Two of the more difficult positions to fill and conduct training for in a cleaning business or any type of service operation are the salesperson and estimator.
Not everyone agrees about what type of a background is needed or most advantageous for a candidate to have when it comes to these positions. Some will say if a person knows how to run the numbers and can learn a computer program, they can bid, estimate, and workload cleaning accounts. The same can be said about sales: If a person has a silver tongue, handles themselves professionally, knows a few buzz words, and follows the basic concepts of how to close a sale, they can sell cleaning services.
However, I disagree with these viewpoints. In my experience, the best sales people and estimators have not only the above listed skills, but also experience in the cleaning, maintenance, or property management field.
On the surface, selling and estimating may appear to be a simple matter. However, when you dig into it, there are many variables that impact the end result. An almost endless list of details need to be taken into consideration when responding to customer concerns and estimating costs for labor, supplies, overhead, and profit.
Unless you can find someone with specific cleaning industry experience in sales and estimating, you are going to have to provide some training and support before the person can truly work on their own. Even if a new employee has experience, it’s a good idea to have them work with you or someone else in the company for a while just to make sure their past experience is a match with your company values, processes, and pricing.
An Effective Training Process
You have multiple options when it comes to training a salesperson or estimator. My preferred approach is to personally work with the individual for a week or two and then at least once a week for several months. This takes time, but this is no place to cut corners. It is critical to verify that you and the person you are training are on the same page.
If you work for a larger company, not all of the training and monitoring needs to be done personally by you. If there are other salespeople or a sales manager who can handle the training and will supervise the new hire, it is appropriate to have one of these people handle most of the sales training. Either way, keep a close eye on the new hire via daily or weekly meetings as well as with written reports.
When it comes to training an estimator, the same approach is recommended. Someone needs to know what the person is doing with their time each day, and all bids and proposals need to be reviewed for accuracy before being sent to a prospective customer.
If the new hire doesn’t have experience with bidding, they will need to work with experienced staff to learn your processes and rates. Having a new hire review previous bids is a good way to start, as previous bids can often be used as a template for future bids.
A newly hired person can also be assigned to work on small parts of bids as a starting point. For example, have them run the numbers on cleaning restrooms or on floor or carpet care, and then compare their estimates with your own or that of others in the company who have experience with bidding accounts. Another option is to have the new hire work primarily on smaller accounts for a while until you gain confidence in their numbers and calculations. Dealing with smaller accounts removes some of the risk, because if they screw up, the damage won’t be as bad as if they had been bidding on a larger and more complex account.
Assessing the Results
There is no foolproof way to train an individual for a critical position in a company, but you want to watch for results. I always say, “Talk is cheap. Proof is in the performance.” If the calls aren’t getting made, if the doors aren’t getting knocked, and the reports aren’t on your desk each day, I’d say you are looking at the beginning of an expensive mistake. Get the person on track right from the start, and if the results aren’t there, show them the door.
Best of luck, and keep it clean out there.