PODCASTS

Building a Winning Commercial Sales Organization

Building a Winning Commercial Sales Organization

With over 30 years in commercial and residential sales, Pat Jarvis delves into his multifaceted approach when working with his sales teams to create a winning attitude and success with AEC’s and BPM’s.

 


Podcast Participants:

Graham: Product Director Concora
Kip Rapp: CEO Concora
Pat Jarvis: Sales Specialist

 

Graham:

Hello folks, welcome into Concora Corner Presents, Meet the Industry, a podcast where we go inside the architect, engineering contractor or building products manufacturer industries, or both, and interview someone or a group of people who work in a particular field, be it marketing, sales, product, or the executive level or developers. And our goal here is really to take you behind the curtain and get to know someone at an in-depth level in terms of what they do, what the process is like. And hopefully, we can all learn something from that, be it we work in that field, the same field as a person, or if we don’t, it can help us appreciate what someone does a little bit more than what we do today.

 

Graham:

And our guest today is Pat Jarvis. Pat has worked at a number of companies for the last 30 plus years as a salesperson and our CEO Kip Rapp sat down with him to go through a ton of different things. It was a really cool interview. I did not really participate in this one, but I did help on the production side of things. But in terms of the interview, Kip really got into it with Pat in terms of really breaking down the number of different ways you can interface with clients, how he works with fellow salespeople, how he builds a sales team as a sales leader. These aren’t just surface answers. These are in-depth personal answers that are honest from a guy who has been successful at this for a long time.

 

Graham:

As someone who works in the product, specifically, I don’t really get an inside look at what our salespeople do. You see sales numbers, you talk to salespeople when they have a question about how something works or when they want to know when something’s coming out so they can get out there and sell it for you, but I don’t get a lot of time in a way to talk with the salespeople on a personal level, because I’m siloed off working with product and development. I’m trying to get features out for the salespeople to go sell. And I’m not really thinking about what they’re doing in order to be successful, in order to make the company successful. So this is a great opportunity for me to learn a lot from Pat in terms of what a salesperson really does. So without further ado, I think let’s get into this interview. Hope you enjoy it.

Pat’s awesome. Super sharp, smart guy, very successful. You’re going to like this a lot and we’ll check in with y’all after the interview.

 

Kip:

Great. Hey Pat, well, thanks for joining us and we appreciate your time today, and I’m really looking forward to listening to a lot more about your background experience. So it was really fun talking to you over the last few weeks. From here, would be great to talk about your background and experience. I know last time we talked that you had a very impressive background over the last 20, 30 years, so we can start from there.

 

Pat:

Well, great. Thanks, Kip. I really appreciate it. I appreciate your giving me an opportunity to come here and be on your podcast. I guess a little bit about me. I am married, three kids. One’s still in college. My wife and I became empty-nesters here just recently. But professional-wise, I’m a salesman, always been in sales. Came out of school in sales.

My first job was a hundred percent commission sales. As we used to say, you eat what you kill. Highly recommend anyone that who wants to get into sales their first job should be a hundred percent commission job. You find out whether you can do it, whether you like it. It was great for me. And then I really cut my teeth professionally after that, I went to work for Kohler. So I was there for about 13 years. Phenomenal company.

 

Pat:

And again, that’s kind of my entry into the building materials or plumbing world. From various positions, I came in as a sales rep to I managed for a while, I managed Kohler’s largest account, Ferguson. I actually moved to there, where they’ve located Newport News, and actually had an office in their building. That was interesting. And a few managerial positions. After that, I moved on to Dornbracht. Dornbracht is a luxury German faucets company. Super high-end, very contemporary and I ran the sales division and then added marketing on for the entire North American… Actually North and Central American division for them. And that was phenomenal. I learned a ton, learned a lot about the world too because you’re dealing with a German company. We’re worldwide… German-based, but we are worldwide. So we spent a lot of time in Germany, dealing with my counterparts, learned a lot about how Americans differ from the rest of the world.

 

Pat:

And these last couple of positions I’ve had, the same type of thing. I’ve run sales force as I was with them. Hydro Systems, which is a tub company based out of California for about a year. And then my most recent job was I was VP of business development for a company here locally in Atlanta called MTI Baths.

They make tubs, sinks, shower bases, ancillary things, and… That position was kind of unique. I ran the project side of the business, but also I was in charge of developing new business, business for things outside was being manufactured, things outside the plumbing world. We got into picture frames and when COVID hit we started making acrylic shields and things like that. So my background has always been in sales with the marketing piece on it.

 

Kip:

Well, Kohler their customer, buyers and really respect their brand and their products. Was all that in, I guess, throughout your career, been in commercial and residential sales or mostly commercial?

 

Pat:

No. Commercial and residential. I’ve had a little bit of both. I mean, Kohler certainly was both on the… After Kohler, Dornbracht we certainly had a good bit of commercial, but that was luxury commercial. When I say luxury commercial, we’re talking high-end hotels, high-end condos, and things like that. And then at MTI Baths, we did both commercial and residential. I was more in charge of the commercial side of the projects division though.

 

Kip:

Yeah, well, that’s great. Yeah, I’ve been talking to a lot of sales leaders and owners and I think for our listeners to be really interested… It comes up quite a bit with our conversations just like, how do you have a really good sales team? And selling commercially… I’ve talked to people that sell residentially and it’s different, right? Because residential, you can go to Home Depot and you have big-box stores and it’s not the same. And then sometimes I consider it’s like selling B2C versus B2B. And so, yeah, I’d love to hear your experience and the question is, what do you do with your sales leadership? How do you find, and what do you look for in building a good team?

 

Pat:

Sure. Well, and often what I found is, unfortunately, it depends on the side of the company. Often you have salespeople that are selling both. You have them both done residential and commercial though they’re very different sales. Certainly, good salespeople can do both, but many I should say most cannot do both. Well, kind of a Jack of all trades master of none concept.

But commercial-wise, I’ll start with this, I guess any sales-wise, the very first thing I look for, number one is attitude. There’s a lot of things that I can teach. I can teach you product skills. I can teach you sales skills. I can teach you closing, but I can’t teach you attitude. And that comes through very quickly. And so to me, that’s one of the number one skills that I look for. And again, I don’t call it a skill, a characteristic, I guess. But then as we get into things I look for when I’m looking to build a sales team, first and foremost on the commercial side, the process is much longer. A sale content from six months to two or three years.

 

Pat:

And so when you’re looking for salespeople, they need to understand that it’s not instant gratification. In residential tends to be much more, let’s say, you go into a showroom, you go into Home Depot and you make a presentation that gives you a big order and you’re good to go. Well, on the commercial side of the business, there’s a lot of people in the chain. It’s a long process. And so if you’re an instant gratification kind of guy, girl, you won’t do well on that. So that’s a key thing.

 

Pat:

And then kind of related to that is, like with any sales, but particularly with something that takes a while is a relationship building. Being able to build strong relationships and often those are based… they’re always based on trust. And so being able to build trust, I think is a key component, particularly when you’re looking at a long sales cycle because it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. And then again, depending on the type of business that you’re in, depending on who you’re selling, for instance, I did a lot of business where we’re selling to architects and designers. That’s very different, even though they weren’t… or they weren’t the buyer, they were the decision-maker. And so having salespeople that

know how to interact with the trade, and again, architects and designers are different than builders and plumbers, which are different than engineers. So being able to specifically know who you’re going after and what kind of trade that is and they can talk to those people I think is vital.

 

Pat:

And then finally, always look at the market that I’m hiring for, for instance, when I worked at Dornbracht, I had some great salespeople. Some of them were really good, follow up, they weren’t great but they were super trustworthy. So for a mature market, a very different salesperson, for instance, if I’m hiring for New York where we have a very mature market versus maybe I’m hiring for Cleveland, Ohio, where we don’t have any business. I need someone that knows how to understand, can hear no over and over and over again, and keep going and keep pounding the pavement. So understanding your market, where you’re hiring too, I think is vital for building a sales force.

 

Kip:

Sure. Yeah. So you mentioned quite a few great things there with well, one attitude and it appears all these types of different characteristics around their personality from being able to build a relationship. And as you mentioned, new markets versus mature markets, it requires a different type of resilience I would imagine, right? As you mentioned with the rejection. But with attitude, and we’ve seen this with our company too, it’s what I always thought is hiring good leaders and good folks there are definitely common denominators. One is around maybe it’s empathy or personality with being able to obviously communicate well and understand and listen. So from a, I guess, from that kind of characteristic, are there common denominators, independent if it’s a new market or old market, or? And then the second thing with a salesperson, do they have to be good at all the facets of the pipeline? You mentioned cold calling versus closing business. So can we talk more about maybe the personality side? Are there common denominators? And then later we can talk about from a sales practice.

 

Pat:

No, absolutely. I think just general sales again, doesn’t matter what sales you’re in. There are a lot of common denominators. Certainly, to me, attitude is always the number one for me. Per I say attitude. I mean, you have a bad attitude. I’m thinking positive attitude. And the reason that is because people want to be around people that are positive, they bring you up, they make you feel good. Well, I still do this to a lesser extent now, but when I was younger I went through a class that taught me before you make a big sales call, surround yourself, be around some positive people. They really bring you up and make sure not around negative people because they really bring you down. And you don’t realize how that is. For instance, when I was young I couldn’t watch the news because the news was negative. It brings you down. It’s very negative. So that trait there I think is vital.

 

Pat:

You mentioned a couple of other ones, empathy versus sympathy. It’s funny because my family is always saying, “Dad you’re not empathetic.” And that’s something I’ve always struggled with because it’s very different being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. And I think that’s a key trait also, which is, that goes to… I mean, I’m sure it’s kind of an old cliche, but that goes to kind of a win-win scenario, which is, it’s not if you get a better deal, you win and they lose. It’s like if you get the sale, you win and they get… you feel their need and they win. So to me, those were a couple of skills that absolutely… And again, that cuts across, be it commercial, residential, or whether you’re selling software, a hard product, a service, whatever it may be. So absolutely I think there are a number of those skills.

 

Pat:

But some skills like patience. I mentioned the long sales cycle. Patience is a very key one. Again, it’s one that took me a while to learn is not everyone, particularly salespeople, there are kind of go out and get it. I want it done now. And being able to have… Being able to learn patience and that was a learned skill, absolutely.

Because I know that’s a skill that I’ve learned. So I think that is something… Certainly, somebody comes in with it that helps, but there’s a fine line between patience and not being active. You got to be careful with that. You can be patient. I want someone that’s kind of with the attitude, if it ain’t broke break it, but I also want someone with patience. And so there’s a fine line between those, but certainly, that is a skillset on the commercial side that you need for sure.

 

Kip:

Yeah. No, it makes sense. I think with the patience because we struggle with that too, is like, it’s really hard to hire good people and they might’ve been successful at other companies and it’s a combination of if it’s transactional selling or complex selling, what they’re selling, a lot of domain knowledge. We’ve realized that they have to trust you to buy from you in a lot of cases. And in order to trust you, there’s a relationship side to it and there’s expertise. They say, “Oh, do you know what my business?” And from there you have a chance to build a relationship where you can ask and influence and in that case as an offer of value. So I do understand that and need patience versus aggressiveness. They have to be assertive, but they can’t be aggressive. So that’s how I’ve kind of thought about that is that there are these transcendent skills for selling no matter where you are.

 

Kip:

Maybe in transactional environments or if you order taking, you can probably be a little light on some of those characteristics, but if you get into a fairly competitive environment, I would say, where you have to go after the sales, then I would venture to guess that you would have to be pretty good at most of these things.

 

Pat:

Absolutely. And you bring up the keyword trust. We throw that word around a lot, trust, how do you build trust? And one of the things, one of the best ways that I’ve found is particularly in the cycle of the commercial sales, not only is it a long cycle but once you get the order, the work just starts. I mean, there’s a lot of work to get the order, but once you get the order, I mean, you’re not even 50% there, then you ship it, and then it gets installed. And this brings up this point of trust is to me, trust is built often through problems. Because you’re going to have problems, maybe not on every job, but there are going to be problems.

 

Pat:

So trust is built on how you solve the problems, how quickly you solve the problems, how thoroughly you solve the problems because when you’re dealing with customers that you deal with frequently, this isn’t a one and done kind of sale, they know, “Hey, we’re going to have a problem.” And trust is built when they have a problem and you solve the problem, you solve it quickly.

They know next time I have a problem that guy’s there for me. I know when we have this problem, he’s going to jump on and he’s going to go to the job site, he’s going to work with the plumber, he’s going to follow back up with a design or whatever it may be. And to me, that’s a huge part of building trust.

 

Pat:

It kind of goes back to often every now and again, when your customer says, “You know what? I’m going to go see how your competition does.” The competition does a crappy job. Sometimes that’s good because they come back to you and they go, “Wow. I didn’t realize how much I appreciate it all that you do and how good you are and how much I trust you.” So it’s not always bad when your, customer spends a little bit of time with your competition, assuming they’re going to do it better than you do.

 

Kip:

Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. So the second part of that is again, back to where we have salespeople and we’re not… our product is not transactional. It’s generally a complex type of selling process where you really have to understand the pain and the value in what you’re trying to do with the customer and their business. But we realized too because we’re a little different, more it’s an entrepreneurial type of selling and it requires then a salesperson that has multiple facets where they can prospect, they can close deals. They have that balance between assertiveness and patience and they have a discernment and a listening and an empathy style that’s very compelling. So I was wondering in your environment, is that similar or can you, based on the territory and what you’re selling, can you overweight in certain areas of sales talent and compensate it with maybe sales engineers of some sort? Or how does that work?

 

Pat:

Yeah, no, again, the short answer to that question is absolute yes. It’s funny you kind of bring up those things because I always say the very best salespeople are the most difficult to manage. Because they push the boundaries on everything. But let’s say, we’ll go back to the example here we have a mature market. Who I need there is very different than saying who I need in a brand new market. And their skillsets are a bit different too. Their philosophies are different, maybe their level of patience is different. Their action-oriented amount is different. Their kind of, if it ain’t broke don’t break it or if it ain’t broke break it kind of philosophy is a little bit different. So again, I kind of go back to… Yeah. You look at all their skills from… The attitude never changes to me. A positive attitude never changes, but from the empathetic skills to being able to hear no. Having that resiliency, like for instance, in a new market. Salespeople have to learn to hear them no.

 

Pat:

And to me, I used to always say to my salespeople, no doesn’t mean no, it just means not now. Try again soon. But you can take that to the extreme, right? And so in newer markets, I need people that have more of that attitude, which has no just means, “Okay, I need to try again. I need to try again. I’ve only got three nos. I haven’t failed enough today. I need to fail a little bit more. I need to get four or five nos because that means my pipeline is getting bigger.” I think those skills are definitely different in different markets, but they all have some of those same similar types of skillsets. The one skillset that I personally don’t think is that important is that you understand the product when I hire you. That is something that can be taught, not being able to take a product and being able to sell not the feature, but the benefit that is something that is key across the board.

 

Pat:

I mean, too many people spend too much time, “Well, this product does this, this and this.” Good salespeople, great salespeople know how to… That goes back to the empathy that you mentioned earlier that let me put myself in their shoes and what is the problem they have and what can my product do? Service, product, whatever it may be. What can it do to solve their problem?

 

Kip:

Sure. And again, in our business having a methodology and training around sales is important where…And I don’t necessarily say it’s the actual methodology that you have to prescribe to, but it brings you into the sales type of process where you understand the stages of a sale, right? From the early relationship to finding the pain and the problem and aligning to their need and sense of urgency and importance, then having these type of next steps and… Some people have… I know there’s like the Sandler methodology, there’s BANT, there’s MEDDIC. Is that also important for your sales team, that they have some kind of selling methodology?

 

Pat:

Yeah, absolutely. Again, I’m not… There’s a lot of them out there. I mean, it’s funny the ones I learned were the ABCs of close, always be closing. I’m not a proponent of that. If you’re selling your one-and-done type of things, maybe that’s it. But for sure, and again, depending on the company that you’re with and the product that you’re selling, a good company is going to have kind of a training program that says, “Okay, here are the products we have, and here’s kind of the methodology that we follow.” I think that is vitally important. And it does, it gets tweaked again, back to kind of the markets that you’re looking at. Is it a mature market? Is it a new market? You have a little bit of both. Is it a designer-oriented market? Isn’t it plumber oriented market? So those things do get tweaked along the way, but had certainly a good sales methodology I think is important.

 

Kip:

So here’s, I think another thing I’ve kind of heard through my discussions with sales leaders and CEOs of… Okay, now you have a salesperson and really looking for your opinion here, Pat, on how they developed their territory. Let’s say it is a new market because we run into a lot of small businesses and they want to grow. One they want to just grow commercial sales because they’d been localized and they know that they can either branch out into new territories or it could be a marketing strategy that they’re missing. But now let’s say they really want to build out new territory and they’re going after, I’d say, for the most part, we have two people, two camps of people they’re going after architects upfront in the early design, or they’re going after GCs.

 

Kip:

Maybe we can pick one of those, but what’s your… How would you go after like if you were having a team and you’re building out new territory and let’s say you need to get with architects, for example, that’s probably the most common use case is getting specked early and holding the spec? Yeah. So I’d be really interested in knowing your thoughts on that.

 

Pat:

Well, first and foremost, I mean, sales is a numbers game. The more you have in the pipeline, the more you close, I mean, that tends to be it, but you got to do that smartly, not a shotgun approach. And by that, I mean, like if I’m working with a person in a new market like that, the first thing I say is let’s find a target list of people that we want to go after. We create that target list and you can’t just say, it’s all architecture, all designers. I mean, there’s a ton of architects and designers in the United States. So I mean, you’re just endless and so you figure out, “Well, okay, let’s say we’re going after commercial architects. Okay. Commercial architects that are working on hotel projects.” For instance. So we’ve narrowed that down and then we create that list. That’s first and foremost.

 

Pat:

And as a start, reaching out to them. Maybe I’m a little bit more old school, but I’m a much more… I’m not a big proponent of the kind of just fire off emails to everybody because everybody nowadays, I mean, geez by nine o’clock, everybody’s got 300 emails. Right. And I mean, pick up the phone, try and set up an appointment, but have a reason, “Hey, I want to talk to you about the service we have. I want to talk to you about this product that we have. Stop by.” I mean, it needs to be logical. Again, related to that, this kind of goes back a little bit too cold calling. And I still do this. I still do this with young people or I shouldn’t say young, but with new salespeople and I…

 

Pat:

It’s funny, I think about this. Last year I was in Arizona with one of our seasoned salespeople and they hadn’t done cold calls in years. I’m like, “We’re going to spend an entire day doing cold calls.” So we had our list and this was a salesperson, a woman and she was close to my age. So she wasn’t young. But we decided what we’re going to do, who we’re going to call, and what we’re going to say. I would say we made eight cold calls. We got in the door four times. In a couple of those, three of the four times ended up being 45-minute appointments.

 

Pat:

So if you have something to sell and you have a plan in place, I think that is key. And so I’m again, just firing off emails, waiting for people to call up and say, “Oh yeah, great. I want to see you.” Nowadays in our technological age, I think that’s just too easy of a cop-out and as a manager of salespeople, helping them down that road I think is important. I just don’t say, “Make a target. Let’s go at it and let me know how you do at the end of the week.” Somebody once told me this concept of trust and verification. I like that term, which is, I gave you a little bit of rope, but I don’t want to let you hang yourself. I give you a say, “Hey, you want to go to… By the end of the day, you want to be D but I want to check along the way, how are you doing? Do you need help?”

 

Pat:

Again, going back to this example, the cold calls, and we did these cold calls, we took turns. I do want you to critique me on it, even though you work for me, you do want me to critique you on, what could have you said better? We’re annoying. They wouldn’t let you in the door, those kinds of things. It’s different on different types of clientele, for instance, architectural designers. Typically there’s a gatekeeper. You just can’t pop in. For instance, a distributor showroom or a plumber, it’s a little easier to get in to see them.

 

Pat:

Architects and designers, it’s harder to get in and you typically have a gatekeeper, getting past the gatekeeper. Their skillsets so they’re, “Oh, I want to check on your library.” Those types of things. You got to be aggressive, but not obnoxious, those types of things. So for sure, there are definitely some skills to do on that.

 

Kip:

And I really appreciate that there’s a lot of… It sounds like in your process, a side-by-side type of practice and coaching and review, and kind of that player-coach mentality, it appears.

 

Pat:

The one thing that I learned is when you become a manager they don’t give you a pill that says, “Well, I’m smarter than you and I’m better than you because I now have this pill.” I mean, I’ve managed many a salesperson that was way better presenter than me, or way better cold calls. So we’re teaching each other. I mean, I’m critiquing, but I also when I travel with salespeople, I often do a presentation. I want them to critique me because I’m always learning too. And it helps them also because they’re looking at things from a little bit different perspective. So that kind of… we’ll call player-coach to me is vitally important.

 

Kip:

So that’s really cool. So just to go through that example. You’re doing cold calls. You were able to get four appointments in your example out of these eight or so. So what happens next? Are you visiting these folks? Is it another meeting? I know I’m not as familiar with these firms and I understand there’s a gatekeeper and eventually, there’s someone you got to convince the decision-maker. So can you walk me through that?

 

Pat:

Sure, absolutely. I mean, the bigger firms typically have a gatekeeper but a lot of the smaller firms don’t. A lot of times maybe it’s a firm that’s got four or five designers or architects and you stick your head in the door and you’re talking to the owner. Right? And I mean, the goal typically on a cold call isn’t to give a presentation. Although sometimes I say, you know what? Wow, I’m glad you’re here. We’re working on a project and we need a whatever, whatever, can you show me what you got? You need to be prepared for that. I mean, you got to be prepared. “Okay, great.” And you give that presentation. Typically, the goal is to kind of, for me a goal, it’s almost like a resume is to an interview is. The goal is to tell them enough about you, where they’ll have some interest and you set up a time where they give you undivided attention.

 

Pat:

The challenge with the cold call is if you’re trying to launch into a presentation after they let you in the door, and they’re thinking, “I got five minutes for this.” And five minutes isn’t a lot of time for the presentation. You want to get them interested enough where they say, “Well, listen, can I set a time to come back where you can get me half an hour, 45 minutes an hour and kind of let you talk about…” If you can leave that cold call with some info, maybe a project they’re working on, things they are frustrated with you.

 

Pat:

And one of the things I say, one of the things that I run into all the time is, “We’re placing… We’re pulling out tubs and putting in showers but the drain’s always offset and plumbers hate it.” You think, “Great, I got a solution for that.” You come back in the next time when you give a presentation or you’re helping them work on the spec, you have that problem solved. That’s often what it is. And I would say more

often than not when you get in the door, that’s typically what it is. I mean, rarely do you get… Although it happens. You get where they say, “Yeah, no, sit down. Tell me all about your company.” I mean, every now and again, that happens.

 

Kip:

Sure. As you mentioned with these, in your example for appointments, sometimes there may be a problem and it appears that when you’re talking to these folks, these architects that they’re interested in for you to come in for whatever reason, is it mainly educate and understand your product, not necessarily having a problem in mind or does it help, as you mentioned, to have a problem? Or what is the normal kind of common scenario that happens? Because obviously you’re on the phone call with them and you tell them about your company and your products, and then they let you in the door and then you’re set up for, I guess, a 30 or 60-minute presentation after that?

 

Pat:

Yeah, I would say typically, and again, it’s kind of goes back to because the commercial sell is a long sales cycle, typically you’re educating them, right? Because [inaudible 00:30:00] going in. Often they don’t have a project in mind and you’re going in and you’re solving that need for that particular project and you’re educating them and you’re telling them about your line and some of the key things that your products, solutions that your problems… your products can solve. And then down the line, they say, “Oh yeah, no, I saw that. I knew that MTI, that Dornbracht, that Kohler, and they have this, let me follow back up with Pat again on that.” So that’s more typical when you’re doing that, but there are… Again, these architects and designers are always working on specs and they’re always looking for things and so you come in.

 

Pat:

Often they’re in a situation where they’re looking for that tub or that faucet, or they have this problem that they need to move this wall or the shower base is… They can’t find one that fits so they want to customize, and they can’t find something like that. That comes up more often than you would think, and being prepared to solve that problem. The thing that I said about that first cold call, which is if you can figure out what that is before you leave when you come back for the presentation, you can tailor your presentation to solve that, to create that solution for them. Typically, you got to be prepared for the kind of general, overview.

 

Pat:

And again, it’s not just, let me just throw up all the information about my company. Because I mean, I think that’s another challenge that salespeople, we want to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, and we just throw information on at you before even knowing, “Well, what do you need?”

I mean, if we can find out what you need, then we can tailor the presentation and talk about two or three key things. So you walk away going, you remember not, he shared me 37 products, and I can’t remember any of them. And that’s the typical salesperson I would say. We as salespeople do that way too much.

 

Kip:

Yeah. So I’m just trying to live in these architects’ shoes. So if you’re coming in, are they mainly… is this a kind of a characteristic where they’re just open for manufacturers to come in and just educate them a little about products and for the future, maybe on these projects they do later and giving them more options? Or I assume they’re open to using different manufacturer’s products. And my guess is they’ve been using their own manufacturers’ products for the last few years. Right? What’s kind of the mindset of that architect then? Is it because they’re just open to being educated or they’re looking for new products to use in the future or new designs that they want to do in the future?

 

Pat:

I mean, it’s a little bit of everything. One of the things that architects and designers is because the market is changing and the products are changing so dramatically. I mean, just think of where, just take the electronic product, the electronics in the bathroom in the last five years. I mean, that has changed dramatically. So they understand that what they were using last year could be outdated for what’s available this year. So that educational aspect of it, absolutely. Most of them, most of the good ones understand that and they want people to come in and educate them. I think that the biggest challenge is like I mentioned before, they have too many salespeople come in and just throw up information on them and they get overloaded.

 

Pat:

So they want to hear what’s new, what’s latest, what can help solve my problems. So I think that’s kind of the biggest thing that they want when you come in, but there are, and again this is where the relationship building comes in. Because once you do that and you start to build this relationship, then when they have a problem, “Hey, I’m working on this project and we have this problem.” They pick up the phone and call you and say, “Pat, listen, I’m working on this project and this is the problem we have. Do you guys have a product that can help me solve?” You create a solution for this. I mean, that’s where you want to be with architects and designers because they’re calling you to help you. They’re telling you what the problem is. They’re reaching out to you because you’ve built that relationship with them. So that’s where you want to be ultimate.

 

Kip:

Sure. Yeah. And I do hear things around AIA and continuing education credits. So is that needed for what you’re doing or does it help or any thoughts on that?

 

Pat:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we do a lot of CEUs, continuing education credits, and number one, they have to have those. But the best thing about that for a salesperson is that gets your foot in the door, right? “Hey, yeah, we have a CEU on thermostatic valves.” For instance. And so that gets your foot in the door. And again, that CEU isn’t… When you give that presentation, it’s not brand-based, meaning you can’t be about your brand, but I mean, you’re using your products in it. And you’re educating them, but they’ll see things in there as you use your products, and usually when you get to the end, they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know you guys had this, or you can do this.”

 

Pat:

I mean, those are vital. Just generally to help the design community, the architectural design community understand whatever you’re talking about. It’s a great foot in the door for a salesperson, a manufacturer, salesperson to get in there and educate the architect, designer.

 

Kip:

Yeah. So it sounds like, get your foot in the door. So it’s cold calling. It could be the continued education. Once you’re in here, it’s about your attitude and your personality, and the relationship. You’re educating them on your products and you’re trying to find a problem to solve. And what it sounds like is that if they trust you and they have more than a name, and they see you as a real person, they understand your products and you also may be picked up a problem or two that you may be able to help out in the future. And then it also sounds like now that they remember you, they may call you back in the future, says, “Oh, Pat was here. We talked about a specific problem. I have this other problem or the same problem. I may want to call Pat up because I want to see if we’re able to resolve this.”

 

Pat:

I should write that down. That sounds like a sales philosophy. But no, I mean, yeah, you’ve kind of gathered. I mean, that’s the ideal way it should work from start to finish, getting in and doing all those things. I mean, I wish everyone worked that way. It’s all always, I would say 95% of the time it’s parts and pieces of that. And again, to me, the other part of that is just the general follow-up, meaning you’ve done all that. Everything’s perfect. Right? And you haven’t talked to this designer or this architect in six months, you follow up saying, “Hey, listen, we’ve got a couple of new things out that I think might be a fit for you. And I know you guys work on… You do luxury hotels. We’ve got a couple of new products I think would be ideal. Do you have 20 minutes for me to come back in and kind of update you?”

 

Pat:

I think too often, salespeople get too comfortable and they just assume you know everything there is to know about us because we see you and so forth. We see you at shows and whatever, but that’s not the case and they need to continually be updated because the market is changing, so the products are changing. They’re advancing so quickly nowadays. I mean, what was a trend, what was a style a year and a half ago could completely be out the window and completely have changed in that short period of time. I mean, a trend used to take 10 years to… It was in for 10 years and now a trend can pop up and it can go away in a matter of a couple of years. I mean, things that I remember back, even a few years ago, colors change and finishes change and styles change. So keeping them updated and educated, I think is vitally important.

 

Kip:

Sure. No, that’s a good point. It’s a lot about being top of mind and memorable for that person that you want to do business with. And the follow-up sounds great because it keeps you top of mind and you’re not selling, you’re educating and you’re informing and I think a lot of people need that. They don’t want to be sold to, right? They want to be informed.

 

Pat:

Absolutely. I mean, it is ultimately it is because particularly with a long sales cycle, often you have to give a presentation and you think you’re educating, but six months down the road, all of a sudden they have a project they’re like, “Oh yeah, Pat came and gave that presentation. They have a product that’s perfect for this.” And you may never even know that you got that sale because you made that presentation and the designer ended up specifying the product and the product went through the distributor and got bought. And you weren’t even in that cycle once it happened, but you started it because of the education that you gave. So you got that sale, but you didn’t even know it. That happens a lot. And that’s why getting out and educating is vital because it creates those specs. It gets you that lead… It helps you become that lead spec on the specifications.

 

Kip:

That’s cool. So in that practice, you’re doing the follow-up and you’re building a business. So obviously it’s about performance at the end and you have a sales team, that’s doing this and now they’re getting into the doors. So what is then the general expectation then, is it follow up and then eventually out of a handful of these, they’re going to be further down the relationship or the funnel as far as, “Oh yeah. Now we have some potential project work or I got some interest on the third meeting with this architectural firm.”? So could you walk us through that?

 

Pat:

Sure. Well, I mean, some of it is exactly that, which is there are multiple meetings and you go down to a project and you continue down that road and you close that project. Bigger projects tend to be that way, but also I’m amazed how often that I’ll see a project come in the week, let’s say we don’t think we had anything to do with it. I’ll find out who specified. It was specified by ABC Supply and I’ll think back, “Wow, our salespeople, our salesperson did a presentation to them a year ago.” And we know those two are linked. I can’t link them and I’m not going to spend hours calling them up going, “Hey, did you spec this because of this?” But I know that is the case. That tends to drive more of the smaller projects.

 

Pat:

The bigger projects, as we did, like when I was with MTI, we did a lot of projects with Vegas. We did a lot of projects with Atlantic City, with Disney and those projects just take an enormous amount of time because they’re huge specs and there are 18 different people involved and you’re involved every step of the way. And those are great when you get those projects, but you can’t live off those projects. That’s that follow-up, that education, those things that that the sales rep continually does. It doesn’t even know… You can’t always, one-to-one say I sold that project, but the pipeline… It’s amazing. The ones that do that best, their sales tend to grow even if they can’t, one-to-one say yes, this project came from this presentation to this architect there.

 

Kip:

Yeah. So it sounds like there’s the blocking and tackling of the outreach, the education, the meetings that kind of grows that base for these maybe specs that you don’t know you’re in and then… It’s like with our business, you have a mix of whales, right? And you have a mix of other fish in the sea and you will sustain from the consistent fishing. And then you have these big whales that you can go after. So is that a fair-

 

Pat:

To me, it goes back to the pipeline. The bigger your pipeline, and often you work on a spec that you think is dead. You talk to somebody and they said, “Yeah, we’re looking for this.” And you’ll help them spec it and you followed up five or six times over six months and you think it’s dead and all of a sudden, unbeknownst to you order comes in and you’re on it. You’re like, “Holy, wow. I didn’t…” That happens. I wish I had it done for every time that happens. So that’s filling up that pipeline and keeping that pipeline full and then being able to measure where you are in that pipeline too.

I never rule out a project until it’s been ruled out, meaning, you found out it got spec’d something else. It got ordered…it’s not dead. Your projects lay dormant. Especially in markets like we’re in now with the whole COVID craziness.


Pat:

Your funding won’t happen and all of a sudden you don’t get an influx. A year later it happens. So some of them you’re going to work a ton on and you’re going to say, “Wow, it wasn’t worth what I did to get it.” And some of them you’re going to make a presentation and all of a sudden, a hundred-thousand-dollar job comes in because all you did was make an hour-long presentation to the design firm, but you told them exactly what they needed to hear.


Kip:

Yeah. This is really interesting because, again, I’m not as familiar with this industry, but let’s say it appears that if you are spec’d and you have that line of sight, then you want to try to keep the spec is my guess. And then there are others where you’re not sure you’re spec’d, but you actually are honest to you. And then the other area I’m interested in understanding is then that evidence because being spec’d don’t mean you’ll be purchased. So from a sales compensation, is that than a year or two down the road, when you actually get purchased by the sub-contractor of some sort?

 

Pat:

Being the lead spec, isn’t the end all be all. But boy, it sure puts you in position A, right? I mean, because what happens is often products are spec’d, they have a lock back which means that our tech specs and says, nobody can change this back. Right. But more often than not, things get spec’d to… There’s a spec and they get an or equal, which means down the road, the distributor can change it, the plumber can change it, people can change the spec depending on who gets involved. And that does happen, but still, if you’re the lead spec, often it doesn’t get changed. Distributor’s like I sell that. That’s fine with me. I make the same off of product A as I do product B and they wanted product A so stay with product A. So you always want to try and be the lead spec.

 

Pat:

Obviously, if you’re not the lead spec, you always try and change the spec. Right? You want to find out what the spec is, and you go-to distributor and say, “What? Aah. You want to put me it’s an or equal. You want to put me in the spec because I’ll make you some more money or you know if there’s a problem you know my kind of follow-up.” Those types of things. So the specification process is vitally important. And on the big projects, there’s a lot of people involved in the pec. I mean, an owner hires an architect, designer, they create the spec, the owner may… Some owners are like, “No, I want to be involved.” Some owners are like, “I hired you. You’re a professional. I trust you.” The GCs can get involved. Plumbers or mechanicals are good examples often in a commercial-spec, depending on the type of commercial-spec. But I’m talking to the more luxury, which I’ve been more involved with.

 

Pat:

The plumber’s typically not the one driving spec, but they can kill the spec pretty quick. If you get your product specs the plumber says, “Oh my God, I used that product on my last job and they were horrible.” You know what I mean? They’re not driving spec, but they just killed you on the spec. So making sure you have that relationship with the plumbers, and not just a relationship, but that trust, that trust that you’ve built up with them, that they know you, they know your product, they know the follow-up, those types of things. Those are important, particularly on large projects also.

 

Pat:

Finding out all the people that are involved in the chain. I remember you and I talked about this, you know what I mean? It can be an owner, an architect, a designer, a general contractor. Then you can have a mechanical contractor, then you have the distributor. I mean, all those people, depending on the project have influence. Again, that’s on a bigger project, but there’s a lot of people in that chain that can influence that, good or bad. Not all of them can say, I can pick the spec, but many of them, if not, most of them can kill a spec.

 

Kip:

Sure. So is it up to the rep to then make sure that once they have a line of sight to the spec to keep the spec and hold the spec until it gets purchased, is that part of the responsibility?

 

Pat:

To me, that is a key role that the sales rep plays, which is once you become the lead spec, okay, that’s fantastic. But you’ve got to hold that spec all the way through till the distributor orders it, right? There’s a lot of people, again, depending on the size of the project, a lot of people that can change that spec, they can kill that spec. And so making sure if you can find out all the people in the chain and at least have a relationship with them or meet them, they know who you are, they understand your product because often you’re dealing with people that as the spec moves down the line, somebody gets involved and says, “Well, I’ve always used…”

 

Pat:

For instance, at MTI, let’s say we become the lead spec, and then all of a sudden it rolls down to the mechanical contractor and he says, “Well, geez, I’ve always used Kohler. I’m more comfortable with Kohler. I really prefer to use Kohler.” Depending on how locked that spec is that they’re off checking. “Okay, I’m fine with it. You’re the one installing it.” And again, often there’s a lot of people in that chain.

 

 Kip:

So it sounds like you, if you have a line of sight to the spec, and then once you to have a line of sight that you are in a spec and it’s up to the salesperson to try to keep that all the way through the purchase. And then I’m guessing also if there are other specs that you’re not in, and then you have these relationships with distributors and engineers, then you can go after them to try to educate them, to get you the preferred purchase I would imagine.

 

Pat:

To me this kind of goes back to the whole, we’re talking about the spec process and you see how unbelievably complicated this is, right? I mean, particularly in a bigger job, there’s a lot to it. And as I said, I mean, you’re… Okay, let’s say you hold the spec all the way through the distributor and the distributor orders it. Okay, wow, your job is just starting now. You’re really, and oftentimes you’re not even 50% there. And this kind of goes back to what we started at the very beginning with the patience and seeing things through, because so many salespeople, want to fly in, make the sale, fly and move on to the next. And this is not that way.

 

Pat:

And again, one of the great things is if you drive that spec all the way through, you hold it all the way through, you get the order, the order comes in, it ships, you have a couple of problems, whatever, you fix those, it gets installed. Maybe you had to train the plumbers on site. You do all of that and everything’s golden. Well, boy, that sure helps the next time when another large job comes in. All those people that are involved in that line said, “I know Pat and I know he solved these couple of problems and we’re all ready to lease back.” The plumber’s like I’m already in. It helps so much on that recurring business, I guess I would say.

 

Kip:

Yeah, well, that’s interesting. I never really thought about it that way, because you are not only drumming up business and doing the cold calls and doing the education and all the foot traffic that you have to do there. But once you’re in the spec that’s kind of the middle part and you’ve got to get purchased. That’s still not even the end part, right? Where you then have to take ownership of the installation and maybe use it, right?

 

Pat:

We want to train, say the plumbers on site. Well, the sales guy might not be the guy to do that, right? You want to bring in one of your tech guys that talk like a plumber talks. I mean, like for me, I’m all average technical, so I conversate about the product, but when the plumber starts talking about detail, the first thing I do is say, “You know what? I don’t know about that. I need to bring in a professional because that’s not my skill set.” So it’s not so much you’re always doing all of it, but you’re for sure coordinating. And again, as I said, you have jobs where you did a presentation and it got purchased and it got bought. Everything’s good. That’s all he did. So there’s a little bit of everything in there.

 

Kip:

Well, that’s great Pat. I really appreciate the time here. It’s been fascinating and very educational for me and I would think that our audience would love this. It does come up quite a bit where I run into all maturities of sales frameworks across these companies and marketing frameworks. So I do think your input is going to be invaluable for a lot of our listeners and.

Pat:

Well, you know what? I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Again, I’m a sales guy, right? So I like to talk. But I really appreciate you giving me the chance to come on the podcast and just kind of talk to you about how the process works and sales, and particularly in the commercial side of the plumbing industry. It’s been a delight. It really has. I’ve really enjoyed this. And again, I’m happy to come back anytime you need me. So just let me know.

 

Kip:

Yeah, it’s been great, Pat. And even with the plumbing, I see a lot of overlap across the other trades and your insights to how to build a team, what’s important from an attitude and skillset to the actual selling framework of selling into new markets, because I know that’s a struggle for a lot of our companies. I really appreciate that. And that basic blocking and tackling, you mentioned. Having either the cold calls or emails, but doing that is the bread and butter of a great salesperson, along with to what you said throughout that sales cycle, being involved, having a relationship, being a problem solver, getting the spec, holding the spec and making sure that your products are then installed and delivered. And as you mentioned, it may not happen for all the small projects, but that definitely sounds like a good rubric that people can follow, especially for bigger projects.

 

Kip:

We absolutely appreciate your time. I know you’re a busy guy. Would welcome you again back. We can talk about other parts of selling. And I think with this for our audience members, this is Concora and we help to build product manufacturers across the design community of selling their products on their website, getting specified more, and we offer these web… podcasts, sorry, so that we can educate our audience on what’s really important. And it’s important to us. It’s really about helping our manufacturers sell more products through better sales and marketing, and hopefully using our platform in the future. Thank you again for your time, Pat, and really appreciate it.

 

Pat:

Thanks a lot. Have a great weekend.

 

Graham:

All right, folks that wrap us up for today’s show. So you can find our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and SoundCloud by searching for the Concora Corner. And if you’d like to, we’d love a rating and a short review, if you listen on Apple. Any feedback is appreciated on any of our shows that are coming out or just the show in general, or if you just want to say hello. You can find out more about Concora and our services at www.concora.com. We’re on Facebook at facebook.com/ConcoraLLC. We are on Twitter @concora and you can find us on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/concora. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

 

 

Concora is the Web Experience Platform for Building Product Manufacturers.