Learning to Hunt Where the Ducks Are

Barrett Riddleberger

Energy efficiency, as a driver in commercial architecture and construction, isn’t going away any time soon. Green construction and LEED Certification for commercial property are becoming more and more standard as energy costs rise and owners emphasize environmental responsibility as a marketable feature of their brands.

Finding customers for energy-efficient windows for high-rise buildings is easy in the more environmentally conscious construction arena. But marketing, selling and making money on these opportunities is where it gets tougher.

This is where Wausau Window and Wall Systems found a fresh competitive advantage with a new sales process supported by comprehensive training.

For more than five decades, Wausau has been an industry leader in providing high-quality window and curtainwall solutions for commercial buildings. Today, the company is a leader in sustainable solutions. In 2013, Wausau honed its marketing strategy to precisely target prospects that it knew it could win and seek out projects that were best suited to its business model. Essentially, they wanted to improve their sales process and increase the number and size of wins.

The fundamental change to achieve this goal was simple: get sales and engineering to work together up front to spec the most ideal projects to pursue. However, making this happen was more complicated. It meant a tectonic shift for a sales organization that, like any group people, has a tendency to become comfortable with the status quo.

Training was Critical
Many corporations struggle to put a value on hefty investments in training and development, but for sales training, it’s easier to identify value through clear metrics, because effective sales training yields a standardized process for increasing revenue.

For Wausau, training everyone on the new process helped result in a 25% increase in shipments.

The first step was to review the current sales process and thoroughly analyze Wausau’s existing sales practices, then establish a new process that focused sales reps on targeting ideal projects and improving close ratios.

xPotential Selling, partnering with Wausau’s president Jim Waldron, affirmed that the sales team was doing a good job with its existing client process, but an updated approach for acquiring new customers was needed.

“We had a group of friendly farmers,” says Waldron, “but we needed some hunters. This generated some discussions with salespeople about what roles they were willing to take on.”

xPotential Selling implemented a multi-phase sales development program. First, it created a customized sales process. Next, a sales assessment was used with all the sales reps and sales managers.

Training started online, which played a key role in preparing the team to initiate the new step-by-step sales process. The training emphasized the new, standardized qualifying process to focus the sales reps on submitting only high-value, high-probability projects that improved closing ratios.

Next, the firm led Wausau’s regional sales organization through a live two-and-a-half-day training of the new sales process. Defining the new steps during the pre-bid phase of the sales process provided an opportunity to clarify team members’ roles and responsibilities and enable them to better identify promising opportunities.

“Now the organization knows what an acceptable project is and isn’t,” says Waldron. “That’s huge.
“The debate is gone about what to go after. We’ve cut the workload by about a third because we’re only working on the jobs we have a good shot at getting.”

Concurrently, regional sales managers participated in a customized sales leadership training program. They learned how best to support the implementation of the sales process and coach each team member’s individual efforts. Coaching is a skill that is too often left out of a sales manager’s job description. Wausau sales managers were trained to become coaches for their teams to ensure continued success with the new process.

Implementing the new sales process began to shift the sales culture. Sales reps gained a richer understanding of their role in the process, familiarity with best practices, and the confidence to know which opportunities to pursue and how to convert them into new sales. As a result, the new process launched outstanding growth.

“Today our backlog is up 60% over where it was when we started,” says Waldron. “My boss is very pleased. He expected it to take a year, but we did it in six months.”

Barrett Riddleberger, the founder and CEO of xPotential Selling Inc., is a nationally recognized expert on professional selling, analyzing sales performance issues of medium to large organizations and assessing sales capacities in individuals. Riddleberger is the author of “Blueprint of a Sales Champion: How to Recruit, Refine, and Retain Top Sales Performers.” For more, visit www.xpotentialselling.com.