ORLANDO, Fla. - Now we know why the International Builders’ Show is so tiring for attendees.
The National Association of Home Builders, which hosts the annual event, describes it this way: “If you can imagine walking through every square foot of the landmark Chrysler Building, a 77-story New York City skyscraper, you’d have some sense of the size of the exhibition.”

They mention that the 100,000-plus annual attendance means Orlando, already a top worldwide tourist destination, adds the population of a city the size of Boulder, Colo., during the meeting.
So that’s why it took 20 minutes to drive a mile down International Drive to the Orange County Convention Center, and a similar amount of time to walk the pedestrian bridge connecting the two buildings containing the Feb. 7-10 event.

And if last year’s show, also held in Orlando, was any guide, they probably sold 75,000 slices of bread, 2,000 pounds of salad, 3,000 pounds of potato chips, 6,000 gallons of beverages and the equivalent of 2.5 miles of hot dogs and sausages. Those were the food concession numbers released by show organizers in 2006.

This year’s show attracted almost 104,000 people, according to NAHB officials. More than 1,900 exhibitors used a record 1 million square feet of floor space.
“The International Builders’ Show continues to grow because it is the event of the year for builders who want to stay on the cutting edge,” said current NAHB President David Pressly, a builder from Statesville, N.C.

The show was packed with towering exhibits displaying the latest in everything from high-end kitchen gadgets such as built-in espresso makers, stainless steel refrigerators and professional-quality stoves, to tools and HVAC products. Besides that, they also had plenty of educational seminars.

Jerry Rouleau of J. Rouleau & Associates co-hosted the Feb. 7 seminar, “12 Tips to Successfully Hire, Develop and Motivate a Great Sales Team.” He said too many salespeople are comfortable with so-so earnings.

Hiring and firing

One was “12 Tips to Successfully Hire, Develop and Motivate a Great Sales Team.” If you’ve ever hired the wrong person for a sales position, you have a lot of company, judging by the attendance at the Feb. 7 presentation by Margot Larson and Jerry Rouleau.

Larson is the president of KardasLarson LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Connecticut. Public relations expert Rouleau runs J. Rouleau & Associates, also in Connecticut.
Using a tag-team approach to their presentation, they urged attendees to consider the costs of hiring and keeping poor-performing salespeople.

“100,000 is a number you should imbed in your head,” Rouleau said. That’s the cost of hiring a bad salesperson.

When they asked if anybody had ever hired someone who didn’t work out, most hands in the room went up.

Larson said they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves.

“They (were) probably better at selling themselves than you are at judging people,” she said.
And as for keeping them on staff, sometimes that’s easier, Rouleau acknowledged.
“They’ve got this sale they’re working on,” he said, to nods of agreement in the audience.
To avoid such scenarios, Larson and Rouleau recommended “defining the job” as the first of their 12 tips.

This includes knowing overall responsibilities, essential tasks and deciding on qualifications.

Steve Martin, Duro Dyne Corp.’s product development director, explains the company’s products to a Builders’ Show attendee.

Pay programs

Second, you must structure the pay program to get results, they said.

“A lot of our salespeople are too much in their comfort zones,” Rouleau said, adding they’re happy earning whatever their current efforts give them.
But that’s not good enough, Larson said.

“You really want someone who wants to earn $100,000 (a year),” she said, urging attendees to ensure sales staff is paid at least in part on commission. “I don’t understand why we’d pay a salesperson a salary only.”

And don’t be afraid of success, Rouleau added.

“Some of you are afraid the salespeople are going to make more than you,” he said to the many company owners in the audience. “(But) that’s a good position to be in.”

Tip No. 3: Recruit the talent.

“Go out there. Keep your eyes open,” Larson urged. She said you might find a great salesperson at the grocery store or restaurant. “Hire them before you need them.”

The next tip dealt with screening resumes. Rouleau said he looks to see if a resume-containing envelope has a postage meter mark instead of a stamp. If so, it may have been sent from work and the applicant may not be a good worker. He also knows one owner who will place some litter at a jobsite to see if an applicant picks it up.

Tip No. 5 dealt with interviewing. Larson told the audience to screen perspective new hires over the phone.

“I’ve called to arrange an interview and knew by the time I hung up the phone I shouldn’t have called to schedule the interview,” she said.

And try to stay objective. Just because you like somebody doesn’t mean they’re right for a position.
“If you start connecting with them, you start to lose your objectivity,” she said.

Don’t forget to listen, which can be hard for those who work in sales, Larson acknowledged.
“Most people who have a strong sales background do not do a good job of interviewing, because they talk too much,” she said. Make sure applicants do most of the talking.

The pair also urged the use of assessment profiles, which was tip No. 6. The next suggestion was “select wisely.”

“Don’t just take the best of the worst,” Rouleau said.

Tip No. 8 dealt with references, which Larson said were “absolutely critical,” even though some people never check them.

Attendees were also urged to communicate their expectations and use extensive training to ensure success. The last tips, quickly explained as session time ran out, said owners should measure performance and know when it is time to let someone go.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail devriesj@bnpmedia.com