By Tim Saddoris, Grand Onyx
Without sales, your business is going nowhere fast. The incredible downpour of new orders during COVID is starting to end, and you need a dynamic sales team to maintain as much momentum as possible. With today’s labor shortage, it’s nearly impossible to find salespeople, and keeping the sales funnel full is a real challenge. So how do we prepare for what’s ahead with limited resources? The answer isn’t just finding more staff but making the most out of your process, creating efficiency and that adage — work smarter, not harder.
Recently, my team was hired to work with a stone fabricator to help grow their revenue. While they were focusing on their online leads to generate more prospects into their sales funnel, sales weren’t increasing relative to the number of leads coming in. Something was wrong.
I also noticed how hard it was to schedule meetings with their sales team. They were always unavailable and struggled to get back to me on outstanding questions we had for them. Salespeople said they were simply too busy.
You’d think the phone was off the hook all the time because of how busy they said they were, but whenever I walked through the showroom, maybe one of six phone lines was busy. The plot thickens!
So, I asked the owner if I could pull their phone records. Across six salespeople, they averaged — wait for it — a whopping 24 minutes on the phone daily for both inbound and outbound calls. What?!? If they were busy, they were busy with things that prevented them from selling.
We took a deep dive into this company’s sales process to find ways to free up time and make the team more efficient. From that, we found five practices you can implement to grow your revenue.
1. Get a Customer Relationship Management Platform
If you haven’t invested in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, do it now. In this case, when someone walked in the door at the shop, the sales team used Post-it notes or emails as reminders. Handwritten notes or entries in a spreadsheet make it challenging to find and stay on top of customers, especially if a salesperson has to help with a customer working with a different sales team member or someone is out on vacation.
A CRM lets you capture all the contact information you need and keep it in one place that any authorized user can access. It helps you:
- Keep track of who the customer is and any notes about them.
- Automatically log all emails and texts sent.
- List what the next activity should be.
- Know you need to follow up.
If a salesperson is working with 30 prospects, how are they supposed to remember all that? And what happens when a former customer needs help? A CRM solves this problem and stops having to pull paper records.
There are plenty of CRM solutions out there — about 300. We prefer Pipedrive for stone fabricators. It’s affordable and straightforward to use; no engineering degree is required.
2. Never Tell Them When Your Showroom Is Open
This may sound strange, but bear with me for a minute. While controlling the foot traffic at your location so you can anticipate the flow and manage those customers effectively, it goes without saying a more specific approach can yield better results.
We listened to more than 1,000 stone fabricator calls and learned an interesting thing. Most calls from new prospects asked about the hours the showroom was open. Most salespeople simply gave them the answer and moved on.
But here’s where it gets good: The most successful salespeople — those earning six figures — knew an important hack: They didn’t tell callers the store hours. Instead, they started asking questions and building what we call a social contract.
They might open with a question like, “Before you waste your time driving to our shop, may I ask you a few questions about your project?”
By framing it this way, the salesperson shows they are being helpful and trying to save time for the customer. They are also gaining information about the customer and building a relationship. They can learn so much about the projects, like the types of materials and colors they have in mind and whether they have talked to any competitors.
Then, they set a time to meet. When customers show up, the salesperson has already gotten some basic info so they can steer the visit more effectively. A good salesperson will take all this information and provide a customized experience with samples already pulled out.
3. Let Your Salespeople Quote
Many shops don’t let their salespeople quote, which adds an extra layer to the process and takes time. It can also frustrate customers. Think about it for a minute. When you order furniture or shop for a car, they provide you with a quote when you come in to try to close the deal. With stone fabrication, if you can’t provide a quote, there are no one-call closes.
This process turns into multiple back-and-forth interactions, taking the numbers, giving them to the pricing person (and then reminding them to give you the quote), forwarding it to the customer and dealing with it potentially getting stuck in their spam filter, etc., then, reaching out to make sure they got the quote and what they think.
No wonder your sales team feels like they’re too busy.
In the meantime, your customers are probably shopping your competitors. In the end, the most efficient process might win the job.
4. Get Paid Upfront
Most salespeople love building beautiful kitchen designs, helping customers make the right choices — and making money. They didn’t go into sales to become debt collectors. Yet, in most cases, the sales team is responsible for building a relationship, closing the deal and chasing the check. It no longer makes sense to ask for 50% upfront and the rest when the job is done. After the installation, the sense of urgency to pay disappears.
You don’t buy high-ticket items without providing a down payment and arranging for financing for the remainder of the deal. Savvy home remodelers, construction companies and fabricators have moved toward progress payments. There are many variations of this, but here’s one strategy you might consider instead of 50/50:
- 40% to lock in the materials and hold them.
- 40% to lock in the installation days.
- 10% on the day of the install.
- Remainder on the day of completion.
This gets you paid faster, helps with your cash flow, and reduces your team’s time chasing payments.
5. Embracing Texting
How many times have you called someone, the call went to voicemail and the mailbox was full? Or you sent an email, but the customer said they never saw it? While phone and email are important, they can be a time suck.
The average sales rep can spend hours each day trying to hunt customers down to follow up on a conversation, leaving messages or emails. Sales can get stalled or put on hold hoping the customers reengage.
Yet, there’s a better way. Here’s how texting can accelerate the sales cycle:
- Text messages get seen: 98% of texts are read.
- Text messages are seen right away: 60% of texts are read within five minutes of receipt.
- Text messages get responses: 45% of texts get a quick response.
When you get a response, you can quickly answer questions and keep the sales process moving forward. Plus, you know when the customer is active and can quickly convert the text into a phone call. There’s no more phone tag or waiting for an email response.
Bonus Tip: Leverage AI
Here’s an advanced course for stone fabricators that can be a significant time saver. Use artificial intelligence. You don’t need a degree in computer science or even a budget anymore. ChatGPT is free, and it can do amazing things.
I was coaching a sales team, and they had some questions I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer. I went to ChatGPT and asked it to act as the vice president of sales for a large fabrication shop. I told it that this persona was kind, caring, to the point and dedicated to making their sales team better.
Now, I have this avatar that can be used to craft emails to unhappy customers, respond to negative reviews, and even provide coaching advice for tricky situations. I can ask the avatar how to be a better coach or leader in a specific scenario. While you may need to work with the output a bit to get it right, it can help get your brain moving and even come up with suggestions you may not think about otherwise. It’s like having a consultant available 24/7 (for free!) to help you think things through.
While our industry certainly faces a number of constraints, you don’t have to let them drive the way you do business. Consider improving what you already have. Growth opportunities are right around the corner if you minimize barriers by simplifying your processes.
About the Author
Tim Saddoris is the president of Grand Onyx. a firm dedicated to helping stone fabricators increase their revenue by 30% to 300% using proven techniques and a World Class Blueprint System to help you build a more profitable, scalable business. They help companies to refine their sales process, uncover insights about better ways to sell, and coach sales teams for greater success. Learn how Grand Onyx can help your business grow at www.grandonyx.pro.