During a recent installed sales roundtable I was facilitating, one of the participants, who worked for a large, pro-oriented dealer installing for both contractors and homeowners, made this comment: “If I don't change something soon, our program is going to suffer ‘Death by Success.'”
This particular installation operation is so understaffed that the installed sales manager (ISM) is both selling the projects and acting as a jobsite manager/coordinator. While he has administrative help and some very competent crews in the field, the bulk of his time is spent supervising subcontractors and managing job starts for the in-house crews. As a result, he's so busy with supervisory tasks and other aspects of running the business that he can't efficiently manage the program or sell new projects. He's lost balance. A lot of installed sales divisions—especially new ones—are likely facing similar hurdles. For new programs, the ISM—the person most vital to a successful program—wears many hats, serving not only as the division manager, but also as a salesperson, jobsite supervisor, inspector, and just about everything else. While this is a necessary evil, it can lead to inefficiency and a drop off in new-business generation.
If you're dealing with a similar off-kilter situation, and your installed sales division is well off the ground, it may be time to take a closer look at staffing to make sure you're adequately equipped, and if you're not, to consider adding a few more positions. For example, an installed sales administrative assistant has proven to be an extremely valuable position in aggressive operations with the foresight to place someone inside. This person does many of the same support functions as an inside sales coordinator, and he or she also provides the flexibility to allow the manager to increase work efficiency. I've seen very successful installed sales operations running as much as $1 to $1.5 million per year with just these two people, plus some talented installers.
But there's more you can do to ensure steady growth and smooth operations. How about a jobsite supervisor or manager? This is someone who follows up on sold jobs, ensures that the installers are starting on time, outlines the details of the job for the installers, verifies that materials are on site, and performs the walk-through with the installer upon completion. This person can be worth their weight in gold if utilized properly. And by hiring a separate supervisor, you free up more time for your ISM to sell, or work closer with your outside sales force to ensure that installed sales opportunities are being followed up on.
Finally there's sales, an area that eventually can stand on its own. While my experience shows that in the initial stages of a program the ISM sells the projects to customers, as the program grows, the manager becomes too valuable an individual to try to be all things to all people. As your program develops, consider hiring a salesperson for the installation services, or incorporate installation services into the value-added equation that your outside sales force is already promoting. Relieving your ISM of sales responsibilities can allow him or her to truly serve as the overseer of the entire program.
Many times the ISM starts out as a jack of all trades, but for a program to meet long-term goals, you must ensure that this individual doesn't end up as the master of none.
Mike Butts is director of installation services for United Building Centers. 507.457.8453. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.