First, just a quick heads-up: this post is written primarily for the painting contractor audience. If you run another type of home improvement business, I do hope you’ll glean a few benefits as well.
“Painting estimator” is one of the hardest positions to fill. Don’t take my word for it: almost all of my clients have echoed the same sentiment over the years.
Think about it – you probably started your painting business with you being the chief estimator. You can go out and sell $1 to 2MM while running your business too. Then you finally find an estimator and wonder why he or she cannot close $500-750k a year? If you can do it and run the whole company, why can’t someone else do it?
It’s probably because you’re hiring order-takers, not prospectors.
What’s the Difference?
When you go to a sit-down restaurant, you review the menu and wait for the server to come by, take down your order, and serve you what you asked for.
It isn’t rocket science.
So, what makes some servers exceptional and memorable? Typically, it’s those who don’t even need to write down the order, provide an experience, and are engaging. Maybe they offer a suggestion or two, guiding you toward the best decision possible. You’ve probably experienced a few of those!
It’s similar in the painting world. I have seen both order-takers and prospectors sell paint jobs, but it’s the prospectors that win in the end.
A prospector, also known as a hunter, provides the memorable experience and OWNS the process. They don’t really need a lot of direction, either. The marketers can share the plan and a few ideas, then the prospector will get to work without relying 100% on the marketing team to provide all the leads. No excuses, no finger-pointing.
Let’s talk about Jondec Painting, a residential painting company in the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve been working with their team for about a year now and have had the privilege of working alongside one of their estimators, Chris Piatt, since day one. I am so impressed with this guy. He is anything but an order-taker. He is a learner. He will not settle with just what we, the marketing team, will hand over to him. I am able to give him ideas on ways to prospect and grow leads throughout the year on top of the leads we already provide. Chris listens, asks questions, and then gets to work. When we get together during our monthly calls, I know that he did not just sit back and wait for the phone to ring. He hunted! He prospected! He got his hands dirty. It makes all the difference.
Your painting company will be more successful when your sales team is connected with your marketing team and they play nicely together. Chris is a good example of this once again. He comes to our meetings with questions and is always willing to learn and be teachable.
What’s the Takeaway?
Hire people who want to learn.
Look for a salesperson who doesn’t have 20+ years experience, but one who learns and will never be found looking to you for leads. Don’t get me wrong – I am in the business of helping companies get more leads! Yet there should always be a good balance between self-generated leads and new leads. If a hungry prospector has a good system in place to not only sell jobs but knows how to nurture those prospects/customers time and time again, your business will thrive.
You as the business owner then need to make sure you take care of people like this. Make sure you give him or her the tools needed to succeed. Will you have open lines of communication? Do you have ways to reward a key employee? Will this person feel valued in your organization?
5 Tips for Hiring a Prospector
A deep dive into hiring practices is a topic for another day. In the meantime, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind.
- Start in-house. Some of the best hires I’ve seen are made right within the company, especially from the painting team. You might have a hungry prospector right under your nose, just waiting for the opportunity to shine.
- Experience isn’t always essential! You can do a lot of training and professional development to grow someone who has the raw skills and drive. Hiring someone who already has their own process and may be unteachable is a serious gamble.
- Hone your interviewing skills. Take a close look at the deeper questions, providing insight into who this person is and what they really offer. Resumes can be only skin deep. Ask specifically about how they would handle certain situations, too.
- On the other side of the coin, there can be people who have a wealth of management experience, but are ready to get “back in the game.” Maybe someone who grew their own company and is tired of the day-to-day grind, and would prefer to rub shoulders with people and get out from behind the desk. Again, it comes back to asking the right questions and clearly outlining exactly what the role involves (and what it doesn’t).
- Reach out to your own contacts. Putting out an email to your personal list can be worthwhile, letting people know who you’re looking for, and asking if it lines up with someone they know. You could be offering just what someone is desperately looking for.
Hang in there! Hiring can be stressful, but it also can be extremely fruitful. Keep hunting for your hunter!