Hardware Retailing

FEB 2018

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | February 2018 46 Larger operations are prime targets for outside sales teams. This can include residential builders or commercial businesses that oversee large-scale operations, says Tony Brookhouse, chief operating officer and co-owner of Koopman Lumber. Having people keeping in touch with clients on a consistent basis and looking after their needs allows those clients freedom to manage their own priorities and streamline their business. These businesses expect to make purchases through a contact, not in a storefront, Brookhouse says. Having salespeople on the road and approaching customers at their offices or work sites keeps a retailer at the forefront of their minds. "Any larger residential builder is not going to order all their stuff by going to locations. They're too busy," Brookhouse says. "Anything commercial— from large, superstructure-building companies to a business building multi-unit apartments and banks— they're not going to come to you." Products that can be of use for these clients don't have to be limited to the construction or industrial markets either. Florence Hardware's work with governmental and school organizations highlights how other products, like detergents, mops, toilet paper or other bulk and often-ordered items, can be supplied through a local retail store. Outside sales can seek out this business and open up new avenues for sales growth. Bringing in the Outside Outside sales personnel can be a great asset, but they also require different training and management styles than staff members more common in retail hardware stores. Several key attitudes and traits are common in successful outside sales candidates. Many of these characteristics lend themselves to a strong candidate that is trusted with a fairly autonomous position that can reflect strongly, either positively or negatively, on the employer. "Being organized, disciplined and a self-starter are really important for candidates, because of the freedom of the position. You also have to go out and find business to be successful," Brookhouse says. "You want someone out there who can represent you and your company with integrity. That's what we foster and support." Candidates can come from a variety of backgrounds. They may be an experienced outside sales staffer who worked at other businesses or a current employee who has a different role but shows aptitude and interest in the position. Some of the key signs of a strong candidate are strong communication and relational skills, Brookhouse says, as well as a willingness to put the time into training and learning new skills. That emphasis on training is why Arnold doesn't look for product knowledge as an essential quality in a strong outside sales candidate, at least in the initial phases. He prefers strong signs of trainability and people skills as the top starting criteria, with much of the sales skills and industry know-how coming during the training process. "We want a hunter's mentality. Experience is a plus, and knowledge is helpful, but tenacity is more important. We want people who want the big account, the big fish that's out there. People who can connect the needs of the client with the services we offer," Arnold says. " We want a hunter's mentality. Experience is a plus, and knowledge is helpful, but tenacity is more important. " —Rob Arnold, Florence Hardware Florence Hardware president Steven Swann (right) works with Jim Schutte of Cincinnati Ventilating Co.

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