Credit: Photo: Lisa F. Young

This spring, a carpenter and gutter protection installer for Callen Construction, in Muskego, Wis., applied to be a sales rep. Owner Tom Callen felt apprehensive, he recalls, when the five-year employee told him he wanted to change positions.

Management had the employee take a personality profile test — the classic DISC profile — as well as a sales aptitude test. “He came out as a ‘Persuader,'” Callen says, naming one of the personality types likely to prevail in a selling position. “He had the classic sales profile.” Forty-five days later, Callen is pleased to report that his company's new sales hire is an outstanding success.

GOT WHAT IT TAKES? Many home improvement company owners see installers and sales reps as altogether different personality types, with installers too grounded in the minutia of making something physical happen to be able to enter the mindset where lightning-like shifts in thought may be required to convince reluctant homeowners to buy. “It's a different person, a different attitude,” says Joey DeMicco, general manager of Renewal by Andersen of Grand Rapids, in Michigan. “I came up from sales, and nobody would want me to install a window.”

But DeMicco is quick to point out that detailed knowledge of product and installation procedures can be hugely impressive to homeowners. And that, plus the desire to offer loyal employees advancement opportunities, makes many companies inclined to at least take a chance.

A few years ago, a project manager at Lakeside Exteriors, in O'Fallon, Mo., indicated his desire to become a sales rep. Sales manager Dan Merrifield made the decision to hire him. The newly promoted rep ran leads for five months before he and the company faced a problem: He couldn't close.

WALK THE WALK Installers may not always be naturals when it comes to sales, but more and more companies are convinced that sales reps need to know, first-hand, what installers do because, as DeMicco says, homeowners “want to talk to a guy who knows what he's talking about.”

Merrifield considers installation experience to be so valuable that for the past three years — before learning Lakeside Exteriors' selling system — all new sales hires have begun their training period by spending a week in the field working with siding crews. “We want them out there getting their hands dirty,” he says. “They need to have a knowledge of what makes a job complete and what goes on on a jobsite.”