Many home improvement companies face an ongoing challenge: resolving the conflict between sales and installation. Installers blame salespeople for selling poorly; sales blames installation for screwing up jobs. A divide between these two departments will affect both employees and customers, resulting in a lot of frustration for both. And without a happy and satisfied customer, you're unlikely to earn a referral.

Get 'Em Together Savvy home improvement company owners recognize and address this divide in various ways. One is to have your sales team periodically spend a day in the field. Actually building a project enables salespeople to learn about the jobs they're selling. Installers get a chance to share their knowledge with the sales-people, while appreciating the fact that they've pitched in to help.

It's also wise to turn the tables: Have your lead installers ride with the salespeople on calls. The benefit is that installers can see the presentation. They can watch how their installation skills are actually sold in the home. Having installers ride with salespeople also gives them a chance to understand how information about a job — from the process through to the finished result — can often be misunderstood by homeowners, opening the door to miscommunication on all levels.

Plan events that allow for your sales and installation teams to socialize together. One easy way is to have the sales team prepare breakfast for the installation department. Have your installers come to the office an hour early on a workday for a simple breakfast. Once prepared, the two teams can share time eating together. Hold contests — sales vs. installation — with the prize being a group function like bowling and the losing department footing the bill. Again, for a home improvement company, the real prize is the social time at the event. Your installers and salespeople get to know each other. They come to realize they're all on the same team. Adversarial tensions diminish.

You have to take steps to accomplish this. It doesn't just happen automatically.

Communication Gaps Many times the issues that result in conflict boil down to accurate vs. inaccurate communication. Missed or wrong information can cause a project to bottleneck or be held up. These miscommunications can cause installers to delay or screw up the job, in turn causing frustrated homeowners to redirect their complaints to the salesperson.

Overcoming communication gaps requires work. First, meet with the sales and installation departments separately and ask for feedback on their perception of how information is gathered and dispersed. Have both teams review contracts and get suggestions on how to revise them to allow for the most accurate information to be included. Have the sales manager attend installation meetings or designate a salesperson to attend for him or her. Have the installation manager attend sales meetings regularly to address issues and procedures. Have each department voice its concerns — the actual difficulties employees run into on a daily basis —then address them.

Many companies are managed in such a way that a wall exists between sales and installation. Remove that wall and build a bridge in its place. The result will be happier employees and customers and more referrals for your company. —Jim McCarthy is sales manager for Maine Window & Sunroom, a $5 million replacement company in Kennebunk, Maine.

Does your company have a business practice or installation technique to share with the industry? Call Jim Cory at 215.923.9810 or e-mail