Credit: Chris Gash

After 35 years of selling, Joe Ronzino, president of Renewal by Andersen of Long Island, has a firm opinion about using a selling system and following it step by step. Brian Brock, sales manager of Hullco, a home improvement company in Chattanooga, Tenn., says that salespeople need to know why each step is important and buy into that. "If the rep genuinely buys in, they don't cut steps," he says.

On Their Game

But what happens when homeowners are in a hurry or just want a price? The temptation to short-circuit the system happens frequently. "The [sales rep] gets excited and then the homeowner throws them a brush-off and they get knocked out of kilter," veteran industry sales trainer Phil Rea says. "It takes so much discipline. The good salespeople are always on their game."

And for many reps that means learning to avoid distraction. For instance, new sales reps at Feldco, a window replacement company in Chicago, spend anywhere from 14 to 17 days learning the company's 10-step selling system. "Most of our leads are pull leads," president Doug Cook says. That is, they are consumers calling in spurred by Feldco promotions and ads. That makes it all the more imperative, Cook says, that salespeople "stay in the system." A sales call can quickly turn into "information overload," Cook says, especially when new salespeople walk right past the warm-up in what he calls a "hit-and-run" appointment. The key, for sales managers, is to follow up in the form of sales-call reports and rehash. "Everybody needs to be inspected in some form so they're not getting away from the basics," Cook says.

Adapt to Circumstances

In addition to knowing the selling steps and their sequence, an adept salesperson develops the ability to adapt to changed circumstances. Say, for instance, the rep, assured that all homeowners will be there for the sales presentation, arrives to find that one or another of the homeowners is absent. "If he came in locked and loaded, samples and everything else, he just shot himself in the foot," says Ronzino, who uses the Dave Yoho sales system. On the other hand, Ronzino says, "if he came in with a clipboard and a ruler, he can revert to a two-step system: build rapport, do a needs assessment, and book another appointment where he can meet with both parties. We teach [reps] not to change their expression or comment about it. Just go on as if it's just the way we do business. Otherwise you could offend people and lose opportunities."