go with all hiring. They are: 1) Can they do the job? 2) Will they do the job? 3) Do they fit the operational model and business plan?
If you perceive someone as a “smooth talker” or “very perceptive,” further analysis via hiring instruments may determine these behavior or character practices are a cover up for inefficiency. Don’t try to be an armchair psychologist. Utilize tough questions during a face-to-face interview, such as: a) What makes you think you can do this job? You’ve never done this specific kind of work before. b) You indicated in your past employment that you weren’t able to do your best with your former employer. What makes you think you would be any different if you work for us?
QR: How does someone determine if a sales applicant is or was as successful as they said they were?
Dave: There are several ways. The most powerful is, if you interview the same person more than once before you make a decision, ask them to bring in their W2 earning record for the past three years. If you get strong vibes from your telephone interview and follow this up with only one interview, request they bring in those W2’s for the first interview.
There are also “breakdown” questions, such as: How many sales did you make last year and what was the average amount of the sale? How many appointments were you given? What percentage of those could you get in to see the people? What percentage did you present to and didn’t sell? In your market, were your products and services more expensive than what percentage of the competition?