Stay focused on your vision and your team will come around.

Picture this: You walk into your shop in the morning. Start time is 30 minutes away, and you are not the first one in. Most of the plumbers are in already, finishing up paperwork, updating the Scoreboard, and affectionately ribbing each other about who made goal — and who didn’t — for the previous day.

The sales meeting starts. The whole team is present and on time. Being late is just not worth losing your bonus. No eye-rolling here, all the plumbers have their time management binders with them, ready to jot down helpful information and record company events and sales contest time periods on their calendars.

This week it’s Fred’s turn to present a role-play on your newest warranty program. (It’s the newest warranty program in an ever-improving line of programs. Like everything at your company, the constant is change.) Fred’s well-designed Power Point program nicely presents his personal strategy for helping customers learn the features and benefits of your new system.

Next up: A plumber who was recently hovering at the bottom of your Scoreboard for low performance. He has had lots of callbacks and a low conversion rate.

Today, he gives his testimonial. His eyes mist over as he describes how he went from loser to winner, through the help of his fellow plumbers, the love and support of his manager, and the first-rate training provided by you, the wise and wonderful owner.

The rest of the plumbers gather round him for a group hug and a rousing rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” by Frank Stallone.

OK. I may have gone over the top here. However, there are shops where the employees “get it.” And when they “get it,” work is a lot more fun and profitable.

Picture this: You walk into your shop in the morning. There is a sick feeling in your stomach, not knowing who will show up, or when. As start time approaches, you peek out the window to the parking lot. You discover three of your about-to-be-late plumbers gathered around the dumpster.

One of them has a flip chart and is making a presentation. He is sketching a hangman’s noose. You realize, by the crudely drawn eye patch and the hook for a hand, that the stick figure in the noose is you.

Does this second scenario better describe the current culture at your company? Take heart! There is hope for you and your team. You can create a sales and service culture at your company. You can help your team “get it!”

You Gotta ‘Get It’

If you don’t believe in your products and services like a preacher believes in Sunday, you don’t have a chance of getting the team to “get it.” Be clear on your vision even if the reality doesn’t match the vision yet.

Can you see it? Why would someone call you? And what will you deliver once they do?

Your company must serve somebody. You sell plumbing products and services. Why are yours different? Better? Faster? Nicer? Stronger? Harry Beckwith, author of “Selling the Invisible,” suggests you answer these questions:

  • Who are you?

  • What business are you in?

  • Whom do you serve?

  • What special needs do they have?

  • Against whom are you competing?

  • What’s different about you?

  • What’s the unique benefit you offer?

When you have the answers to these questions (and you “get it”), you are on your way.

Celebrate Sales And Prepare To Deliver

If you don’t sell, you can’t serve. So you must decriminalize sales at your company. You must celebrate sales. Of course I don’t mean unethical, arm-twisting-plaid-jacket-wearing, never-stop-talking, never-take-no-for-an-answer sales. My favorite definition of sales is “an exchange of energy.” You have something that someone else wants and they pay you for it.

If you think sales is a bad word, well, your team is NEVER going to “get it.”

Can you deliver on the sales promise? Can you deliver that unique benefit? In service plumbing, you have to make the problem go away. When your plumber leaves your customer’s home, that home and that customer have to be at a better place than before he got there. The pipe must not leak. The toilets must flush. Water should come as wanted and needed, and waste must go — according to the optimal plan.

Tackle The Technical Train

Test and practice. Your plumbers have to be able to fix things. Technical training helps increase your plumbers’ successes in the field. And that success builds confidence. As your plumbers grow in their technical abilities, it is easier for them to sell themselves as part of your unique approach to solving customers’ problems.

At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we define the most important point of our business as the point when the plumber is serving the customer. All of our systems must support, enable, ease and facilitate this moment, or the system has to go.

Get the housekeeping out of the way. Don’t waste time with compliance problems or put up with a sloppy accounting system. Get that stuff handled so you can be free to sell and serve.

Be on constant alert for things that make it hard for customers to buy from you. Seek and destroy those barriers. For instance, if you don’t take credit cards or offer financing, it makes it harder for your plumbers to sell bigger jobs.

Speak Sales Speak

Establish the “Standard Sales System” at your company. At the library or the bookstore, books on sales can cover a wall 30 feet by 60 feet. They all describe basically the same system because the science of sales is pretty simple.

The art of sales is where it can be different, and each author adds his or her spin. It’s like diet books. The basic program is to eat the right amount of good food and get some exercise. Still, there are thousands of diet books out there.

Pick a sales book or sales training program — one that doesn’t insult your soul. Adopt that as your standard system.

Hold formal sales training classes weekly and mini meetings daily. Incorporate the lessons in your actions, your ride alongs, conversations, memos — in every aspect of your company. Immerse the team in good salesmanship and service.

When you teach, refer to your standard system. This is the language that you speak at your company. This will keep your team from becoming confused. It’s like adopting a national language. It doesn’t make other languages wrong, it just helps keep things simple.

That said, encourage your team to explore other sales programs. Go to classes. Listen to tapes. Once you learn to speak sales in one language, the real pros access all the sales masters and learn from them. Develop a library for checking out sales books, tapes and videos.

Recognize & Reward Results

Mary Kay built her cosmetics empire by acknowledging and rewarding the smallest accomplishments. She understood that success breeds confidence breeds more success.

How about you? Are you stingy with praise? Loosen up. Lavish praise for the good effort, the small win, the first sale, the biggest sale of the day, for the nice customer response cards. Make a big deal out of little wins.

Your plumbers won’t “get it” right away. Be relentless in your pursuit of the vision. See the pieces of the picture that are starting to come together and point them out. Acknowledge the smallest moves in the right direction. Present a crack-free confidence, even on doubtful days.

In Manchester, Conn., brothers Andy and Steve Minicucci own and operate a Benjamin Franklin Plumbing shop. They have four terrific plumbers working for them, and the inside team is first-rate, too. A really cool thing happened recently. A moment where Steve realized they “get it.”

Senior Service Plumber Bernie Palka was asked (read: “assigned the duty”) to share a sales and service lesson with the team at their Weekly Big Game sales meeting. Bernie showed up with a drum practice pad, a drum stand and a pair of sticks. He started his presentation with a super drum solo. Then, he talked to the team about his development as a service plumber.

At first, the training and the sales steps were awkward and uncomfortable. As he stuck with it, it became easier to ask good questions of his customers, to listen and to help them find the best solutions to their problems.

Now he has found that sales and service are becoming second nature. And the experience was like learning to play the drums. He drilled the basics and hung with it, and now playing the drums is natural.

Pretty cool! Bernie is part of a team that “gets it.” What a great place to work.

Keep in mind that the Minicuccis have been doing sales training for a few years (holding formal meetings at the shop, sending the team to classroom training, etc.). They have been relentless in their approach to training, though there were times when it seemed like it wasn’t really helping.

Hey, sometimes your team is waiting you out. They want to know that you really believe before they go out on a limb. They want to know that it will be safe to become a salesperson, and that they won’t have to sell their soul to do it.

The Minicuccis have been persistent. And now their team is teaching them what sales and service are all about. They “get it.”

How about you? You “get it”?