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Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome back. In this post, we are going to be talking about the BAS Sales role. So, for the past few weeks we've been talking about different roles in the building automation field, and this is the last role we're going to cover.

Let's talk about selling building automation systems. What is a BAS sales role? Well, there are a couple different types. Traditionally, you have inside and outside sales.

Inside Sales

Inside sales is typically found at the product organizations. These would be folks who go to contractors and get them to carry their products. So, they sell to the people who sell their products. You can see inside sales at suppliers and distributors, once again, selling products to the people who sell the products. This is more of an understanding product line-up and understanding how to align a product with a problem. So, this role is very solution-oriented understanding the user has “this kind of project, with these project parameters, these are the products I recommend, and here's the order in which I recommend them. That is inside sales.

Outside Sales

Outside sales is more customer direct. Depending on whether you do construction or owner sales, it can require totally different skill sets. In construction sales, you're typically selling to a mechanical contractor, you are bidding projects in what is known as plan and spec work as that's the majority of the work in the construction field. Now there is design build, public private partnerships (P3s), Integrated Development Projects (IDPs), and a bunch of different types of project delivery models.

At the end of the day, you are selling a project against a most likely predesigned solution. So, you're identifying, there is this design by an engineer for XYZ system in ABC building, and we're going to bid it. Bidding requires you to do takeoffs, so you have to be able to read mechanical documents, specifications, etc, understand what's going on. Then you've have to create a cost and a design structure for a project. Now, on the larger projects, you may have a Designer on the sales side, a Pre-sales Engineer, a Pre-sales Designer, who is going to come alongside you and pick the right parts and pieces for your project.

Owner Sales Rep

Now, you also have Owner Sales Reps. Owner Sales Reps sell directly to owners. It's a more relational role, problem-solving role, and it requires a different level of technical aptitude. Whereas construction salespeople have to understand construction methodologies, they have to understand Construction Law to a basic degree, contracting, how construction works from a design to an execution perspective so that you can appropriately scope, design, and estimate the projects that they bid.

The Owner Sales Rep is more of a, “Hey, I'm coming alongside an owner and I'm going to do digging and problem-solving discovery. I'm going to find what problems they have, and then based on those problems, I'm going to sell them service solutions or retrofit solutions in order to go about solving their issues.” So they’re selling direct to owner, and are often selling to people who are not professional builders. That's just the reality. A General Contractor builds hundreds of buildings a year, depending on their size, and an owner may build one building every several years to decades. So just be cognizant that the level of experience from a contracting and constructing perspective is going to be lower on the owner side, but much higher in the field of operations. And as such, you are usually going to be the SME, the Subject Matter Expert, when it comes to executing a retrofit or a service opportunity.

Now, there are things like energy conservation projects and system integration projects, but those are specialties. They usually have a very high cost of sales, and they require a fairly experienced salesperson, but we're not really going to dive into those right now. While they are big projects, from a percentage of volume, they are a small percentage of the volume of work we do in the industry. So, if I were you, and I'm focusing on a sales role, I would focus on owner or construction sales, and then you could laterally move into system integration work or energy conservation work, at a later point.


So how do you develop the skills to succeed? Well, in order to sell, you need to be able to work with people. So, you have to be a people person, to a point. The most successful salespeople I've met are not the slap happy, jolly, super relational people. They're actually a little introverted. They're very strategic, but they can be outgoing when they need to be, and that seems to work well.

I will tell you that there are plenty of salespeople who are extroverted, and our society and culture make it seem that to be a salesperson, you need to be extroverted. I think if you dig into the very successful ones, they're actually more strategic in their extraversion, in their outgoingness, their strategic, and who they connect to. So being strategic, being able to manage time well, being a self-starter, self-motivated, and self-organized. In sales roles, you very rarely have direction, unless you're behind plan. Then, everyone is either going to be on you until you get to plan or they're going to fire you.

That's the interesting thing about salespeople. I used to think that we would sell a crazy amount of courses to salespeople because our courses can help them make money, but I was completely wrong. The fact is, most organizations, if a salesperson doesn't perform, they’ll just fire them and hire someone new. They don't train them. That just seems to be the life of a salesperson, which is kind of disappointing.

So how do you go about developing yourself into a salesperson? Well, first thing you have to do is get yourself to the point where you're comfortable with the decreased income on the front end, for potential unlimited upside on the back end. Depending on where you work, some companies have unlimited commissions and some companies cap commissions. I think that's kind of foolish, but it is what it is.

So how do you go about this?

  1. You have to accept that you may potentially not be making a whole lot of base salary. A lot of what you do is going to be conditional to you actually selling. So, you need to be cognizant of that, as it is important.
  2. You need to have a baseline technical aptitude of building automation, HVAC and IT, that way you can understand what customers are asking and you can propose solutions.
  3. You need to understand the environment in which you're selling, whether it's construction or owner, and what vertical market you're selling in. So, you need to focus on these things.

You know, there are a lot of processes that can be put in place such as, how to do take offs, how to build an estimate, but I'm not going to teach you that here. You can learn that for example, in our Scoping and Estimating course. We teach that, but that's usually taught to you. What you're going to struggle to find taught is tenacity and level of effort.

I feel that anyone can be successful in sales if they have tenacity, level of effort, and a baseline personality that you don't have to be loved by everyone, so to speak. But you have to be, at least at a baseline, likable. You combine that with really hard work, and realizing that at least for the first couple years, you're going to have to really work hard on building out your pipeline. That's going to be establishing relationships with customers, repeat buyers, understanding the market in which you work, what verticals are growing vs shrinking, what your competition does or doesn’t do well so you can take advantage of that. You’ll also want to understand gaps in the market that you can address potentially with your solution. If you figure those things out, and you work harder than everyone else, you will most likely be successful in a sales role.

So, there’s not much more to it. I wish I could give you some magical insight on it, but there are so many books written about sales that I would just be regurgitating stuff that you could read yourself. The reality is at the end of the day, it's a very fulfilling role, but it is a role that is very unforgiving.

Unlike, and I hate to say this, being in a technical role, you can’t often fake it till you make it. In sales, the monetary numbers aren't going to lie, and the reality is, if you don't make your numbers fairly quickly, you're going to get let go. That's one of the stresses, I would say the biggest stress, about sales in building automation, or in any field.

So, I would understand:

  1. What pipeline are you walking into?
  2. What does the market look like? Is it trending up or trending down?
  3. Can you even be successful in the market?

I would argue you can be successful in almost any market, but there is a reality point to that which is, if you're in the middle of nowhere, it is going to be kind of hard to meet a crazy large plan when there's just simply no construction and no projects going on. So be aware of that and just be cognizant of that as you approach a sales role.

Alright, if you have any questions like always, let us know. In our next post, we are going to start diving into specifically sales, what salespeople need to know, sales strategy, and just hopefully give you all some information that by this time next year, you'll have a much bigger pipeline, you will have a lot more business closed, and if you're on the technical side, you can use this to secure more work for you and your technical teams as well.

So, thanks a ton. Take care.

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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