Honing Sales Savvy to Compete in a Recession

By Charlotte Huff

Feb. 5, 2009

When Chris Cassata started working in 2004 at the Glass Doctor franchise in Daytona Beach, Florida, the work was flooding in—literally. Several hurricanes had crisscrossed the state that year and glass-related repairs kept Cassata hopping.

These days Cassata feels like he’s swimming upstream, as the sales representative strives to peddle auto, residential and other types of glass in the economically depressed state. “It’s rough out there,” he says.

So in November 2008, he signed up for a three-day session at Glass Doctor’s brand-new training facility to sharpen his sales edge. The 3,600-square-foot facility in Waco, Texas, which held its grand opening amid last fall’s economic crisis, is part of the company’s long-term strategy to compete more on higher quality and better service than the lowest prices.

“When times are tough, people cut price,” says Kay Jacobsen, a sales trainer and franchise consultant at Glass Doctor, which has about 370 U.S. locations. The company is encouraging the sales force to get off the phone and schedule more in-person appointments with potential clients, she says. “During this time, it’s even more important that we are letting people know what we have to offer and setting ourselves apart.”

The new center’s classes not only delve into the myriad aspects of glass products, but also work on the psychological components of sales, Jacobsen says. “They have to be confident when they go out there.”

Cassata readily admits that he’s more comfortable selling auto glass because of his personal interest in cars. During his time at the training center, he focused on other types, such as residential or commercial flat glass. He also picked up some pointers on potential sales leads, such as marketing to the local police department or scheduling a meeting with the local hospital’s engineer.

But he talks mostly about the role-playing sessions, where he got feedback on his sales style. “When I’m not too comfortable going into a place, I notice I talk too quickly,” he says.

Since that training stint, Cassata now slows down as he makes his case. And he’s practicing other strategies, such as noticing family photos and other office mementos, in the hope that he’ll make a personal connection that later seals the deal in glass.

Charlotte Huff is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.

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