Next time you need to hire a salesperson, think outside the remodeling box. “Look in other industries,” says Phil Rea, an industry sales consultant. “Our industry is still lagging in sales” compared to industries such as cars and real estate, which revere the sales function and emphasize training and detailed lead tracking. “So many people know how to build, but not so many know how to sell,” Rea adds.

Jeb Breithaupt of Jeb Breithaupt Design/Build, Shreveport, La., can attest to that theory. Two years ago, he hired a salesman who had owned a business and been in medical sales, but had no remodeling experience. “He sold $543,000 his first year, and is on track to sell $850,000-plus this year,” says Breithaupt. He attributes the salesman's success to his personality, professionalism, and maturity. Since Breithaupt's company is design/build, he wants salespeople who can build relationships with upscale, educated clients, not just push for quick sales.

Rea advises being on constant lookout for gifted salespeople, paying close attention to their attitude, work ethic, and enthusiasm. Breithaupt further identifies prospects through personality-profiling software. He has a 30-day training program to teach new hires the trade.

Given the choice between hiring a salesperson with a lot of construction experience or one with sales experience, “I'd pick the salesperson,” Breithaupt says. “Construction knowledge can be a hindrance, because it's not about the bricks. It's about their emotions, their fears.” His latest hire, who sold furniture for five years, seems to understand this. “She really studies buying cycles and behavior,” Breithaupt says. “We can teach her about estimating.”