ASK THE EXPERT: March 2015

By / 2 years ago

Scott Hartmann, a seasoned LBM industry veteran with a solid track record of success, provides thoughtful answers to readers’ questions.

The Disorganized Sales Pro

“I have a great salesman who can sell anything and everything. He is extremely busy, and believes he can double his sales if I get him some help. However, he is very disorganized. He does not write down purchase orders, or put information in the computer. Our invoicing and receiving clerks are constantly on him for information taking up their time. I have offered the salesman an assistant, provided he start getting the information in a form that the assistant can use to complete the necessary paperwork. He still has not done that and refuses to attempt to. He says he does not have time. What can I do to make this great salesman realize that an assistant will not be of help to him if he/she can’t get the information from him in the first place?”

Signed, Blessed but Baffled

Dear Baffled,
This dilemma is bittersweet, in that you and your organization are blessed to have a top-performing salesperson, but also burdened by this salesperson’s work behavior, creating inefficiencies, heartache, and potential performance issues for your company. Having been there, I successfully addressed this issue by saying a prayer and being willing to “take back my company.” The prayer is the Prayer of Serenity. It goes something like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Good salespeople, warts and all, are hard to find. Like the rest of us, they also are not real receptive to change, unless it is clearly in their best interest. Accept the fact they are not going to change much, but typically would be, at worst, curious about an increase in commission. If it is true they can increase their sales (and commission) with some additional inside sales support, you can make this work!

I am guessing your outside sales staff, and especially your top-performer, is the primary, if not only, link between your accounts and your company. So, with that said, change this: Starting tomorrow, make plans to personally visit each of your key accounts. Plan to bring the assigned inside and outside sales staff with you. After thanking each customer for their business and letting them know how important they are to your business, ask them for their support in routing all details regarding new starts, orders, deliveries, pickups, etc. through the inside salesperson. Explain that as a key account, they deserve the absolute best service you can provide, and no doubt with this direct communication between their office and yours, errors and misconstrued information will be minimized. This change will also free up your outstanding outside salespeople to concentrate of their building issues of greater importance.

In summary, like the Serenity Prayer states, some things you can change and some you cannot. Rather than living with the divide existing between your sales staff, the accounts, and your organization, with this one small change you can build a bridge that will lead to greater sales, an increase in morale, and guaranteed enhanced customer service and relationships. As to your top-performer? With a substantial increase in commission and happier customers, he’ll be glad you said your prayers.

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Scott Hartmann

Scott Hartmann has spent the past 35 years leading established construction supply companies to greater levels of success. As the founder of Hartmann & Co., he now provides management consulting services to independent LBM dealers. He can be reached at or visit