As the markets tighten even further in the construction industry, owners, presidents and managers are beginning to wonder who in their company can really bring home the bacon. While most leave it to chance or pricing aerobics, having personnel with good ol’ fashioned sales ability can give a firm the edge. Having project managers, estimators or flat out sales personnel that can win business is essential to surviving a tough market condition. What makes up a good “sales” agent? There are some basics that need to exist. Then there’s the implementation of those attributes. Here are some of the biggies:

1. Out Going Personality: Just fact, the easier it is for you to talk to people the more you’ll do it. Introverted people need tons of training and monitoring. They are better support people than frontline sales warriors. A Type A personality isn’t all you need and some talk too much, but it is a great start.

2. Good Work Ethic: People that work hard will see more people. A high activity level will generate more opportunity. Also, it’s difficult to monitor sales personnel so self starters can ease the accountability pressure.

3. Networkers: These are folks that manage to connect at many levels in the industry. They seem to know everybody. Gearing them to exchange lead information with their network will translate into inside information on upcoming opportunities.

4. Financially Hungry: Wanting, or needing to make a great deal of income will motivate an individual to go for it. It will stretch them to exceed expectations. A compensation package that reinforces top end revenue AND profitability will drive the desired results.

5. Teachable: Good sales agents learn from their successes and failures. They watch, read and attend seminars to improve their closing abilities amongst other attributes. Hard headed personnel that believe they know everything are seldom successful.

Notice I didn’t list product or industry knowledge. This is far less important than people believe. Because it’s a tangible aspect of selling, people focus on it. This is a mistake. People buy from people and will give individuals they like inside information and direction needed to get the deal. Having good sales support people that can answer questions and provide expertise is necessary to complete the sales process. You really do want your sales agents to be out, out, out with the client base. Sales personnel sitting in their cubicle produces little to know new opportunity. They become simply order takers. Encourage your sales agents to see an abundance of customers on a regular basis.

The wild card here is training. Most sales agents are never trained. Some are trained by blanket organizations that do not understand the construction bidding format. Good sales personnel are burnt by a lack of job training. It is imperative that people learn how to take the basic attributes outlined above and apply them in the most effective methods possible. Now it is more critical than ever that as many capable people as possible are involved in the corporate sales effort. With fewer opportunities available, diligent sales work is necessary to win a reasonable share. Cutting costs can only go so far, only after this is done do many firms just begin to look at their sales effort. A true evaluation of a potential sales candidate cannot be achieved through simple testing. Testing data does not reflect eye contact, firmness of handshake, presence of a smile or physical appearance. These are all important parts of the sales process. A test cannot determine work ethic or territory analysis capability. This needs to be done either through an internal sales manager who knows the game or an outside one on one review process.

Truth be told, the demand is great and the candidates are few. There are plenty of diamonds in the rough that just need a little help to get in gear. It always amazes me how much money is spent on product, software, equipment or safety training and zero on teaching people how to get business. Seems a little cart before the horse-like. In this economy, it is imperative to invest in your sales personnel. The survival or demise of the company may be at stake. That’s not an over statement but is playing out in actuality all over the construction industry. Don’t let it be the Achilles heel of your own firm.