What began as a way to improve communication between employees at Mitchell Construction evolved into sales training to improve communication with clients. Instead of sending staff to a group training session, Tom Mitchell, president of the Medfield, Mass., company, brought the trainer to his office. “You get more by bending the training to your needs,” Mitchell says. He also thinks that having three people meet at the office twice a month for two hours is more cost-effective than paying travel expenses.

Currently, Mitchell and the company’s project development manager and interior designer are involved in the training, which began last fall. “These two help me primarily with training and new-business development, so they were the best place to start,” Mitchell says. But, in the future, he plans to include the firm’s 10 other employees in the training as well.

Mitchell’s original goal to improve intracompany communication evolved as the market softened. “Business is slow, and we needed to concentrate on creating new business,” he says.

Because its sales technique matches Mitchell Construction’s goals for sales and communication, the remodeler chose Mark Barnard, a coach from a local firm that specializes in Sandler Training (www.sandler.com). “[With the Sandler method], you have to be focused on the client and asking questions,” Mitchell says. “That [approach] resonates with me and my staff.”

Probing Emotions

To help them focus on the client’s emotional reasons for the renovation, Mitchell wants his staff to learn to ask the client more questions. “It is not what I want to sell; it is what they want to buy,” he says. “That carries through with everything.”

He has seen his project development manager and interior designer using the techniques learned from Sandler Training in sales meetings with clients. “They used to go in and talk about [our company],” Mitchell says. “They have now slowed down, and their focus is on finding out why the customer wants to do the job. This is also a way of being more in control, and it provides an excuse to ask more questions.”

Mitchell recommends that remodelers hire a communications coach. “A good trainer will pick up on any problems. Then you can build a plan.”