Informational Interview

For my informational interview I spoke with a gentleman with the title of Business Development Specialist for a company that does franchise sales. What is your job like? The first thing he said to me about his position is to get comfortable on the phone. He spends a lot of time everyday on the phone with his customers. One thing that he mentioned is that you have to choose your own mood to make for a successful day, he doesn’t let the people he talks to that have an attitude get to him, he simply passes by those that aren’t worth his time. What do you do? The company that he is with does franchise sales for plumbing.

Their goal is to find independent plumbing businesses with 3 to 50 trucks in their fleet and franchise them. They take these small businesses, some being second and third generation plumbers, and teach them to grow their business. This company provides the call center, bookkeeping, technology, infrastructure and business process. He compared some of these clients to cavemen hitting two rocks together in the dark, all they know is they are hitting the rocks together, they don’t know if they are even hitting the right two rocks together or why they are hitting them together.

This is where his marketing skills come in with up-selling these clients, not to mention he gets bonuses and incentives for up-selling. Part of what they teach is a new business model beyond traditional plumbing. Word of mouth has always been a big part of the business and still is; however, they also go beyond in their advertising by having a highly recognizable phone number, one that would easily come to mind when you need a plumber.

This company works closely with their clients to enhance their business model, most of the clients’ highest level of technology usage is a cell phone, so they provide most of the technology that is beyond the realm of the average plumber. What kinds of problems do you deal with? As far as issues are concerned, his main dilemma with each potential client is if his product does or does not solve their problems. Not only does he need to determine if the client fits his business model, but he said a huge part of working with your client is knowing your client.

The terminology used in his sales pitch is crucial to the client understanding what it is they are being offered; he mentioned that many times he has to remember to “dumb it down” and not use too much technical jargon. Not only does he not want to use terms that the customer doesn’t understand to avoid the customer from becoming confused, but he also does not want to make the customer feel stupid. What kinds of decisions do you make? To sell or not to sell, that is a question he commonly asks himself on a daily basis.

You have to choose your clients. Is this client someone you want to do business with? He used the comparison of Al-Qaeda, while this may be a huge organization, and have a high potential as a business partner, would they really be good to do business with. He must determine if the clients fit his business model, it is not for everyone. He said he is a gatekeeper of sorts; he makes the decision of who can come through. How is your time spent? What are your days like? Every day is not the same in his position; he likes to break up his days.

While the majority of his days may be spent on contacting sales leads, Wednesdays are the days he does his scripting. He sits down and takes time to individualize the script he uses for each customer, it is not a cookie cutter, one size fits all deal in the least. When speaking to his clients his takes notes, and reflects back on them when he prepares for his next call. He mentioned that the core of all sales is to be memorable; you need to build trust with your client. In order to build that trust in the relationship, you must have integrity and believe in the product you are selling.

How long have you been in sales, and what got you started? When asked how long he has been in sales, his answer was since he was able to talk. It started with how to get mom to move bedtime to a later and later time, how to get out of being grounded, how to get what you want from mom and dad. His first real passion for sales began when he started his own alarm sales company; this was at the age of 20. Again he mentioned that you must have a true passion about your product and believe in what you are selling. How did you get your current job?

He has now had many sales and marketing positions over the years, and was brought to his current position as a referral from a friend. Was this type of career what you had always wanted to do? He grew up in Minnesota and went to St. Cloud University in hopes of becoming a police officer. There were two major things that had happened that made him change his mind about his career choice. The first of two major events was when he saw an ad in the paper for a position as a prison guard; he thought that would be perfect as he could not only work, but get some experience in his chosen field of law enforcement at the same time.

There were 6000 applicants for 2 available positions. The second event that happened was Waco, this permanently changed his mind about wanting to work for ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), and changed his mind about a career in law enforcement altogether. After his junior year of college he took some time off school and moved to Texas where he started working security. His time working with security systems ultimately led to starting up his own security company. After working in security for 12 years, he realized his true passion was in sales.

As far as his current position is concerned, he couldn’t care less about plumbing, but the excitement comes from taking a second or third generation business and showing them a better way to do business. He prides himself on being able to take a non-degreed business owner running a business his great great-grandfather started over 100 years ago and bring them up to date with technology and really watch them thrive. He loves teaching and taking his clients by the hand through every step of the process. He makes it a point that he will not let anyone take his integrity, and will not let others get him down.

His position does not involve travel and his assigned areas are; Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Missouri. I learned a lot from the gentleman that I interviewed, especially about knowing you customer. He made some very good points about making an impression on your customer, being memorable, knowing how to speak to them, and always showing honesty and integrity. Not all customers will always be at the same educational levels, or even be up to speed on the same technologies; you must analyze each customer carefully.

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