Sometimes, through no fault of their own, salespeople over-promise, which can cause production to inadvertently under-deliver. That scenario had happened one too many times for Larry Closs, owner of NewBath, which does bathroom renovating and remodeling in New Orleans.

“We started cross-training as a way of bringing sales and production closer together,” he says. What began as a program for six salespeople has been extended to include everyone in the 60-person company.

Taking Ownership

Closs’ sales team didn’t really know how a job was put together and they didn’t have the ability to explain how a job would look when complete. “[Sales] and a customer have to both envision a finished job in the same way,” says Closs, who now requires salespeople to spend a week in the field learning how to install jobs.

Although the installers were doing a good job of teaching the salespeople, Closs realized there was room for improvement, so he put together a list of questions ranging from how to handle a tricky corner or crown molding to how the company might fix a broken drain.

Now, sales personnel are responsible for getting answers to those questions. And, Closs points out, since production does the training on site and in the classroom, they can no longer fault the sales department for mistakes on production issues.

Closs noticed issues in other departments — administration and marketing (events and phone room) — as well. E.g., those in the phone room felt disconnected; they were just “selling appointments.” And while thank-you calls often went directly to a manager, complaints landed in the phone room.

Closs soon extended the training to all departments. Every employee who has been with the company for at least 90 days will spend a day in another department. “Now we get a little more of a team attitude and respect for what others have to go through,” Closs says. “There are fewer internal complaints and less finger-pointing, and it has really made a difference with the customers.”

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.