Editor’s Note: This is Part I of a two-part column. Part II will appear in the November issue.
During my junior year of college, my then-fiancée (and current Queen) Tami and I were very fortunate to land jobs at an exclusive country club outside of Chicago, Ill. I started out as a valet and worked my way up to waiter. This particular country club was full of business tycoons, venture capitalists, bankers, lawyers, heart surgeons, etc. My pay was minimum wage ($3.80 per hour in 1990), but the members tipped very well.
Even at the age of 21, I understood that the more food and alcohol the members consumed, the bigger my tip was going to be. If someone wanted calamari for an appetizer, I convinced them to go with oysters on the half shell. If they were feeling like New York strip steak, I’d suggest the prime rib. Thirsty for some California Merlot? Try the Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon instead.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
One night, while working in the VIP area, I was asked to serve a party for a wedding rehearsal. The father of the bride was hosting about 40 relatives and friends, and he had an open tab. As the night wore on, I noticed him paying close attention to me — and rightfully so, because I was upselling bottles of Pouilly-Fuissé like Coca-Cola to Mean Joe Green.
I don’t remember what his final bill was, but at the end of the night, the bus boys were carrying me around like I just won the soccer World Cup. They were celebrating because the bus boys and bartenders always got a cut of the tips in the VIP room.
As the host of the party was saying goodbye to his well-fed guests, he grabbed me by the arm and handed me a business card. He smiled and said, “I own a number of car dealerships. You really impressed me tonight, and I would like you to start working for me Monday morning.”
I was thrilled. That summer, I split my time between my dad’s pest control company and the dealership, while still working at the country club in the evenings.
Selling cars was tough. When someone calls a pest management professional (PMP), it is usually because they have an emergency or a desperate need. It’s different with cars. People can be slow and methodical. I figured I could schmooze people into buying a car the same way I convinced someone to buy a more expensive wine.
I was wrong. I lasted all of two months and sold exactly one used vehicle.
I was so upset with myself for failing that I immediately jumped into another sales job: selling commercials on Sports Channel Chicago. I wanted to prove I could sell anything.
That was a bigger disaster than Decca Records failing to sign The Beatles. Shortly after that, I turned my attention back to school and running a route at my dad’s company.
Fast forward 30 years, and you will see that I learned from my mistakes. At Schopen Pest Solutions, we have a process for everything, including sales. In hindsight, there are two reasons why I failed so miserably at selling cars and TV commercials:
- No one coached me.
- I didn’t understand the sales process.
Sales is about building relationships. Even a quick conversation with a new client on the phone can build a certain amount of trust and confidence.
Our team always is training and coaching. Managers, supervisors, techs, client service advocates (CSAs), and billing and sales staff all get regular training sessions or meetings with either me or a supervisor. I meet with my inside sales staff every Thursday at 2 p.m. Our meetings consist of sales tips, weekly and monthly totals, goal setting, and updating and improving our sales process.
Our team defines “inside sales” as any leads that come to us via our website, virtual assistant, Home Advisor, Yelp, Thumbtack and random phone calls. While it is the norm for our CSAs to answer the phones and make sales, it is up to our inside salespeople to respond to everything else.
When we react to our leads, we call, text and email within minutes, if not seconds, of the potential client reaching out to us. According to sales consulting firm The Brevet Group, as much as 50 percent of sales go to the vendor that responds first.
Last but not least, at Schopen Pest Solutions, we work on everything involved in the sale. For example, we tell our staff to always answer the phone or make a call with a smile. People can hear it in your voice if you are speaking with a smile vs. a frown. When answering a phone, text or email, we always answer with, “Help is on the way! How may I help you?”
This establishes a connection with clients: They know we understand the importance of their phone call; we know their situation is urgent and we have empathy for their dilemma.
Next month, I’m going to break down step by step how we make sure our inside salespeople are closing sales at a high rate. I might also show you how to debone and fillet a Dover sole. You never know when you might need a second job at a country club.
SCHOPEN’S OPEN BOOK
Start-up: Schopen Pest Solutions Inc.
Headquarters: McHenry, Ill.
Founder: Peter F. Schopen Jr.
Start-up Date: April 11, 2006
Number of employees: 35 (33 full-time, 1 part-time, 1 trainee)
2006 revenue: $97,235
2007 revenue: $172,495
2008 revenue: $203,732
2009 revenue: $243,427
2010 revenue: $325,960
2011 revenue: $425,847
2012 revenue: $489,887
2013 revenue: $572,772
2014 revenue: $687,326
2015 revenue: $858,180
2016 revenue: $1,079,068
2017 revenue: $1,478,600
2018 revenue: $1,877,496
2019 revenue: $2,095,118
2020 revenue: $2,398,367
2021 revenue to-date: $1,993,952*
August revenue: $307,051**
2021 goal: $3,219,839
* Up 27% from last year.
** Up 23% from August 2020.