Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

I recently ran into a friend at a restaurant. As luck would have it, both our dining companions were running late. (Actually, they were both stuck in the same highway accident traffic.) Anyway, as we chatted I realized that my friend was cranky and angry. Now for those of you that don’t know my friend, he is very seldom cranky and hardly ever angry. He recently got remarried so he is old and in love. He has a VERY successful business in our area and he has no real health concerns. What’s to be cranky and mad about?

Me being nosy, I asked him why he was out of sorts. His reaction almost got us thrown out of the restaurant. He started pounding on the table yelling “This guy, this guy that I hired. OMG!”  People were staring. Waiters were scurrying. There was a look of alarm on the other patrons’ faces. Thankfully, my friend realized his error, quickly apologized to the room and lowered his voice. 

He told me that about a year ago he had hired a new salesman. The guy had come with a great resume, outstanding credentials, impeccable references and a proven track record of sales awards and bonuses. He was just looking for a change, a new challenge. Everything checked out and the guy even passed a drug test. What’s not to hire? 

My friend went on to brag about how great a salesman this guy was. He exceeds his sales budget every month by thousands of dollars. He is #1 at bringing in new customers. He is dedicated, even works on Saturdays. He networks and never misses an opportunity to meet someone new, shake hands and give out his business card. He makes more “high dollar” sales than anyone in the company, and makes more commissions than any other salesperson in the company. 

Now I admit, at this point, I certainly didn’t see a problem. I mean, a great guy with amazing sales, what exactly is this problem my friend is upset about?

He must have noticed the confused look on my face because with his next breath he said “I have to let the guy go. He is running me into the poorhouse and ruining the good name of my business. I worked hard to build my business and become solid in the community. My business has a reputation of doing good work and good customer service for 25 years! It’s all in jeopardy now. I have no choice. He has got to go!”

I listened to a very long list of problems. Apparently, in spite of being told over and over, this guy is just wrapped up in sales numbers, not sales consequences. His customers seem to have unrealistic expectations of the job because the guy constantly uses words like “perfect” and “ideal,” so they are constantly disappointed over small things like pits and visible seams. Several times the wrong color was put in because he didn’t update his files. He has also ordered wrong sinks and faucets or the customer has changed the sink/faucet and he didn’t update his files. My friend was getting reviews back that complained about this guy and his customer service (or lack of it), and that he is difficult to get in touch with, so they get mad and then just start nit-picking things that normally don’t matter. Several jobs had been ripped out and replaced because of his errors, and deep discounts had to be given on many more so the customer would keep the job, even though it wasn’t what they asked for. 

He also explained that his office staff was in a constant state of turmoil trying to pick up the pieces of this guy’s jobs. They were tired of getting blindsided by issues and mad customers. He also said that his scheduling person is ready to quit because they always have to find a way to go back for silly things that he never bothered to explain to the customer. 

To top it all off, his install crews are not happy because they hear it first all the time out on the job site.

 My friend gave this guy the benefit of the doubt at first, but as time went by he kept hearing the same things over and over. He tried talking to him, docking his pay, lowering his commission rate and having him fix his own problems. Nothing has worked. So, he has got to go.

What the guy doesn’t understand is that sales are not just budget numbers. There is a fine line between making a profit on the job and NOT making a profit on the job. If you have to rip out a job because it’s the wrong color, that costs money, takes the profit out of the job, and actually puts you in the hole on the job. Accidentally installing the wrong color vanity sink because of a paperwork snafu, and having to send someone back to fix it takes the profit out of the job. Lots of seemingly small details can take the profit out of the job. It’s not just the “act” of going back that is the problem. It’s extra wear on the company trucks, more overtime pay for the crews, restocking fees to return sinks, ordering more material, paying office staff to help pick up the pieces of the broken jobs. The list goes on and on. 

Hitting or exceeding your budget numbers is great. Everybody wins. The numbers just have to be clean numbers. No going back. No extra work for anyone. No paperwork snafus. We all make mistakes. That’s just human nature, but at some point you have to stop. It’s that simple. 

You only need to educate and inform your customers and pay attention to the paper trail (electronic or physical). Attention to detail is one of the greatest snafu preventers of all time. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Be vigilant. Check and recheck. Sales are great. Just don’t let your sales run your boss into the poorhouse or you may not have a boss. 

Please send your thoughts on this article to Sharon Koehler at .