The conventional wisdom dictates that to drive growth, a company needs a dedicated sales force. Yet, without a single salesperson on staff, John Vacca’s company increased revenue by 60% over the last five years.
Vacca’s company, which manufactures and installs windows and doors, has engaged salespeople in the past, with limited success. Vacca, founder and president of Stoney Creek, Ont.-based Norstar Windows & Doors, finds that deals just get done sooner if he or his father, Fiore, handle things themselves. It’s hard to argue with their success:Norstar Windows & Doors brought in revenues in the $10–15 million range last year, taking the #487 spot on the 2015 PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.
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It’s not just his his down-to-earth demeanour. With multi-million dollar projects on the line, “it’s more reassuring for the client” to meet with the owner says Vacca—it shows they’re invested in the outcome.
It wasn’t always this way. Back in 1993, when the company was brand new and most of its contracts were for private residences, Vacca employed tens of salesmen, who blanketed the city searching for new clients. But then the company soon shifted its focus to larger, more lucrative commercial projects. “The projects we do now bring in, minimum, $250,000,” he explains. “We would have to sell to 50 households to do a quarter million.” Vacca tried bringing in professional salesmen, but the company’s closing rates improved once he and his father started doing things themselves.
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This isn’t standard for most companies in Vacca’s industry, he admits, and it can increase a manager’s workload if they don’t delegate in other areas. Typically, a salesperson takes care of soliciting and closing and then oversees the project—he’s the middleman. Vacca doesn’t assume all of these roles. Once a deal is struck, he assigns a project supervisor to handle the account. But, he says, “no job goes without my final blessing.”
Vacca is also selective about the projects he books. It’s November, and Norstar’s schedule is already booked until next May. “We get requests every day,” says Vacca.If a client needs a big job done in too short a timeframe, Norstar takes a pass. And the company doesn’t take small jobs, which Vacca defines as anything under $50,000. “They take the same time and energy (as a big job). For us to stop a large project to work on a small one, we wouldn’t end up doing a great job,” he says. “All of our customers expect the same level of service.”
But for existing clients who bring in millions in business each year? “Small, big—it’s always a yes,” he says. “We’ll go for as little as $100.”
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Vacca cautions that forgoing a sales force isn’t compatible with most companies, especially those with multiple lines of business or a cross-country presence. “Your whole business changes,” he warns.
Norstar’s approaching the point where it’s going to start developing a dedicated sales team to continue growing, Vacca says. The current setup works because the company’s business is limited to southern Ontario. But thanks to the low loonie, Vacca’s been fielding more and more requests from American clients. But his hands are tied, suggesting that while Norstar’s proven to be the exception to the sales rule for now, it can’t be forever.
“Maybe if I invested more into my sales guys, we would have grown by 160% [over the last five years],” says Vacca. “Sixty percent is still good, but 160%?” That would be extraordinary.
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Would your business suffer if you didn’t have salespeople? Can owners be better at driving sales than a hired gun? Share your thoughts by commenting below.