By Melissa Smith and Lorraine Grubbs
In our continuing series highlighting GIC’s Culture of Commitment, this month we are featuring the company’s Commitment to Sales. As any organization knows, the sales department’s job is to generate revenue. Regardless of how cutting-edge the operations, technology, financial goals, and procedures are, unless a solid sales process is in place, nothing else matters.
When a company takes their sales force for granted and doesn’t take the time and effort to invest in their sales team, they are not growing their business. GIC recognized the role of sales as critical to success from the onset. Sales positions were placed in the field, and became an integral part of the local operations reporting to the Branch Managers. That model worked well for many years as they grew from their initial branch in Medford to over 50 plus branches across North America today. Today the ever-changing sales landscape driven by technology dictates that things need to change if GIC is to remain competitive. Consistency of communication, clarity of roles and the ability to make changes quickly to meet the competition head-on is a must. The one thing GIC hasn’t forgotten is that the customer rules. At General Insulation, there are two customers – internal and external. It’s as important as ever that the sales team stay connected with both.
GIC recently decided to realign the sales team and bring them under one umbrella, reporting to a National Director of Sales.
The benefits of doing this are many:
- The sales team, spread throughout North America, will be able to get together regularly as a group to discuss products and new ideas.
- They will receive consistent and ongoing training so all can be on the same page.
- It will be easier to achieve consistency and accountability in reporting.
- Mentoring for individual sales team members to achieve better results can be implemented.
- As a sales team, being more in touch with each other will help the competitive spirit as members seek to attain the highest sales on the team.
Have you heard of the “Beer Game”? Developed by Harvard University, the game highlights the life cycle of an order of beer (although it could be any product) from initial order to final fulfillment and delivery. The players are placed in roles on different internal teams: sales, manufacturing, operations, fulfillment, and delivery. While the departments know they must work together to get the order right, problems arise when they don’t communicate with one another, maintaining a silo-like approach to the exercise. As a result, they quickly end up with a shortage or ultimately an overage of product. It’s difficult to get right. It takes consistent communication, and the Sales Department is at the heart of that process, communicating within and outside of the company.
When GIC was small, it was easier to communicate with one another. But, as they began to grow, that communication was challenged with the fast pace of the business and the numbers of people now involved in the selling, ordering, and fulfillment of the products. Like the Beer Game, GIC would find its sales force often at odds with production or fulfillment. So, in order to meet today’s competitive environment, improve communication and get everyone on the same page, CEO Frank Granara made the decision that the sales force would report to one leader.
Frank Granara comments: This is not the first change at GIC. I remember 2008 as a tough economic time. To make sure we survived, we took a look at who our customer really was. We had always considered the construction job site as the primary customer, but the economic crisis caused us to rethink that approach. We realized we had a lot more to offer the contractor than just what we saw on the job site. We made it our goal to expand our product offering beyond the job site. That’s when we created the sales specialist roles to serve those greater needs. As a result, our sales increased. Looking back today, it was the right thing to do.
Like the changes made in 2008 benefitted us, we expect the new realignment of the sales team reporting to one individual to yield us better results. The new team, made up of 4 Regional Sales Managers and 60 sales professionals, will report to our National Director of Sales.
We asked several of the new sales leaders to explain what they think about this new initiative. Here is what they said.
Mike Benoit, National Director of Sales (2009)
My Dream… One Team
I have long dreamed of combining GIC’s sales force under one roof, but had to wait until the time was right. With the growth we’ve experienced over the past few years, more attention needs to be paid to the overall sales process. With all the new initiatives underway at GIC, we want to maximize their effectiveness by customizing the selling process regionally. Our new technology will allow us to analyze the best sales mix. We need to streamline our warehouse inventory. We cannot be a supermarket and stock all items in each branch. This new structure will allow us to better identify which product lines we want in the branches, thus reducing inventory surplus and saving money.
By placing our sales team under one roof, we can interact more consistently with each member of the team to give more guidance and coaching where necessary. Branch Managers are operational experts, not necessarily sales experts. Many found themselves stretched thin running not only the operations but the sales effort as well. We felt by placing the salespeople on one team, this would allow the Branch Managers to continue concentrating on their operational strengths, without having to add the extra responsibility of outside sales. We expect that this new structure will allow us to help each salesperson meet and exceed their quotas, allowing the branches to turn a bigger profit.
Our challenge will be to make sure the communication between the sales team and their internal customers is stronger than ever. The outside sales person, now reporting to our team, must communicate clearly and consistently with the Branch Manager and work closely with the Inside Sales representative. At General Insulation, we’ve always believed that the outside customer relationship is key, but we also know that in order for that relationship to stay strong, the sales team must develop great relationships with their coworkers like the Branch Managers, Inside Sales, and all the other supporting operational positions. As proven by the Beer Game, there is no “I” in team and the outside salesperson will have to bridge communication gaps in order to maximize their effectiveness.
Dave Midura: Western Regional Sales Manager (including Texas)
From Selling to Partnership
I am excited about this new change. Having been in sales for more than 15 years both in and outside of GIC, I see our markets changing. Order taking is becoming a thing of the past. Our customers have more choices and we must double our efforts to ensure we’re meeting their needs. We need our sales team to be sharper than ever. Though the sales job is typically more of an individual effort, this change will allow us to create a more cohesive and effective team. We want people to share expertise, tribal, and product knowledge. We want to create a better system of communication to ensure GIC has the best platform for sales.
My personal objective as a Regional Sales Manager is to move the sales team’s mindset from “selling” to “partnership”. The customer shouldn’t be left feeling as though they have been sold; instead, they should feel confident that our sales person has brought them value, demonstrated that we go above and beyond for our customers, and that they have a business partner who truly cares about their business. Often our customers don’t have salespeople on their staff so the information that GIC gives them is valuable. We need to be considered part of their team. Ultimately, we will strive to become the liaison from the customer back to GIC, not the other way around. We will encourage our team to sell on the basis of relationship versus price. One way to tell if your relationship is solid is by asking, “Have I been invited to any personal or company events by my client?”
I intend to set up clear direction and expectations for the team such as:
- The importance of bringing value to our customer base;
- The need to share information and best practices between team members;
- Utilizing each other and other departments as resources;
- Creating transparency of our customer base through our CRM;
- Identifying team and individual mentoring and training opportunities and;
- Introducing a “team” concept by holding regular video conference calls, webinars, and meetings where we can review plans and exchange ideas
Eric Sheara, Southeast Regional Sales Manager
Partners Not Sales People
I joined GIC 9 years ago as a sales professional working under Ed Pella in outside sales. A couple of years ago GIC created a new Regional Manager Position to cover the Southeast region. I was chosen for that role and was happy to take it. It proved successful, so eventually, GIC added three other Regional Manager positions.
I’m excited about the new change in reporting structure for our sales team. It will allow me to work directly with my sales professionals in a new way and I feel I will be able to influence their growth. I’ve always believed that people buy from those they consider partners. A sales person’s goal should not only be to leave a sales call with an order in hand, but to also have the customer think of them as an added value to their company. It’s a great way to overcome the price-cutting competitor. When approached by the competition, you want the customer to say, “No thanks, I already have a partner.”
With the sales individuals in my territory reporting directly to me, I can help them with these tactics and techniques. For example, I always ask, “Outside of price, what are the next three reasons people buy?” Test that theory by asking the customer, “So if I can match your price, will you buy from me?” If they say no, keep asking questions to understand what the buyer’s real motivation is. By taking the time to understand the customer, you can get to the real reason people buy. One customer told me, “I hate it when deliveries are late. I have a crew standing by and it costs me money.” There’s the real reason he’s buying. He needs on-time deliveries. Even when you don’t walk out with the order, you want to know “How can I become the second call you make?”
These are the types of sales tactics I want to make sure my team masters in order to become great GIC salespeople. The customer relationship is so important. One of my team members told me that in order to make the sale, he had to cut his prices. A year later, having built a great relationship with the customer, he got a call from him asking if he was making money. “Not much”, he said, and the customer then surprised him by saying, “Raise your prices…we need you around.” That’s what happens when you take the time to build a great relationship.
Salespeople are different and, typically, attention to detail is not a strong suit. While we love being in front of people and making a sale, we do not enjoy filling out the sales reports. As the Regional Manager, I have to walk a fine line between holding them accountable to the paperwork without taking them away from their core strength, which is sales. By having them report directly to me, I can make that process easier by working with them to streamline the reports.
Pete Corriveau – Midwest Regional Sales Manager
I am a GIC rebound. I started out working in the Chicago branch in the warehouse in 2010, moved to inside sales, eventually promoted to outside sales and then General Manager of the Chicago Branch. I loved General Insulation, but in 2017 I decided to pursue a different opportunity with ROCKWOOL™, formerly Roxul, Inc., on the architectural specification side of the business. GIC was all I had ever known and I was curious about what else was out there. A year later I was made aware that the GIC sales department was restructuring and, missing my GIC “family”, I applied for a Regional Sales Manager position. I’m glad I was lucky enough to be chosen and happy to be back.
The position interested me because I feel like I will be able to mold it. I am excited to have a team of 11 sales professionals to work with and learn from. We cannot forget that while the sales team is no longer reporting directly to the GM’s, we still need to collaborate with them because we need their input. I intend to reinforce that message with my team.
I am learning a lot from the other Regional Sales Managers and intend to prioritize my efforts to ensure my sales team develops the best skills possible. I read all the articles my peer John Coleman sends out, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and use my resources.
The advice I give to my team is “Don’t forget to stop the merry go round from time to time and take stock of where you are”. We have a lot of stuff going on and I don’t want things to fall through the cracks.
John Coleman, Northeast Regional Sales Manager
Be an asset to the customer
Having been in sales at GIC for 22 years, I am looking forward to this latest change. I believe it will give us another set of eyes in addition to the GMs and the VPs to diagnose what’s going on, allowing us a different outlook. With the 12 sales positions reporting to my team, it will be easier to train and mentor each individual. Though the northeast region has the most tenured salespeople, we currently have two openings; one in Carteret and one in Harrisburg. When those positions are filled I look forward to working with the new sales individuals.
I believe the four biggest mistakes salespeople make are:
- Talking too much;
- Not listening;
- Not asking for the order and;
- Not following up
This change will help me consistently share this message and hammer home these points. We need to move away from being an order taker to becoming an asset to the customer with our product knowledge. We need to be able to solve their problems. We’ve used this technique in the past and won a very large customer in the power plant business. They used to buy direct, but because of our ability to understand the products and guide them to a better solution, they are now buying directly from us, and have even added two more plants to boot.
This new reporting structure will make it easier to communicate with my team. I take the time to read every note put into our CRM by the sales team. It allows me to react quickly when something doesn’t make sense or someone needs help. I also plan on using Zoom as a regular communication tool to keep the virtual team connected.
I’ve always had a passion for sales. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment, allows me to continue learning and fulfills my sense of competition to never give up.
GIC has made many changes in their tactics and procedures over the years. Consolidating the sales team under one umbrella will not only alleviate the administrative workload from the operational team, but also help the sales team become more cohesive and set the foundation to take GIC to the next level. This is yet another way that GIC succeeds through their Culture of Commitment.