Welcome to this C&R Roundtable discussion on sales best practices! This conversation brings together several industry professionals from all levels to discuss the art of sales in the restoration and cleaning industry. They are here to share their biggest sales lessons, how they harness technology, the balance between nurturing relationships and prospecting, and more. Below, read responses from business development pros from around the industry. Above, watch a recent podcast with a sales consultant covering a lot of the same topics!
SONIA SHEETZ | BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT | FLEET RESPONSE
Sonia has spent the last six years working at Alpha Omega Disaster Restoration – in production, admin, and sales. Today, she is a business development representative for FLEET Response, which acquired Alpha Omega in 2021. Sonia is a Montana native. She and her husband, 18-month-old daughter, and German Shephard proudly call Montana home. Outside of work, she enjoys a great workout, brewery, and time with family.
STEPHEN ROTAY | DIR. OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT | MAMMOTH RESTORATION
Steve is the Director of Business Development at Mammoth Restoration. Prior to joining the Mammoth team 32 years into his career, Steve owned a successful Paul Davis franchise that grew over the years to seven additional franchises and 150+ people serving the Mid-Atlantic region. Earlier in his career, after leaving the Marine Corps, Steve worked for Honeywell first as an account manager, then growing into sales manager with a team covering one-third of the U.S. His team was the highest producing sales team in the company’s history.
ANDY HOLT | BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER | BLUSKY RESTORATION CONTRACTORS
Andy is a Sales Professional with over 10 years of sales and leadership experience. Having worn many hats at BluSky Restoration Contractors over the previous 6 years, currently, Andy serves as a Business Development Manager in the Memphis, TN. office. With a focus predominantly on the Southeast United States, Andy uncovers and maintains client relationships while simultaneously spreading brand awareness for BluSky nationally. Andy has served on the Board of Directors for BOMA Memphis, IFMA Memphis, the Apartment Association of Greater Memphis, as well as the Memphis Area Prevention Coalition.
JON VOGT | COO | MAMMOTH RESTORATION
Jon joined the Mammoth Restoration team after a 16-year tenure with Paul Davis where he held various roles including COO. Jon supervised and managed all operational aspects of five franchised territories within the Mid-Atlantic region. Driving both commercial and residential leads, Jon was responsible for over $100 million dollars in sales while supervising, managing, and completing both residential and multi-million commercial projects. Jon is a Master Water Restorer, Master Textile Cleaner, and a Master Fire and Smoke Restorer through the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST SALES LESSON IN 2021?
Sheetz: Ahh, there are so many I learned in 2021! Not every client out there is going to be a good fit for your company to work with. Sometimes a ‘no’ can be a blessing in disguise. This goes for both residential clients and larger commercial clients. If your team is suffering and being bullied or belittled by a client, it’s ok to fire them.
Rotay: There is a greater need for full time, dedicated professional sales people/customer support. Our society is very accustomed to acquiring “commodity” type goods and services via online stores. 2020 and 2021 has embedded this culture beyond Gen Z and millennials. People in their 70s and 80s have normalized the “Amazon” culture. However, a service or product application is uncertain or new technology or techniques are introduced, professionals in that space become very valuable. It’s these professionals that will drive opportunities and sales.
Holt: Great question. There were many lessons in 2021, though one that stands out is to keep my focus on the client and finding a solution to their needs rather than “the sale”. While this is not a new concept to me, it seems to become more and more evident as I continue to evolve as a sales professional. I heard the term “commission breath” last year and loved the mental image it produced for me. I don’t want to be thought of as a service provider whose obvious motive is solely in making a buck. I would much rather be known and remembered as a genuine solutions provider who aims to solve clients problems regardless of how that may (and sometimes may not) impact me directly and/or financially.
Vogt: I’d have to say how important it is to have alignment between sales and production. Though the skill-set are typically different, the individuals/departments need to be in lockstep. That’s how relationships really start to take shape internally and externally.
HOW DO YOU STAY UP-TO-DATE ON YOUR TARGET MARKET/ CLIENTS?
Sheetz: Set goals on how often to communicate with each client; be proactive in setting yourself up for the next meeting before wrapping up a current meeting. Create a solid relationship where it’s natural – a lot of my clients have become great friends of mine!
Rotay: Engagement. In my previous answer I suggested being a FT professional. People are working from their homes, they have side hustles and they attempt to supplement their careers/income. For them, that’s wonderful. However, for the consumer, it’s frustrating. Professionals need time to stay engaged in their clients industries. This is through association participation, webinars and by staying engaged with other people in your industry. I find that surrounding myself and staying engaged with professional sales people, regardless of their industry, keep me connected to my client’s world and fresh on the latest information.
Holt: At the risk of sounding like a smart aleck, I keep in touch with them! I make an intentional effort to pick up the phone and call both my current partners (clients) and prospects. Same holds true for sending text messages, emails, etc. I also remain very active in industry associations, both locally and nationally, in order to keep a pulse on industry news, changes, etc.
Vogt: Great question. We have many methods of staying in contact with our clients. We have a 75 day rule for our business development team. During that time, we need to reach a certain amount of times utilizing technology, but also require face to face visits. We want to stay top of mind without overwhelming a customer. Yes of course there is social media and email campaigns, but another great offering are our master service agreements. We want to provide superior service and with this you also get a dedicated team coordinator that helps manage the account.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE STARTING A NEW SALES ROLE IN THE RESTORATION AND CLEANING INDUSTRY?
Sheetz: The very first thing I would do is spend a week with the production team out in the field, team leaders, and admin. Learn the job process from beginning to end. Get familiar with subcontractors.
Rotay: Assuming the sales role had a limited geography, I would find a handful of influential, non-profit organizations in the market. I would be engaged with them, maybe take a position as an initiative leader and get to know everyone and their employers in the groups. In a very short period of time, I would become embedded in the mainstream of the community.
Holt: I am a big believer in clear objectives and goals, and would immediately start defining both. I would ask my new employer what it was they expected of me in my role so that I had a baseline understanding of the things I should be doing. I would next put some goals in place for myself, and break each down with specific steps I would need to take to ultimately accomplish each goal. I would very soon after begin reaching out to my previous clients to let them know I had made a change and to see if there were still an opportunity for us to work together in my new role/company.
Vogt: Simply put, understand and get to know everyone on the team. Learn how you can help them generate sales without them even knowing it.
HOW DO YOU FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN CULTIVATING/ NURTURING CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS, AND HUNTING FOR NEW PROSPECTS?
Sheetz: If your current clients’ expectations are not being met, then it might be time to reevaluate priorities. It’s important to stay organized and up to date on what’s happening in the field. Again, it all depends on what expectations you have set with your clients. If you’re too focused on the next sale, you could potentially lose the ones you’ve already made.
Rotay: Very difficult to manage. I have been fortunate to have access to a strong “digital” marketing resource that greatly assists with staying connected. Utilizing the digital resources to keep my presence and utilizing community activities like non-profit events, allows me to stay connected and visible to my clients while allowing time for new client development.
Holt: I have to believe this is a challenge for all seasoned sales professionals, and to date the only thing I know to do is create focused time to be used only on prospecting. It is very easy to spend all of my time with my current client base and therefore, for me, I have to calendar block specific times to prospect. For me, this window is between 8:30-10:30 in the morning and it usually looks like picking up the phone and making calls. While this may seem like outdated practice, I am a firm believer that sales happen as a result of human connection, and a phone conversation is far more personal than sending an email. I have also noticed that if I do not have this intentional time blocked out on my calendar, there is always something for me to do and the prospecting likely won’t happen.
Vogt: I’ll call it the hand off. You need to get your production team in front of customers once the relationship starts to form. You now have the ability to go hunt for new prospects. You are essentially also using your production team for account maintenance to stay top of mind.
HOW DOES A SALES ROLE IN THE RESTORATION INDUSTRY DIFFER FROM OTHER INDUSTRIES?
Sheetz: It is certainly challenging to ‘sell’ something that seems relatively intangible, especially if people are unfamiliar with water, fire, and mold damage. However, once you nail down how to communicate your message, it’s similar to any industry where you need to know your audience and how they want to be communicated with, as well as what their pains are and how you can solve them.
Rotay: First, it’s really not sales in the truest form. We develop relationships. For years, I have specialized in large loss, commercial restoration. That is a specialty in the industry. Relationships need to be with carriers and the adjusting staff WHILE having creditability and trust from the commercial end user. In the commercial markets, getting back in business and speed is top priority. So much so, many times we were called before the carrier. Also, our service is not standardized in the sense that we provide a repetitive service. Each call (new job) has a different priority, different scope, different skills required and different resources needed. In our role as the trusted partner in a restoration situation, we must be able to access a big bag of resources, at a moments notice with the knowledge on how to apply them. We’re not selling a pizza with different toppings for an option. We’re providing (selling) confidence that when a consumer (commercial or personal) is in their most dire moments, we are there to help them.
Holt: In my opinion “sales” in restoration is all about developing solid relationships over time rather than being focused on executing a single, “transactional” type of sale. I am of the belief that people do business with those who they “know, like, and trust” and all three of these things take time. This is not an industry where once a contract is signed I am able to step away from that client, project, etc. and go focus on the next sale. I believe that I have to make myself available to my clients around the clock and at every phase of the job I have been entrusted to assist with.
Vogt: We sell a unique service, a service customers hope they never need. It’s not tangible, you can’t reach out and pick it up.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A LOSING STREAK? HOW DID YOU TURN IT AROUND?
Sheetz: Never! Just kidding. I’ve definitely had days that make me question if I know what the heck I am doing. It’s important not to take the ‘no’ personally and keep your head up. You’ll run into situations where people misunderstand you or are just plain rude. It happens, and you can only control how you react to a situation. Sometimes you just need to take a break and refocus – find people you can bounce ideas off of or run meeting scenarios by.
Rotay: Kind of. I’ll change losing streak to dry spell. And yes, several times. (I’ve been in this for over 20 years.) This could have been caused by a new competitor in the market or maybe a spell of mild weather. None of that matters when the phone needs to ring to keep our employees working. I always started by the confidence that my sales strategy and marketing plans were solid and well grounded. I had confidence in the markets we were attacking and the relationships being built. Therefore, when a dry spell happened, I went back to by friend “clients” for feedback (usually over lunch). If there was something in our service that needed to be addressed, obviously, operations was made aware and adjustments were made. However, much of the time, the feedback was that our client’s work for us dropped or a competitor was dropping prices. In the latter, I would re-evaluate their concern. Because our industry is so price controlled by the carriers, pricing wasn’t normally the problem. An obvious symptom, but not the problem. I usually discovered that a referral source stopped feeling the “love” for us and put us into a commodity category. Some attention, training, reminders of our values usually brought the business back.
Holt: A losing streak is a matter of perspective in my opinion. While there have certainly been times in my career where I have lost out on contracts, sometime for an extended period of time, I am always able to breakdown an experience and take away something positive. I learned some of my best lessons in the toughest of times, and those lessons inevitably set me up for greater success the next time around. If I can focus on finding the lesson even in disappointment, I am certain to ultimately find success – this has been proven to me time and time again. As one of my mentors regularly reminds me, “We learn and grow in the valleys” and I try very hard to remind myself of this during my times of frustration/disappointment.
Vogt: I specifically remember in 2012 we were up against it meaning the business coming in was not what we wanted, we did not want to be handcuffed by TPA’s. That’s when we shifted gears and knew we needed to break into the commercial space. We needed to do that to make sure we finished the year on budget. So yes there was a streak, but it was not a losing one. It was one that has allowed us to reshape our business.
HOW HAVE YOU LEARNED TO LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO HELP THE SALES PROCESS?
Sheetz: I’ve used various online platforms such as LinkedIn to make connections, introduce myself, and set meetings with key decision makers. Technology in the industry is amazing, and anytime you can demonstrate your expertise to clients, you are building their trust in you.
Rotay: Absolutely. CRM’s, blogs, LinkedIn and other formats are instrumental in staying connected with your client base. In today’s world, it is impossible to see and manage the number of clients necessary by driving and visiting them. All technology is critical.
Holt: I have barely learned to use technology, and those who know me well would 100% agree – truly!
Vogt: Technology allows us to be in more places at one time. It allows us to reduce cycle time on projects and get estimates approved faster. It allows us to target specific demographics and businesses that we want to sell to. The list goes on and on. But one thing I want to highlight are the reports and documents that you can give the customer at the end of the project. A detailed description of the loss, moisture points from start to finish along with products used to mitigate the loss, etc. It’s professional and something a client will want to hang onto.