Danita Bye Helps Bellcomb Execute Large-Account Strategy.
Bellcomb is the fastest growing and largest supplier of custom-designed lightweight custom designer of lightweight composite structural panels in the world. Its 1,000,000-square- meter capacity and proprietary efficient production techniques make the company the industry leading manufacturer of honeycomb sandwich panels that solve complex problems. Since its establishment in 1989, Bellcomb has grown to serve clients in more than 40 industries with exceptional expertise in maritime.
- Improved sales-process cost-effectiveness by replacing 70% of the customers that comprised only 1% of revenue.
- “20 Questions” reduced costly proposals that weren’t being closed.
- Firm negotiation process protects margins.
- Four months into the year, the company is on track to achieving a 50% revenue increase.
The CEO’s Perspective
Bellcomb President and Founder David Hartwell had a reasonable growth strategy for the company: transform the company’s customer base from a plethora of small accounts to select elite accounts.
“With our market position—our reputation for dimensional stability, non-combustibility, thermal efficiency, sound control, and moisture and corrosion control—I felt that we should be directing our sales efforts at larger accounts with more complex needs,” says Hartwell.
“I learned the hard way that a candidate who interviews well is not necessarily a good hire.”
Hartwell became disenchanted with his sales manager because he continued to chase smaller accounts. After he fired the sales manager, he contacted Bye to work with a recruiter and hire a replacement who could get the job done. “I had made one bad hire and didn’t want to repeat that mistake. I learned the hard way that a candidate who interviews well is not necessarily a good hire. I certainly learned that a sales manager who understood the negotiation process was key to fulfilling our goal,” Hartwell explains. “And I trusted Danita’s assessment process to get us there.”
Bye’s assessment process proved successful with the hiring of Mark Phillion as the new sales manager. “We now have a future,” says Hartwell. Mark has proven that he understands the negotiation and selling processes, how to sell concepts, and manage people.”
Sales Management’s Perspective
Phillion’s impression of the Bellcomb sales organization he first saw was that they appeared to be unenergetic and disheartened. “They believed they were a manufacturing-driven company. I could see that they were really victims of ineffective sales leadership. They didn’t know what they were supposed to do or how to do it. As a result, they were reactive, starved for leads, and would glob onto any prospect that was breathing. They were so unempowered that they were poor negotiators,” he explains.
Early changes set the stage for success
On a mission to demonstrate that there was a “new coach in town,” who was determined to improve life for the sales team on all fronts, the ex-Marine felt he needed to act quickly. In addition to creating a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan and instituting weekly meetings, the new sales manager delivered a 100-day state-of-the-union address in which he generated real excitement beyond sales.
Linking mental change with physical change, Phillion literally had the team clean house. “It’s tough to feel professional in an unprofessional environment. They straightened up their offices and got rid of the clutter, so they could focus. We worked on personal appearance. No more unprofessional attire—business casual or formal business attire only. And we worked on being present, committed—no more leaving early.
“These physical changes helped change their mindset. We became a much more professional group. We freshened up the brand to reflect our sophisticated capabilities. We attend more shows, including international events, demonstrating our commitment to larger accounts. This has helped drive the culture and mentality we needed to make the psychological leap for multi-million-dollar accounts.” The impact of these early changes spread across the entire company, prompting operations to implement processes required for large account support.
Methodology fills gaps
In tandem with these efforts, Phillion began plugging the holes revealed in the sales force assessments that Bye had previously conducted. “It was clear that the sales team lacked a methodology,” he notes. “Without a sales process and common language, they didn’t have a framework for successful selling. Danita’s help in developing that framework was essential in turning our performance around.”
Training and coaching actually helped some salespeople who did not assess well excel. “It helped them overcome lack of confidence and fears that were undermining their success—especially fears related to rejection and dealing with big dollars,” Phillion explains. “They learned to stick to the process, accepting the major premise that deals are never about price, but rather about economics. And one of the most valuable lessons they’re embracing is that it’s o.k. to walk away from a deal if it’s not right. In fact, it’s the thing to do rather than waste their time. We’re creating best practices, like the 20 questions we must have prospects answers that help us get to ‘No’.”
Coaching is a huge factor in developing his sales team. Phillion focuses on each salesperson to get them to dream and help them achieve their dream. He says, “By linking their success through a highly motivating compensation plan to the company’s success, we’ve created a win-win environment. Each salesperson created their own goal poster—a visual reminder of what motivates them to be successful sales professionals. Each has their own playbook, complete with goals, plans, and tactics. They’re dealing with sales that can literally change their lives.”
The weekly sales meetings have evolved from early arguments about what the team could or couldn’t do to sophisticated negotiation roleplays designed by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business. “We’ve definitely raised the bar,” says Phillion. We’re working on our next hurdle—overcoming the dysfunctional decisionmaking that commonly occurs in big companies. We’re confident we’ll get there—and soon.”