Few doubt the importance of attracting top sales talent—those reps who embrace and develop partnership-based strategies that grow profits rather than just increase sales, respond quickly when new products hit the market, and master the art of promoting value-added services. At the same time, we all know there are managers, executives, and owners in the LBM supply channel who believe that the excellent performance of the home building industry in 2003 and the anticipation of another good year negate the need to focus on sales force training, employee development, and performance recognition.

With that in mind, one of PROSALES' New Year's resolutions is to help you keep this complacency mode at bay. It would be nice if we could officially dedicate 2004 as the “Year of the Salesperson,” but I doubt we'd have much luck ousting “The Year of the Monkey” when the Chinese New Year begins later this month. However, in our own corporate cultures we all can strive to regard salespeople in the same fashion that the Chinese think of the 12 animals that mark the lunar years. They believe that the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality. The traditional slogan translates: “This is the animal that hides in your heart.” Similarly, salespeople truly are the heart of your company and its profitability—and they have a profound influence on how your customers perceive your corporate personality.

By accepting this premise, you can transcend the traditional focus on sales volume, truly identify what makes a rep valuable to your company, and then hone in on developing skills to support those core competencies. To help enlighten you on this journey, we have added a new monthly column this year called “Sell Sheet” by contributing editor Rick Davis, president of the Leaders Group, a top sales training organization for the construction industry. Davis, who also is the author of “Strategic Sales in the Building Industry,” a new book from NAHB's BuilderBooks.com, will be addressing many of the challenges dealers face in creating a top-notch sales force, such as:

  • Hiring proven talent and investing in the training, coaching, and mentoring that are required to develop great reps.
  • Creating a sales structure that includes established methods for database management, quantifying performance, reporting, sales procedures, etc., and developing a structured pricing method.
  • Improving management skills and teaching salespeople-turned-managers how to coach. In this area, Davis will tell you that most salespeople are on the road 200 days per year, yet they receive less than three days of coaching (observation and feedback) during their annual travels.
  • Complementing this new editorial feature, we also will recognize peak sales performers in our July issue. Based on reader and industry nominations, PROSALES will profile a select group of “Sales Leaders” who have made outstanding contributions to their companies and customers in areas including profitability; developing customer resources and creating mutually beneficial partnerships; becoming a mentor or leader within an organization; and maintaining a long-term track record of success.

    We hope that by combining valuable sales training information and a recognition program, we can highlight the importance of developing sales leadership skills year-round. Make your New Year's resolution now to contact us for more information on nominating a “Sales Leader” at lclift@hanleywood.com.

    Lisa Clift, Editor