Overcoming the Salesmen Vs. Installers Battle

Jan. 22, 2007
Take your corners as we try to put a stop to this classic security business problem

"If you would have sold this system correctly, we wouldn't be having this conversation", says the installer.

"Maybe you should have just installed it the way it was supposed to be and this can of worms would have never reared its ugly head", replies the salesman.

Accusations fly, egos take over, disrespect ensues, and you have a brick wall between the first two people your customer comes in contact with. Why do many companies struggle with this very visible partition separating sales people and installers?

Many sales people believe they are the backbone of the company. "Without me out there closing the deal, you would have nothing to install. I bring in all the money for this company and without me you would have no job!" Without ever saying it, some salesmen feel the installer is little more than a clerk whose job it is to simply go out and do what they're told. With this mind set, there is often an adversarial undercurrent going on at a company which can last for years.

Installers on the other hand are generally quite technical in nature. I would even say that many of them are perfectionists who become angry when something isn't done correctly, or when they are forced to install something they feel may not be proper for the particular application. "Well, Mr. Backbone, if it wasn't for me you would have nothing to sell. Here are my tools, let's see you go install it yourself!" Usually without ever saying it, the installer feels that the salesman is making all this money, rarely breaks a bead of sweat, knows nothing about how this equipment works, and acts like a prima donna.

Most companies recognize this as something going on, but rarely consider ways to redirect it. Imagine for a moment that your company is a human body. If the sales people are the backbone and skeleton, I suppose the installers could be the arms and hands. Perhaps the service techs are the legs and feet, the central station operators the heart, office staff the blood, and management and ownership is the brain. In this scenario the whole is the sum of all parts. Without any one of the parts, we all would have a big problem. Weaving the fabric of a close-knit team entails mutual respect, understanding, communication, and information. Sadly, many companies do not intentionally blend the recipe necessary to tear down the wall.

Everyone is busy doing their daily tasks. Many of us have a lot on our plate and -- with very few exceptions -- people just accept the fact that sales people and installers generally do not see eye to eye. And as long as that sometimes adversarial relationship doesn't affect our customers, it is something we can live with.

But before you get stuck in that mindset, I want you to ask yourself, "How much more effective could my company become by intentionally working to tear down the wall between sales and installers?"

There is no doubt that to a very large degree, this issue can be resolved through communication and information. My question is whether you ever sat various individuals down face-to-face to discuss their differences and their challenges? Who of you reading this today, has taken your entire sales department and your entire installation group and put them in a room together to share information with the intention of tearing down the wall that stands between them and how they feel about one and other?

Having orchestrated this successfully at many companies, I can tell you that very often a professional outsider has a keen advantage in directing the dialogue in a benign manner by raising issues everyone in the room can relate with, but often doesn't articulate. By providing certain scenarios and asking the group how they might deal with a specific situation, I have seen both sales people and installers offer creative and tangible solutions to problems they may have never had the platform to communicate on. This kind of face-to-face meeting usually results in both sides laughing at themselves a little, and at the same time they will learn something about the other which helps to bridge the gap between them in many meaningful ways.

Another extremely beneficial technique to consider during the course of one of these meetings is to create a roll-playing game of sorts. Come up with at least five common issues they have all experienced, and try to resolve them during the meeting. Let your group switch rolls. The sales people will be the installers, and vice versa. Each challenging issue will be brought up one-by-one.

The sales person will get to put on the installers hat and offer his solution to the problem. The installer will have to resolve a problem faced by sales people. After the answers are given, the person conducting the meeting can offer an alternative way of solving the problem. If done correctly and in a fun and exciting way, this exercise will provide both sides with a different angle on things the other is faced with on a regular basis. At the end of the day, you will see a change in how they feel about each other. If you can be really creative, you will actually see both sides garner a considerably higher degree of respect for one and other, along with significantly more understanding and empathy for problems and challenges the other is faced with on a daily basis. Will problems still happen? Of course they will. Will they be fewer and more cooperatively resolved? Absolutely, yes!

This same idea can be used for the entire company. Front office and back office; Service and install; management and employee, the entire company will benefit through communication, information, and empathy to create a truly informed team who will be more cooperative, respectful of one and other, and who will work more closely together to take a higher degree of ownership toward problem solving. Not only will your company benefit, but so will your customers. When you invest the time and effort to intentionally work on ways to resolve challenging internal issues as opposed to simply accepting them as something which can not be changed, morale will go up, cooperation and attitudes will improve, and you will have increased the value of your business both internally and externally. Want to share some of the things you have done along these lines with other SecurityInfoWatch readers? Email me below about how you've overcome the sales vs. installers problem. We look forward to hearing from you. See you next month!

About the author: Bob Harris is managing director for The Attrition Busters. With over 30 years in the alarm industry, he provides seminars, business consulting, and workshops to help great companies become even better. Bob can be reached at (818) 730-4690 or by email at [email protected]. Learn more about The Attrition Busters at www.attritionbusters.com.