Green Your Sales Team: Q&A with a Regional Sales Director
We make a point at HD Supply to talk a lot about sustainability with our customers. That message is important, but how that message is delivered is also important. I am fortunate to work with a great group of sales people who understand the value of sustainability and work hard to promote that value to their customers. Bob Swain, our Regional Sales Director of the Northwest, has been a prominent supporter of sustainability for years. I had the opportunity to sit down with him recently, to learn how he made his sales team more efficient and effective at promoting sustainability.
Evan Matzen: With a growing emphasis on sustainability and sustainable products, how important is it for a sales team to be green itself?
Bob Swain: Very important. We’re telling our customers the importance of water conservation and energy efficiency, and selling them products to green their business. As a sales team, we’ve got to be walking the talk of sustainability.
E: How can a sales team make a difference?
B: When we talk about “being green” we are really talking about a few different things, not just products. Your sales team may not think twice about jumping in their car and driving halfway across town to speak to a customer or vendor. But is that really necessary? Why not just pick up the phone and call them? Chances are that a phone call, or an e-mail, or even a text message will satisfy their needs and be just as efficient.
E: Is it as simple as it sounds?
B: It can be! If a sales rep makes eight calls a day, at least two or three of those customers won’t have time to talk at that moment. Having a contact strategy for each account, which meets the customers’ needs as well as their own, is the key to success. One simple question to ask: “What’s the best way to contact you?” That’s where the strategy comes in. A good strategy will save the environment with reduced vehicle emissions, miles driven, travel time, gas, wear and tear on the car, and allow a sales rep the opportunity to spend more time on accounts that really need it.
E: Do your average sales reps understand the impact they can make by being more efficient and helping their customers do the same?
B: They do. It has been a challenge in some regions selling green products; however, properties appreciate the money they can save using less water and electricity. Oftentimes we find that the property doesn’t know how to market green products to their residents.
Our sales reps, on the other hand, practice what we’re preaching. They’re communicating electronically more, driving less, and even purchasing hybrid vehicles. One associate recently purchased a Toyota Prius. With his normal sales calls, he’s only filling the car up every other week, as opposed to filling up twice a week like he was before. Customers notice things like that. And if you don’t drive a hybrid even the little things, like having your car’s tires properly inflated, help.
E: Outside of product knowledge, how else can you green your sales team?
B: I use what I call my “Green Community Checklist.” It’s a very simple sheet that notes where a property may have room for improvement: Lighting, nontoxic cleaners, ENERGY STAR®-qualified appliances, aerators, and other water conservation products — you name it. Each property is different and each is going to have different needs. But if a rep uses a checklist like I designed when they’re at a property or even just talking to the manager on the phone, they can be confident they won’t miss a detail, or a sales opportunity.
E: That sounds like another way a sales rep can be efficient!
B: It certainly is.
In what ways have you greened your sales team?