In the final installment of this series, the spotlight shifts to those on the sales frontlines - salespeople and sales managers. In many companies, the sales manager is also a salesperson, so all of these strategies may help you avoid becoming the next HVAC layoff victim.

Here are some strategies to help you, the salesperson, make yourself layoff-proof:

Close them:The most important thing you can do in the field of sales is to close sales. A closed sale means revenue for your company and job security for you. If you can keep your closing ratio high, you’ll be recession-proof.

Keep the sales high:However, one thing to bear in mind is that you can’t sacrifice your average sale for a high closing ratio or low gross margin. Any salesperson can give the stuff away. The objective is to sell at prices that allow your company to make a profit. Pay close attention to your closing ratio, average sale, and your gross margin on those sales.

Do it yourself:If you want to stand out in sales, generate your own leads. When you walk into the office and post your own leads on the board, you’ll get attention from your manager. Especially when you can generate your own lead and make that sale without the company paying any marketing costs, you’ll be a true sales superstar.

Remember to follow through:When times are good, it’s easy to leave unsold leads behind you as the leads keep flowing in. But in tough times, when leads may be a little slower, don’t let a lead die until you’ve revisited it. If you leave a quote after meeting with a homeowner, be sure to follow up and follow up until that home- owner has made a decision.

Hop in the truck:If you have a slow day, hop in the truck with your technicians. If they are headed to a call for an older piece of equipment, seize that opportunity to share some replacement options with that homeowner. If nothing else, you may pick up some great facts or points from the technician to help your presentation.

Train on your own dime:If you’re a true champion of sales, you know how important training is to the job. However, in tough times, your company may not have the resources necessary to send you to training. Don’t let that stop you. Book the training and pay for it yourself. It will show your company that you’re serious about excelling, and if you implement the training, your improved results should cover the investment anyway.

Any time, any day:In tough times, don’t let an opportunity slip by you. Let your company know that you’re available any time of the day and any day of the week. Make sure that you’re ready to go when the opportunity arises.

Watch the details:When you do make a sale, check and double check every detail of the job. Make sure that nothing is omitted that might cost your company down the road. Getting all of the details right from the beginning will allow your company to get the maximum benefit from that sale.

Offer new and exciting advancements:Even the systems that you’ve sold in the past may have more opportunity in them. If you need to generate leads, call the customers that bought from you before. Explain to the home- owner that since you visited with them last there have been some amazing breakthroughs in IAQ that you’d like to share with them. You may be able to generate some IAQ sales on top of your previous system sales.

Visit the happy clients:If you’ve done your job correctly, homeowners should be pretty happy with their new systems and the energy savings they’re enjoying. Capitalize on that. Go back and see those homeowners and ask them for referrals of anyone they know that might want to enjoy the same comfort and savings.

Don’t be a whiner:One of the fastest tracks to layoff city is to be a complainer. Bring a positive attitude with you every day, and you’ll have a good start on being layoff proof.

Focus on what you can change:It’s easy to focus on the ones that got away because they couldn’t get financing. But the fact is you’re not going to change that. Focus on the customers that didn’t buy from you. These are the ones that have money. Why didn’t they buy from you? Focus on answering that question and you’ll have the answer to long-term success.

If price is the issue, be different:If price is consistently the one issue that determines whether someone does business with you or not, then you’re selling like everyone else in your market. What unique value do you offer the homeowner? You must walk different, talk different, and be different. Sell from your strengths and price won’t be the deciding factor.


Here are some strategies to help you, the sales manager, make yourself layoff-proof:

Train, train, train:When your success is determined by the success your team has in the home, you need to take the time to train, train, and then train some more. Seize every down moment you can to role-play or cover a part of the presentation so that when your team is in front of Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, they are at the top of their game.

Go to the hot hand:You want your hot hitter at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and when it’s Friday afternoon and you need a sale to hit your weekly goal, you want to hand that lead off to your sales pro that is on a hot streak. See who is getting results. Give them the leads and train the rest of your team to do what your pro is doing.

The view from the passenger side:If your sales team’s closing percentages or average invoices are dipping, it’s time to hop in the truck and go on some calls with your salespeople. Be there with your team to see where they might be slipping in the presentation, and help them get their closing skills back on track.

Touch every lead:When every sale is vital to your survival, don’t let a lead go by without you touching it. If one of your salespeople doesn’t sell on the lead, call that homeowner and find out why. Maybe it’s something you can change. If they did sell, call that homeowner and congratulate them. Resell the benefits of your company so that homeowner stays excited between now and when that system is installed.

Get out there:If you need a sale and your salespeople are struggling, you might need to take the lead and get out in the home. Make the sale and get the revenue your company needs to survive. And if you’re in the enviable position of having too many leads, it’s time for you to step up to the plate and run some calls so homeowners aren’t left waiting.

Look for low cost leads:Put on your thinking cap and brainstorm some ways that you can generate some low cost leads. Maybe you and your team can take a slow afternoon and go knock on doors. It’s not a glamorous option, but with some effort and determination, it can create results.

If it happens, start at the bottom:If the time comes when you need to lay off a salesperson on your team due to a shortage of leads, then start with the weakest member of your team. Keep your superstars going with their normal load of leads and pick up any leads that they can’t run. If you give everyone fewer leads, no one is going to be happy, and usually it’s your best salespeople that jump ship first because they can get a job anywhere. If they’re your best salespeople, keep them running the majority of the leads.

Put on your negotiator hat:Even in tough times, you need to keep marketing. If you stop marketing, the calls will dry up and you’ll be running uphill to get the revenue you need. But just because you can’t stop marketing, doesn’t mean you can’t cut your costs. Negotiate with newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. Chances are they are struggling to fill their advertising slots and they may cut you a good deal in today’s tough times if you can commit to spending a certain dollar amount. Deals are out there if you do some digging.

Replacement sales with their high gross margin are the key to keeping your company sailing smoothly through these turbulent economic waters. Keep your sales up and both you and your company will be making money every day.

Publication date:07/20/2009