What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the term “salesman”? An overbearing, poorly dressed, non-stop talker obliviously working on commission is what most people immediately think. That was my thought in 1984 when I started my career in the drilling business. My title was “sales engineer.” I hated the term “sales” and, quite frankly, I was neither a sales professional nor an engineer. While many people equate the term “salesman” with the prototypical used car guy, sales professionals are needed in today’s fast-paced business environment. A wise man once told me “a rig doesn’t leave the yard until a sale is made.”

Does a drilling contractor need a professional salesman? Maybe. It depends on the clients the contractor services. Some domestic well drillers don’t have or need a salesman, as most of their business is word of mouth and long term reputation. However, larger firms that serve industrial/municipal clients or environmental drillers may have or need teams of sales people. Some companies think they can eliminate the need for a sales group by using the Internet and social media to generate leads and close deals. Does your company need a dedicated person or staff to perform the sales function? Only you can answer that question, but you probably already have a team of salesmen on your staff.

Let’s think about your existing staff. The first person your client comes into contact with is your office professional — the person who answers the phone and opens the mail. Like it or not, this person is your front-line salesman. Do you have a human answering the phone during normal business hours? I certainly hope so. Nothing annoys people more than a computer generated voice telling you how important you are while asking you to hit the number 3. When the phone gets answered, is the voice on the phone pleasant, professional and knowledgeable? The office staff doesn’t need to know how to troubleshoot a pump, but he or she needs to know how to route the call. If you are a domestic or municipal contractor, do you have an after-hours line that is manned by a human that can find everyone in your organization? I know that there are automated systems, but do they work? Does a client in desperate need of water want to leave a message on a machine and hope someone calls back? You need to impress upon the office staff that first impressions are important and they need to think of themselves as a salesman for the company.

Who else is a salesman in the company? How about everybody? The estimator/project manager who deals with the client on technical issues can be one of your best sales people. Are they professional and nice? Do they make the client feel like they are important or do they say, “I’ll get back to you after I get the other 10 bids off my desk”? How about the drillers, installers and helpers? Are they salesmen? You bet. They are the face of your company to the client. Little things are important. Remember perception is reality. Do they show up on time, with a knowledge of the work to be performed? Are they polite and do they communicate well with the client? The worst thing that can happen is the crew shows up late, in dirty clothes and bad mouths the company. Not all of the crew members may have the mindset to speak with the client on the site. It is then the responsibility of the company’s management to designate one person on the crew to meet and speak with the client.

We have been discussing how every person in your organization is a salesman. What about the equipment? Remember, perception is reality and first impressions are the most important. Take the time to clean and maintain your rig and support equipment. I know it can be difficult when times are good and you are going from job to job. However, we all know that sometimes equipment fails and if the rig looks dirty and worn the first thing the client thinks is “what a piece of junk, what else is going to break?” Your equipment does not need a perfect paint job or to be clean enough to serve dinner on. But perception is reality. If the client thinks a clean rig is better and newer than a filthy rig — it is.

Finally, the owner of the company is a salesman. He or she has the name on the sign outside the building and on the rigs. Are you, as the owner, responsive to your clients? Do you take the time to make the technical aspects of our business simple and understandable to your clients? Just listening (the best trait of a sales professional) is important and shows the client you are interested in their issues, not just getting them to sign the order so you can move on. The owner needs to let everyone on the staff know that they are in essence the sales team for the company. Let the employees know that making the client feel comfortable is important and that first impressions are everything. If the staff thinks of themselves as part of the sales team, I guarantee more sales will follow. Like a wise man once said “a rig doesn’t leave the yard until a sale is made.”

David S. Bardsley is business development manager for Directed Technologies Drilling. For more Bardsley columns, visit www.thedriller.com/bardsley.