Stay Productive Knocking Doors While Social Distancing

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How can you coach your clients and sales team to be successful and productive with the restrictions placed on us due to the Coronovirus?

We’ll tell you.

SPOTIO’s Founder and CEO sat down with James Peuster, CEO of The Route Pro to discuss just that. The Route Pro is a consultancy firm specializing in working with Dry Cleaning companies to increase revenue by establishing a route service.


Video Transcription:

[beginning of recording]

Trey:  Hey, I’m Trey Gibson, founder and CEO at SPOTIO. Our core purpose here is we’re transforming field sales to achieve more. With the Corona Virus coming in and basically wiping out the ability of field sales teams to sell face-to-face, this core purpose of ours has taken quite a whole new meaning, so we’ve come together as a company. We’re focused on helping field sales teams adapt to this new reality for the time being by giving them resources to do what we’re calling “virtual field sales.” This is tactical and practical strategies for how you and your company can thrive through these times. So, today I’m excited to have James, Mark, and Mike from the RoutePros, and our topic is going to be how the RoutePros are coaching their clients to stay productive during the Corona Virus shutdown. So, James, I’ll kick it over to you. Why don’t you tell everybody what it is you all do, and then we’ll jump right into the topic.

James: Well, we entered our 20th year of teaching people how to go out and do face-to-face sales, selling dry cleaning, believe it or not – pick-up and delivery, and the challenge, obviously, that you have, as before, is trying to eliminate excuses. So, one of the things that our team has always been really good at is firing people up, getting them motivated, challenging them to get out of their comfort zone, and then obviously taking it to the next level, where they make more attempts to learn more to earn more. So, obviously with the changing times, Mark, Mike, and I have had to make adjustments, and so, probably the funny thing about face-to-face sales – face-to-face can still happen at six feet away, so that’s kind of been our launching pad start, since this obviously, social distancing has come about.

Trey: Yeah. Okay, and so, how does that work? So, they knock the door and back away?

James: Well, I think right now, we’re a little bit demographically challenged. In some markets, obviously, it’s been a massive shut down, and so we want to honor that social distancing. Now, for us, most of our developers, our “route developers,” as we call them, are driving a van, so they’re able to do these sales while they’re driving. They’re not really just going truly door-to-door, and so where it may take the cherry-pick element in there, we’re doing a little bit more ways, but we’re able to at least stand out. With everybody being outside, we’re able to make, actually, a lot more presentations by bypassing the door knock and seeing them sitting in their driveway or in their garage or working on their yard or playing with their kids, and still honor that social distancing. So, I do know that some people – and Mark can probably take it to the next level there – are working on some door knocks, but we’re starting off really by at least getting them to do more cherry picks, and of course, more live presentations.

Trey: So, Mike, you just got back from the field, right? Were you out in the field today?

Mike: Yes. I’ve been in the field for the last five weeks now. I’m in the middle of the fifth week, two more to go.

Trey: So, how has the reception been if you’re still knocking doors, keeping the social distancing? Are you noticing a change in how people interact?

Mike: Well, the project I’m on right now, there’s not a lot of door-knocking going on, just a lot of pick-ups and deliveries for a Jewish client that we have, they have their Passover season going on. But, the weeks prior, I’ve been in both Phoenix, Arizona and Montgomery, Alabama, and still knocking doors on those trips, and didn’t see much resistance from people then, but that was before things started getting a little crazier. The last two weeks, actually, things have increased tremendously, so I’ve been getting reports from some of the people that I’ve worked with here lately that in the field, they are doing their best to keep their distance, wearing gloves, different things that make people feel safer when speaking to them, things like that. So, I haven’t gotten any real experience out there during the height of this thing, but I know at the beginning people were concerned, especially the older people were very concerned, and now, I think, with the way it’s getting now, like James mentioned earlier, it’s really all about just kind of making sure you keep your distance, and making them feel comfortable so that they’re better receptive to you.

Trey: So, Mark, let’s say that this thing gets a little more serious and we can no longer – the reception is such that it’s just not worth knocking doors. What would you coach your clients to do, in that case? How are they going to remain productive?

Mark: Yeah, sure, that’s a great question, Trey. When our route developers are running their route on a day-to-day basis out in the field, they’re doing the operation, they’re covering all of their bases operationally, picking up and delivering their product, which in this case happens to be a garment care industry – they’re providing convenience. What we’re really coaching them up on right now is being a shining light in peoples’ days out there, whether it’s their current customers or prospective, from that aspect of it. Our professionals will actually do the pick-up and delivering to the house, so whether it’s waving to somebody outside. James and Mike hit on it before, what we’re seeing, Trey, is an unprecedented amount of people outside. This is my 18th year of route developing in the dry cleaning and laundry industry, and it’s not even close, Trey. There are so many people outdoors, the hurdle hasn’t become door-to-door attempts anymore. That’s not a hurdle, because there’s so many people out and about. Now, I will also say this: it starts with having a “we can” attitude, thinking that you can be successful at it. I think we’d all agree upon that. What’s the worst that can happen if you’re being safe and you’re using good judgment? What’s the worst that can happen? You go up, you knock on a door, you ring a doorbell, you take seven or eight feet steps back, down maybe a step or two, what’s the worst that can happen? They don’t answer the door? Guess what? That happens to a lot of us on a normal day, right? So, there’s nothing worse that’s happened. I’m with Mike on this one – I’m with Magic Mike on this one. I have yet to hear a story from one of our professionals that we coach across the nation of anybody that regretted that they made an attempt in the last two weeks. Now, they’re going outside of the box and having to get a little creative, but nobody, zero, have actually called and said, “Oh my gosh, Mark, you’re not going to believe this happened to me. I can never do sales again. This has ruined my career.” It hasn’t happened. It’s been quite the opposite – they’re actually very positive. In some cases, Trey, even more positive than the ownership or the top level chain of command of the company. So, there’s actually a lot of success stories out there.

Trey: That’s good. I’m glad to hear it, because I’m hearing a lot of doom and gloom on the internet and things like that, so I’m glad to hear some success stories. Are the results in line with what y’all were experiencing months ago? So, is this not really affecting y’all’s industry at all?

James: Oh, it’s killing our industry, don’t get me wrong, Trey. Dry cleaning, these people are working from home.

Trey: Oh yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

James: So, especially a lot of professionals, but to kind of reiterate, one of the advantages we maybe have in our industry is we are servicing and doing the route at the same time. We’re not necessarily just cold calling a hundred percent. We are actually combining customer service, operation. We do have some sales glitzes that are kind of being discussed, but the bottom line is we provide a convenience that is kind of different than probably selling insurance or solar panels or Google Fiber or whatever. We sell a unique service that makes their life easier. But, that still doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, and so, yes, while our industry is being hit as far as 60, 70, even 80% right now, the fact that the competition that we’re going up against may be closing their doors or shutting down a little bit or taking a hiatus or they’ve cut their hours, and it’s actually given us a unique opportunity. Now, one of the things I’ve told people in other industries is what other service can you provide that parallels what you do? So, for us, wash, dry, fold and all of that stuff becomes another additional service besides dry cleaning – comforters, things that we kind of did, now we really are doing. But, is it affecting results? Sure. Is it affecting morale a little bit? Eh, you know, it’s just different. And, you know how it is when you have to teach a completely new sales strategy, it’s a different world for them. Thankfully, what we’re recognizing – I’ll tell you, I have my own route in Kansas City for training, so I’ve been running myself just to see what the sales people would experience, and what is amazing is there are people wanting to talk to you. They are getting out of their house because they are bored, they want to get out, they’re trapped. You see all these funny videos and stuff on Facebook, they’re getting sick of their spouse. So, you know, it was really funny, I’ll tell you a true story. I did the route Monday, and I was talking to this individual – they were actually out doing this neighborhood lunch thing. It was incredible, this cul-de-sac, everybody had card tables, they were eating lunch, talking to each other. So, one of the people is our client, talking to somebody. When I talked to them, this triangle got formed, so these two different family members represent – we were six, seven, eight feet away, but we had this triangle conversation, and what was really neat about it was you know what? They are not trying to push me away. They are asking me more and more questions than I have ever experienced in a sales call before. So, I think because there’s a sense of normalcy, there’s something people want to get back to the way it was, I do believe that the old time face-to-face sales will actually get reborn. It’s kind of always cyclical. It gets there, and then there’s direct mail, it gets there, and then there’s social media, and social media tends to be dominating a lot of people’s sales and marketing; however, I think when things flush through two, three, four months away, I think the old door-to-door group is going to make a great comeback no matter what the world is because people that social distance is one thing, but the social interaction is another, and that’s what I’m kind of waiting for.

Trey: Yeah, that’s very interesting. I talked to someone else about that today. We’re all so clamoring for personal touch now that it’s just like – you’re right. It’s going to be an interesting time. You said something real interesting, James, and Mike, I’d like to ask you about this because you’re onsite right now. A lot of our customers are having to get creative, new ways to find revenue – I didn’t even think about that, right. Nobody’s going to the office. There probably hasn’t been a pressed shirt come through in three weeks. We’re having to get creative. Anything, Mike, that you’re seeing onsite, or you’re talking your client through there? “Hey guys, we’re going to have to go find revenue streams.” Is that part of the conversations y’all are having?

Mike: Here, where I am now, they are very fortunate and blessed.

Trey: Oh, that’s right, it’s the Hasidic population, right?

Mike: Yeah. It just happened and hit for them at kind of the perfect time with Corona. I’m sure they’ll be feeling the effects after this is all over. But, for other clients that I’ve worked with, the one in Montgomery and then Phoenix the last couple of weeks, we talked about some of the same things James just mentioned, as far as selling some of the side services, your wash and fold service, shoe repair or cleaning, a lot of people need cleaning, people who do luggage cleaning, things like that – whatever you can do to get the business in. But, also with Corona going on, another great thing is household items, so bedding, sheets, comforters, blankets, rugs, all that stuff, anything that’s just around the house that someone feels like maybe I came inside and I may have dragged some Corona in with me.

Trey: Drag that ‘Rona in.

Mark: Just bring the limes!

Mike: That’s actually been the real benefit for dry cleaners is that we actually have the chemistry and the water and the presses and the dryers and things get up to a temperature that we can effectively kill this virus. I saw somebody post on our RoutePro members’ page yesterday, I believe, seven bags they picked up from somebody’s house of household items, blankets and comforters and stuff, and so that’s been a real benefit. So, selling side services right now is really what’s doing it for us because the suits and shirts just aren’t doing it like they used to.

Trey: Yeah, no, that makes sense, and we’re seeing that across the board from a lot of our customers and people that I’ve talked to, is that they’re having to get creative on new ways to provide value to their customers. I mean, hell, that’s why we’re having this – we’re trying to do the same thing for our customers. How are they marketing that? Is it just the same old ways, or are they having to get more creative in how they’re teaching their customers about all these other services we offer? Any ideas that y’all have seen that have been interesting or worked well?

James: I’ll interject. One of the things is we communicate with our customers because it’s a route, so we stop by their house twice a week anyway. So, one of the things – so obviously the store customers that aren’t coming into the stores, a lot of the interaction is by calling them. I think it’s a warm call when you call your current customers. So, one of the things that we’ve been educating with whatever – and, I’m sure some of your other customers you have, Trey, have repeat business. So, we’re calling them to say, “Hey, look,” and again, kind of getting to find out, like Mark said – to find out how they are doing. People don’t care much until they know that you care, so if we act like – I mean, again, we do care, but if we show that presence and say, “Hey, what do you do? How long do you think you’ll be at home? What’s your status? How can we help you?” Blah, blah, blah. That interaction tends to also lead to more referrals, and so we’re noticing kind of a little upswing in referrals, whereas before, you’d beg for a referral and you’d bribe them for a referral, and you’re technically hiring them to do your job, “Please refer us, you’ll get a couple hundred bucks.” Now, at least because they’re seeing the personal affects, because again, we’re seeing our customers when they’re home. So, our industry may be one that’s more blessed than a lot of people think that actually are in it, because once we establish the business, we usually try to keep it, once we work hard to keep it, then we don’t lose it. But, I think texting and emails – we usually go face-to-face first, text second, phone call third, email fourth, letter fifth. I mean, obviously, every industry is probably a little different on the severity and level of communication and frequency of communication, but in our world, we send text reminders: “Hey, we’ll be by tomorrow to pick up a bag.” We always say dry cleaning pick-up and delivery is like trash routes: usually the customers know the next day to put the trash out, they also know the next day to put their dry cleaning out.

Mark: Trey, if I could say something to add on to that with James. The RoutePros are blessed. RoutePros Nation is blessed to have a group of not just highly skilled professionals, but a lot of professionals that genuinely have a lot of heart for their customers. They look at their route and their route customers as not just a customer or a name-to-name customer to company relationship, it is a person-to-person relationship, that personal touch, and that’s why it starts with face-to-face and very often ends with face-to-face. Our professionals that are in our group go above and beyond – the drivers aren’t just drivers. They are essential, as they’ve been qualified by local, state governments. They’re very essential, and they have, in this turbulent time, proven to be what not only can help level out a potential sinking ship, which is just temporary, we believe, but going forward, they’re going to solidify the future of dry cleaning and laundry and pick-up and delivery in general. It’s probably going to end up being – when the dust settles and everybody starts moving up again, when the market starts moving up, I truly believe it’s going to be 75% to 80% of the successful companies across the nation are going to be heavily relying on their routes as opposed to what used to be their brick-and-mortar retail locations.

Trey: Yeah, we’ll definitely see some changes in businesses one way or another, I believe that. James, I’ve got a question for you. So, part of sales is hitting numbers, right, and getting new sales, and this whole new environment has come and it’s kind of hard to know what to expect and what to hold accountable. What’s your message to the sales managers out there that you’re talking to on how to handle this situation with their teams? Is it, “Hey guys, we’ve got numbers to hit and I don’t care Corona Virus or not.” What’s that message look like to them?

James: Well, I think if you’re trying to create the new KPIs out there and you’re trying to figure out, okay, attempts versus follow-ups versus maybes versus yes’s right now, I mean, because of whatever buying decision, whatever. I listened to a guy named Brian Rasheed talk today and he had a really key point on now, when it comes to sales, you’ve got to find how to make it more relevant, and so for the short-term, we’re just trying to figure out what’s working, what adjustments, do we go on the fact that dry cleaning and laundry helps kill the Corona Virus, because it’s cooked at certain temperatures, all this stuff? We don’t cook clothes, but you know. Is it because it’s at 162 degrees? Is it because we work with – my cat’s trying to help me here. Is it because the convenience factor is gone because they’re already home and they’re not going to be doing dry cleaning anyway? So, we then started going after, well, clean what you snuggle with your family with, and one less load of laundry. So, we’ve got to change the relevance first. So, yes, I think the numbers game has been kind of tempered, kind of said let’s not worry about attempts, let’s not worry about results, let’s figure out what’s working and then create the new sales numbers, because we do know this, and you know sales – you can be the only player in town selling solar panels, and then in another market you could have five people selling solar panels. You could Google Fiber versus ATV versus Spectrum versus this, you could have whatever you’re selling. So, I think right now, everybody is just trying to figure out, “Okay, what are our success stories?” and, as collectively we’re collecting that data, and we’re saying, “Okay, here’s what we did. What is your new closure rate? What is your new follow-up rate?” And, again, where are we targeting? Are we targeting more homes, because now businesses obviously are closed down? Do we adjust our mindset? So, I believe the first order of business – two weeks in, we said, “Let’s take care of our current customers first. Let’s figure that out first. Let’s see what they’re going to do,” and then, while we’re doing it, let’s share success stories. I think right now, if you’re a sales manager, it would be a little unfair to say you’re not hitting your numbers right now, because I don’t think…there’s not enough data to collect your true numbers.

Trey: Yeah, I agree with that. I agree with that. Mark, Mike, any final words you want to say to the sales reps, sales leaders out there to get them through this or the mindset they should have? Anything? Any final words?

Mike: Yeah, I’d just like to say to anyone out there doing their thing, make sure you keep your mind right, man. Make sure that you are focused on whatever goal that you set out to accomplish in 2020. Roadblocks happen, things are going to come up, and this is one big one, but you’ve got to keep pushing and grinding through, and you’ll make it in the end.

Trey: Nice.

Mark: Trey – and, again, thanks for having us on for this, it’s been a lot of fun. I will say this, Mike’s right. The ABCs of selling starts with A, and that stands for attitude. At the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, there’s nobody in this world, not a government, not the static and the noise all around us, not COVID-19, that’s going to determine the outcome of this day more than the person that looks back when you stand in front of the mirror. So, it’s all about how you handle it. If you have the right mindset, you will get through all this mess that is going on right now, and we will shine in the future. I really feel good about that. Boy, we appreciate you too, Trey, and the whole SPOTIO community.

Trey: Absolutely. So, Mark, where can they find the RoutePros at, if they want to find out more about what y’all do, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Mark: Yeah, that’s great. We’re on basically every social media platform if you search the RoutePros, easy if you want to go right to the website,

Trey: Got it, thanks guys, appreciate your time, it was very helpful, and good luck out there.