Need new sales talent? Maybe you should be looking right under your nose. The installer who's wielding a nail gun today could be nailing down sales tomorrow.

Bill Howes is proof. Five years ago, the window installer for Renewal By Andersen, Northeast Ohio, in Cleveland, became a sales consultant. He's been a $1 million seller for the past four years.

Howes maintains that his technical expertise gives him a valuable edge in selling. “I tell the customer that the window isn't going to outsmart me,” he says. Just as important is the customer's perception. Knowing Howes has installed the product — a fact he mentions early in the presentation — helps put prospects at ease. Howes says he's careful to let his confidence come through without inundating his listeners with technical information. “When you buy anything, you can tell if the salesperson knows c

Turn 'em Into Salesmen Dale Brenke agrees that installers make good sales-people. It's because, he says, “they can speak from their experience.” Installers have proven to be a valuable sales asset for Schmidt Siding and Window, Mankato, Minn. Brenke, president and co-owner, says his current sales staff of seven were all previously installers, and three are now $1 million sellers. “I've never had an installer who has failed to make the grade as a salesperson,” Brenke says, adding, “I've never had to hire a salesperson in 33 years.”

At Schmidt, installers who want to sell begin in an entry-level position, selling smaller-ticket products such as gutters and gutter protection systems. Running 10 to 12 leads a week, they become proficient closers and also learn how to do the necessary paperwork and follow up. “If they can do that, they can move into windows, sunrooms, and siding,” Brenke says.

Different Mindsets Some contractors consider installers who make a successful leap to sales to be the exception rather than the rule. Harvey Goodman, president of Windowizards, Bristol, Pa., believes most installers have a mindset that doesn't mesh with selling. It's hard for them to change, he maintains. “As installers, they get work given to them every day without having to pay the expense of drumming up that business,” Goodman says. “A lot of installers are good craftsmen but not businesspeople. It's hard to be both.”

One difference is key, according to Howes: At the end of the day when they put their tools in the truck, installers know they're done. But selling is never finished. “If you're a fellow who doesn't like to work nights or weekends, then sales isn't for you.”