By Dave Frank

Dave Frank is a 30 year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, an independent third-party accreditation organization that establishes standards to improve the professional performance of the cleaning industry.
Sales are the lifeblood of businesses. When it comes to business, nothing happens until a sale is made. That is why the success of your business depends, to a large extent, on the quality of your sales structure.

The common “seat-of-the-pants” approach to selling no longer works in the competitive cleaning market. Effective sales require a structure or a plan that is designed by business owners and managers and is tailored to the business, depending on its size and capabilities. This structure includes account profiles, the right salespeople, sales tools and accountability.

Some businesses make the mistake of trying to appeal to as many customers as possible. By doing this, the result will be a plan with too much bandwidth. It is important to be specific and focus on the customers who will bring the most benefits to the business.

To come up with a customer profile, business owners will have to ask themselves: Does our service only appeal to large organizations, or only to small ones? What industry sector, number of employees and location does our business best serve? It is important to avoid calling on accounts the business is not capable of serving because they are too big. At the same time, contractors need to be aware that some smaller accounts might not be profitable enough.

While compiling customer criteria is a must, profiling sales personnel is just as critical. It is a common misconception that “anyone can sell.” In many businesses, the owner often does most of the selling. However, owners are not always good salespeople. In this case, they should hire someone who knows the steps of the selling process and can really help win and retain accounts.

A good salesperson should possess the skills for everything from cold calling to drafting a proposal to closing the sale. There are software programs available to help businesses electronically profile sales candidates to see if they would be a fit for the company. The software will help weed out candidates with call reluctance, poor presentation skills and more.

No matter how experienced they are, salespeople need effective tools. Tools include detailed, comprehensive proposals presented in a professional manner; brochures; customer testimonials; and company Web sites. Business owners should provide salespeople with the technology and resources to draft an impressive proposal that includes information that is useful to the customer.

Like any profession, in sales, there are successes and there are failures. With each, there is a lesson to be learned. Business owners need to take a closer look at their successes and ask, “What did we do to win that account?” The same goes for failures. “What did we do wrong?” The answers to these questions will help the business, moving forward, to increase successes and reduce failures.

The sales profession is complicated. If anyone thinks selling cleaning is easy, they are wrong. This column is just the beginning. Next month Jim Peduto will explain the step-by-step selling process.