Trouble with commercial sales?

Trouble with commercial sales?


We’re having trouble with commercial sales. As a successful small construction business, we’ve had a strong residential client base for a long time. Now we’re trying to diversify by getting into the commercial and light industrial sales. We’re finding those markets are tougher to get into than we expected. How can we fix this?

Thoughts of the Day: Trouble with commercial sales may be a matter of how you look at it. And transition from retail can be a challenge. It may not be harder to do business in commercial/industrial sales, just different. The core skills are the same, no matter who you’re calling on. Think of the commercial sector as a community you need to fit into.

Finding your way in a new sector can be challenging.

Get to know how the sector works, what typical solutions are preferred and why, how things typically flow through the decision making chain. Here are some of the selling skills in any good sales person’s toolkit:

  • listening,
  • taking good notes,
  • building relationships,
  • identifying problems,
  • proposing solutions,
  • sizing up good clients and walking away from troublesome ones,
  • following up,
  • negotiating,
  • asking for commitment.

Is your sales person struggling? Make sure their skills are at the level they should be. Take a couple of sales skill tests to assess how good you/they are. Take a course to polish the rough edges.

In commercial skills, you’ll need to manage a group of decision-makers and influencers.

This is not so different from retail sales where you dealt with the buyer, the buyer’s spouse, friends, relatives, and anyone else who might have weighed in with an opinion. Just as when you sold in the residential sector, if you can find out who is talking in the buyer’s ear and what motivates the influencers, you’re halfway to solving hidden issues that can get in the way of making a sale.

It pays to do your homework on how things typically work. What are the standard products and services for the commercial sector? What’s the process that industrial buyers typically go through? Find someone who has experience selling to this sector and learns from them. Read books on light industrial sales. Knowing what buyers in this marketplace expect can help you look like you’ve done this before.


Research what’s already been written for your targeted prospects.

In commercial sales, people get paid to read brochures and white papers. Research what’s already been written for your targeted prospects. Begin by sharing what’s out there rather than trying to create new content. Use the phrase, “Saw this article, thought you might be interested . . .” To make a bigger impact, polish your writing skills. Make sure anything you write is technically correct, to the point, and informative without being condescending or dense, and geared to the experience level of the recipient. Keep an eye on who picks up on which articles to gauge interest and need.


If you’re having trouble with commercial sales, do your homework.

What companies are buying? What positions typically buy and what positions influence buying decisions? Who are the sector leaders? Which companies look for innovations, which follow a tried and true approach? Who knows who? Most players in the business community want exposure for the sake of career development, so they are public about their roles and responsibilities.

Start networking. Go to events. Ask for introductions. Get to know suppliers who can be helpful with advice and connections. Make friends by being helpful and interested.

Keep track of your notes and the people you’re meeting.

Figure out how you’re going to keep track of your notes on who’s who, who you’ve talked to, what next steps you need to take. There will be multiple players in each prospective account, and they tend to be involved year after year, so get organized.

Looking for a good book?

Sales: Easy Fast Selling Success! Be The Best In Sales, by James Browning.