I am not naive in thinking that after the COVID 19 scare, people won’t act and be different. But I, for one, am not going to let COVID 19 or anything else change my mindset, because I’ve been down this path before. I was selling like crazy from 1981 to 1984 and thought that nothing would change anything I was doing. Well, 1985 hit, and my world was turned upside down. I went from selling around $400k a month in millwork from a small millwork shop in Houston to selling about $125k a month seemingly overnight. I was barely making ends meet. I was fearful that I was going to walk in one day, and that would be my last day. The only saving grace was my confidence that no other salesperson at the millwork shop was doing any better.
A wise man told me back then, that I was in the best profession there was. Being in sales meant I had complete control over my livelihood—in good times or bad. I was the one person that could set the tide for me and my company of one. I don’t mean that I didn’t need the company to support me, but I was the one that would build up my pipeline to make sure I was making a living. My ability or lack of it would make or break other families working alongside me. It was up to me and me alone to make this work.
I thought long and hard about what he had said. So, I went out that following Sunday morning after church and I just started driving my route. That’s right—Sunday. In this time of need, there are no more workweeks or weekends. They all fall together. You work when you can work. I went by every community that I could find making my target list for Monday morning calls. I also made a list that night of every builder and remodeler that I knew. With my lists in hand, Monday morning was “D” Day.
Monday morning came, and I was the first one on the phones with my list of builders and remodelers. I was calling to ask them what they had coming up and also who they might know that was building a house. If they knew of someone, I asked for an address and phone number and asked them to make a call to introduce me, or at least let me use their name so I could make a warm call versus a cold call. That entire day and the next I did nothing but set up appointments to make sales. By the end of the month, I was exhausted from making warm calls to anyone that would listen to me. I followed the orders I got through the system like a bird dog to make sure everything went well. It was hard work, but it paid off. The next month was a little better, and the following month was better than the previous one. In 1985, I never hit my 1984 numbers. My business was off by about 15%–a significant difference from the 50 percent off that the economists had predicted. (Does that sound familiar?) 1986 was better, and in 1987 was way better. Eventually, I almost doubled my sales in 1984. It was never “tough times;” it was just “different times.”
Never let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. As a salesperson, you are your own boss. You can stay home and fret about what is going to happen, or you can roll up your sleeves, get out there, and sell. Sell your way out of the situation! Just like the wise man said, while you are selling to keep your own livelihood, you’re doing good for other families in the industry that you work in. The effort you put in will snowball and will inspire others to do the same. My best inspiration came from those sitting next to me in those sales meetings. I wanted to be the best, and by them also striving to be the best, I got better and the company got better in trying to keep up with all of us. We all make our way out of that mess. Then guess what? It happened again in 1991 and then in 2001 and then again in 2009. Every time we sold our way out of it and we will now do it again.
This time, many are asking: With businesses shuttered temporarily or for good, can we get the material we need to make those sales? My answer: Well, if you can’t get the same material that you were using, be proactive about finding an alternative. Make it a consultative sale. Emphasize to whoever your end-user is that you are trying to keep their job rolling and prevent it from slowing down. They will appreciate it more than you know–now and later when times are better. You’ll be the one they remember who pulled them through the tough times.
This will not be the last downturn it is just a different downturn. Professional salespeople and their production teams will pull their companies through this, and we, as a country, will pull through, too, with everyone pulling and pushing as hard as we can. It is time for you to be the catalyst for the comeback. Remind every person you call that you are not taking this mess sitting down! You can let the situation we’re in take us over, or we can choose to take over the situation.
Optimistic? You bet I am!
Paul Evans CGA, CAPS, CGP is a native Texan with over 40 years in the construction industry. He is the National VP of Millwork for BMC. Paul has been an instructor with the NHBA University Housing for over 15 years and is one of only a handful of Master Instructors for the NHBA in the country. He travels the country teaching Sales & Marketing, Customer Service and Negotiating Skills and has authored numerous articles and published three books on these subjects. Paul is also a voting member of the ICC, is licensed as an engineer in Texas and Louisiana and holds GC licenses in 17 states. Paul also owns and operates a fully sustainable farm and is a licensed professional race car driver.