After a networking meeting, I was out in the parking lot chatting with my friend Gary Volpe as we were both making our way to our vehicles. The topic of telling our story came up and Gary lit up!
"Ken, we have a great salesman who is selling windows for $1,200 each that normally go for $800 each. He sells them at a 65% closing rate. This is insanely good in this industry and probably any industry. But this highly successful salesman had a run of three missed sales in a row. He pulled over on the side of the road and was forced to ask himself the question. What did I change on these last three? He realized it immediately. He didn't tell the story." Gary then shared his own company philosophy and story. They are one of the same. Gary started the business in 1970 with his brother and he often tells about carrying shingles on his shoulder and doing all the work himself. He has so many memories of those early years where they had to grind out so much. He wasn't the big name he is now. He was just Gary the roofer, a basic laborer in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. He connected with the everyday guy. Over the years his story has grown to bring in his kids who now run the company. In fact, when you go into their showroom an entire wall is devoted to their story. It's a big timeline with pictures across 50 years of their history. The first time I was in the office I sat on a comfy chair and a showroom facing a fireplace. I turned to the front entrance and I could see Bible verses and this picture timeline. I loved it and I looked at every single picture. I even walked up to see some of the pictures and captions below. I asked myself the question. This is really cool but why is this here. There has to be a reason more than just showing people how long this place has been around. Gary went on to tell me a few more interesting tidbits. When they hire a new salesperson, they put them through a six week intensive program to train them how to sell their product. The very first portion of the training is knowing and learning the story to the point that each salesman can tell the whole story themselves. Gary also told me another example. When a sales guy is presenting the product at a home or business, they are sharing the story of the company first. Just like Gary shares the story at the front entrance's building, his sales training probably invests 10-20% to the story of the company. Also, the selling process itself invests 10-20% of the salesperson's time to tell the Volpe story. Gary said. "The story sells the job. My top salesman forgot to tell our story for those 3 sales presentations. It crippled the process. It's that important. Telling the story makes us more relatable to real people out there trying to afford improvements to their homes."
I thought about it and realized that politicians do this all the time. Oftentimes, a politician will create a fake person (straw man) and tell a story about them to make the politician's message more tolerable, relatable, etc. It works. I shared this with Gary and he agreed it was a fair comparison. I asked him another question. "Do you share your vision, mission, and values through your story?" He said, "Absolutely!" That's when the light bulb finally turned to full brightness. Every business has a story. Your story is what develops your mission, vision, and values. You don't build a business and then try and figure out what you stand for. You stand for something and then you build a business. You tell the story of your business like Gary to share your values. This connects with people and sells product. It also connects with prospective employees and connects them more in depth to the company. Gary said another tidbit that I thought was interesting. "Only the employees that make it through the six-week process and test at each week successfully make it as a successful salesperson in their company. Yes, they test on selling techniques and the ins and outs of the product itself. That's a given. Volpe Enterprises tests on an employee knowing their story. They know that the more an employee knows the story, the more valuable the employee will be, the more the employee will become part of the culture and stay for a long time and benefit both the employee and the company, and increase overall sales to the company."
I took this and ran with it. I was undergoing a massive overhaul of my commercial cleaning proposal template and pricing model with Coach Josh. I decided to add a page in the beginning of the proposal telling our story. I found pictures of my wife cleaning in year 1 with my first-born on her back and one of me in year 2 in our old hideous baby blue shirts. This story is now a part of all marketing material and proposals. This new proposal is being accepting at an incredible rate in the closing weeks of 2021. I wonder if the story had something to do with it?
Check out my interview with the T-Bag Company Founder, entitled "Respectful, Reliable, Responsible with Damon Washington". You can purchase any of the T-Bag products at a 10% discount through the Smart Cleaning School Resources Page.
The Smart Cleaning School Podcast helps cleaning business owners from start-up to the struggling solo to the striving seven-figure get SMARTER in their businesses, reshape their mindset, increase productivity, clear the overwhelm, and get clarity through SMART goal-setting & personal accountability. Ken Carfagno is a lifetime learner and teacher. His mission is to help visionaries make the impact they were meant to make.