Webinar recap: Creating sales systems & processes for success with Ellis Ishee

Last update:
September 15, 2023
min read
Creating sales systems & processes
Ellis Ishee, VP of Sales and Customer Service at Black Tie Moving.

Ellis Ishee is the VP of Sales and Customer Service at Black Tie Moving. Thanks to a diverse background ranging from the National Guard to outside sales, Ellis has been able to develop a winning sales culture at Black Tie Moving. 

Keep reading for a quick recap of our conversation with Ellis, or watch the full webinar here.

Q&A with Ellis Ishee

How do you use your sales processes to get more happy customers?

When it comes right down to it, sales is science — from how you answer the phone, greet people, and use open-ended questions to keep a customer engaged in the conversation. 

According to Ellis, the sales process is all about consulting with a customer and directing them toward the best possible outcome. A good conversation can lead to a sale without the customer ever feeling like they were sold to.   

On the technical side, Ellis implemented a much more in-depth process around lead management. He started by building a team that had adequate staffing to handle their inbound forecasted volume of leads. And then he started the pretty hands-on process of managing leads. 

“If we grab the lead in the moment, that's great. If we don't, I personally assign that to an individual and there's a process in place for them to follow up with me and let me know the resolution of that lead. So it's a very well-put-together system that allows for great conversion and our conversion points are up over last year.”

How do you create motivation during the slow season and focus during the busy season?

Ellis acknowledges the importance of keeping his sales team both motivated and focused through the seasonal fluctuations of the moving business. During slower periods, he throws in a bonus that motivates and excites the team and does rankings of top bookers to create some internal competition. Black Tie Movers has a board that's called the FIB board— the fire in the belly board. 

“The fire in the belly can't be taught, right? You either have that or you don't and so I rank with stats. Great consultants like to see numbers. And we update that weekly and so there's a friendly competitiveness amongst each of the members that they want to grow and see their name on that board. So we do it in a very fun way to make sure that we stay energized in the sales area.”

During peak season, when the calls are flowing in and folks need to move ASAP,  Ellis really focuses on never letting the external customer feel the chaos. 

“It's still a personal consultant—we're not pushing them off the phone,” he says. He also focuses on providing solutions to customers during the busy season instead of just saying “no” when Black Tie is booked up. For example, if a weekend is booked solid, they offer a Monday or Tuesday. 

Ellis says that his team will use the following talk track instead of automatically turning down business during busy season. “Saturday and Sunday are booked, but a lot of my customers have found that if they move to a Monday or a Tuesday they're able to save a little bit on their rates and still get that move done quickly and efficiently. So let's go ahead and pick one of those two days and get you taken care of.” 

Offering solutions to customers during peak season helps to keep the sales team motivated, too. They need to stay calm and collected so they can help customers get what they need and not lose out on a sale. 

How do you address negative reviews?

Acknowledging a negative review immediately is critical. Most people want to be heard, so that’s exactly what Black Tie Moving does. And nine times out of ten, there’s an easy low-cost solution to turn the negative review into a positive one. Empathy goes a long way. 

When a new sales member joins your team, what kind of training do they go through?

Sales training at Black Tie is rigorous, says Ellis. It starts with interviewing for culture fit and attitude. Once they’re in, new reps begin a three- to four-week shadowing process. 

“Now that's 100+ or 200+ calls a day that they have to listen to. And salespeople are extroverts so that three-to-four weeks is really arduous for those guys because they feel like they're ready early on.”

Ellis says that this month-long process is essential because it lets the new reps shadow top salespeople and listen to calls. They get their hands on the software that does estimates, listen to objections and stalls, and learn how to not penalty sell, but to offer solutions.

Then the new folks get put in a secondary sales queue where they get overflow calls. They also get in-the-moment feedback from sales leadership aimed at helping them learn how to give great estimates and great inventories while sprinkling it all with hospitality on the phone. 

Finally, Ellis pulls the new team members into his office where they listen to their own calls that have been recorded. He asks them, “what did you like? What you would change if you could do it again?” 

“So that creates a self-awareness piece that allows them to begin to almost self-coach when we can't be with them,” says Ellis.

What’s Black Tie’s best lead source?

The bulk of leads come from Google. Second place is agent referrals thanks to a robust incentive program. 

How do you empower your sales team?

It comes down to good leadership. Good leaders truly care about their people and want to help them develop into better people. Most importantly, leaders need to know when they are wrong so everyone can learn and grow.

“I've had great leaders who forced me to read books I didn't want to read. They would help me learn and force me to think differently. I've had so many great moments that were fun to hear, and maybe others that were difficult to hear, but always layered with “I'm here to help you and it's because I love you and want you to grow”.”

Ellis also says that a good compensation and bonus structure doesn’t hurt either. Black Tie offers a tiered commission structure, which is based on the volume of bookings. The company also incorporates a daily bonus and throws in the occasional bonus contest on slow days. 

What’s the best question to ask a prospective customer during the sales process?

The best question is: What's most important to you about this move? With this information, you can offer the best customer experience. 

Moving is stressful and customers are often crunched for time. It’s imperative that the sales team extract the most critical information while building rapport. 

What makes a good salesperson?

Honesty and attention to detail make for a good salesperson. While people don’t always admit they’re looking for the lowest price, most are. 

A salesperson can’t just tell the customer what they want to hear if it’s not the truth. If a move is going to take eight hours and cost $1800, be honest. But a good salesperson will take the time to educate the customer on why it’s this long and that price.

If we're putting materials on the truck, we may say, “On the estimate, you're going to see $80 worth of materials on this estimate. It’s there in case you need tape, in case you need shrink wrap, and we at Black Tie Moving believe in being prepared for you, so that's why we equip our trucks with these things.” 

Final words

Love your people and spend time with them. Avoid living in the ivory palace, but rather, get out in the trenches with them. If you do that, your culture will grow. 

Watch our full conversation with Ellis here.

Full webinar transcript: Creating sales systems & processes for success with Ellis Ishee 

All right. It is 3 p.m. on the East Coast and we're gonna get started. So thank you, everyone, who has jumped on right at the top of the hour, and welcome to our second live Q&A of the “Ask the Experts” series. My name is Heidi. I'm the Strategic Partnerships Manager at Supermove and we are on a mission to make moving simple for everyone with a moving company CRM that brings your whole team to one system—that's your operations, your dispatch, your sales or coordinators, and today we're here joined by Ellis. And I'm very excited to talk to him about all things sales and customer service related.

I wanted to just give a brief bio about Ellis. He's a Louisiana native, currently living in Nashville and currently the VP of Sales and Customer Service at Black Tie Moving. Ellis was in the army national guard for six years and has 25 years of leadership experience ranging from call centers, brick and mortar, and outside sales he's developed customer service and sales models at a few companies and has brought his diverse knowledge to build a winning sales culture at Black Tie Moving. 

So we're here today to learn from you, Ellis, how to create sales systems and processes that directly contribute to the bottom line. I'll start off by asking some of the questions that were submitted during registration. And for those that are tuning in, feel free to type in your questions at the bottom of the control panel. 

And just to kick it off: Black Tie currently has 11 locations around the U.S. so I want to ask, what's it like to be in charge of sales and customer service? 

Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I wouldn't say “in charge” even though I am. I think it's more of a collaboration and the uniqueness of having so many branches is that I really get to be the liaison between sales, the customer, and our operations team. So I think a lot of times in any organization you have operations and then you have sales and they don't always work in synergy, so the fun part of the job is really creating a synergy between a one-team one-goal mindset. So it's been a great year of doing that with this organization. 

And talking about that collaborative culture, is that something that was already happening at Black Tie, or is this something that you kind of had to get the ball rolling for it to become more collaborative?

Yeah, I think you had good intentions prior to, but I don't think there were good processes in place that allowed both sides to trust one another. Great people, great talent, but we've worked really hard to implement really, really sound simplistic processes that let us know and communicate daily around what's happening with the customer experience. And by doing that and by building that trust, now we have open doors where we can speak and collaborate. 

So before you joined, can you talk about if there were any sales processes in place and what did you do to change that?

Yeah, I think before coming to the organization, we had some good people. They had really good intentions and there were steps and how to ask certain questions to get great estimates. And I feel like what I brought was really more the science of selling, which included everything from how do we answer the phone, how do we greet, how do we ask great open-ended questions, and then take those open-ended questions and answers, and delve a little further. And then how do you appropriately ask for the sale [or cell?] and understand the differences between customers’ objections or maybe a stall? And then how does that tie into asking for the sale [or cell?] at the end of the conversation? 

And we've really created an organization where it feels like a conversation between customers and us, which allows my guys to not be salespeople but to be consultants. And when you create a consultant environment, then you build trust between you and the customer. And your conversion by default really grows tremendously. 

So I talk to moving company owners all the time and I find that most moving companies are not so focused on pushing the sale. Instead, they'll provide the quote and kind of let the customer decide at the end. Would you say that you guys push for the sale, kind of close as fast as possible—what's your philosophy around that?

No, I think it's about a good conversation. And we do look at talk time, and you have to in a contact center. But to me, it's really from a leadership standpoint—that's the art of leading—you have to understand that every customer is unique and whether it's peak season or whether we're in December, I want the customers to feel like it's a good conversation. I'll be at five minutes or 25 minutes and then when they hang up, if they've spoken with Zach or Heidi, or Ellis, they feel a little different. And we've had customers tell us, “wow, you guys asked some crazy good questions that we didn't even think about and I don't feel pushed but I want to go with you guys.” So again, being a conversationalist with great questions allows us to earn the right to ask for the sale.

Yeah, I know. I think that that is very important, but I just don't know how many moving companies are being in a more consultative role because how do you balance that with taking phone calls all day, every day, and being able to talk and make someone feel comfortable? 

Well, a great question and that's one thing that I had to implement here. You're talking about how you track inbound calls, and how you manage leads. And for me, it was about implementing great processes around lead management so that my guys felt comfortable taking time with customers. So I built a team that had adequate staffing so my FTE or my full-time equivalency matched what the inbound and forecasted volume looked like. And then literally I hands-on manage every single lead. So if we grab the lead in the moment, that's great. If we don't, I personally assign that to an individual and there's a process in place for them to follow up with me and let me know the resolution of that lead. So it's a very well-put-together system that allows for great conversion and our conversion points are up 15 to 20 bases over last year.

Wow. I want to rewind back. Could you tell us a little bit more about your background before you came into the moving industry and some things that you've been able to implement right away joining the moving industry in terms of your sales processes?

Sure. So if I go back to my t-mobile days or I go back to my days in brick and mortar, selling clothing, my background really involves face-to-face interaction with customers and really getting to know that customer. And again, I hate to use the word “selling” because it's really consulting. But consulting there's a science or steps to it. So things we have to follow to be great consultants, but there's also an art to consulting and I think you can put together modules that teach the science of selling from greed to asking and then follow-up, but then there's an art to it and the art is developed through great coaching, mentoring, feedback in the moment where you say, “hey Heidi you said something but the customer triggered another direction. Let's talk about artistically how you still can be a consultant while redirecting the conversation” and that's like any team sport or any business model—that's just repetitive coaching. And so I'll jump out of my desk and run into the contact center or my assistant will do the same thing and we're constantly listening, monitoring, and providing that feedback in the moment. 

So I brought that kind of coaching in the moment here. And brought in people that were willing to be coached. And the artistic side of leadership on that end is when it works and they see it work, and their checks are bigger. And when moves are bigger and we're throwing parties because we're beating LY numbers, the “what's in it for me” is felt within the contact center and you get the buy-in.

You're talking about bigger checks. I'm sure it's motivating for salespeople to see that and contribute to the whole team. But can you talk a little bit more about the changes that you made, maybe in the commission structure? How did you create a system that allowed people to be motivated from the start?

So we have a tiered commission structure. It's based on the number of bookings, it's based on volume. We incorporated a bonus and that's daily. I typically will throw a bonus contest on slower days. 


And so I'll leverage the slower period to throw in a bonus that motivates and excites the team. We do rankings of top bookers. I have a board that I keep in the sales area that's called the FIB board—it's the fire in the belly board. And the fire in the belly can't be taught, right? You either have that or you don't and so I rank with stats. Great consultants like to see numbers. And we update that weekly and so there's a competitiveness, a friendly competitiveness amongst each of the members that they want to grow and see their name on that board. So that's a few ways that we do it in a very fun way to make sure that we stay energized in the sales area.

Yeah FIB, fire in the belly. I think everyone should always kind of have a check, do you have a fire in your belly today? Are you feeling urgent? Are you on top of it? I like that a lot. So it's peak season. I'm sure the calls are flowing in, and the sales are flowing in because people need to move asap, but what is your current focus for your sales organization?

It's two: it's the internal customer and it's the external customer. And good leaders can bring something to the table that doesn't make the external customer feel like it's busy, so it's still a personal consultant—we're not pushing them off the phone. And then the internal customer has to feel the same, so they can't feel the added pressure to push the customer. That's the artistic side of leadership and the way that I've done that is, again, the proper staffing totals, and great lead management. But also, making sure that if a day is packed or a weekend is booked already, then we're not saying no. Then we’re not penalty selling to the customer. We’re providing options. So an example of that, Heidi, would be, “Hey Heidi, Saturday and Sunday are booked. A lot of my customers have found that they move to a Monday or a Tuesday. That they're able to save a little bit on their rates and still get that move done quickly and efficiently. So let's go ahead and pick one of those two days and get you taken care of.” So it's a lot of those types of roleplays and practices that we're doing so the customer goes, “Oh, well Ellis has a solution. He's not just saying no.” 

When you joined did you rewrite all the sales scripts or what was the beginning like? 

Yeah, I really did. Well, I'll back up. I did not go out and find anybody with moving experience. I went and found people who love people, and people who brought a lot of energy to the table because I have a lot of it. And so I needed people who wanted to engage and interact with  customers, who didn't get frazzled easily, who could handle a little pressure from a peak season standpoint. And then I really took them and taught them the science of selling first. We practiced that until it became muscle memory. And then I began to sprinkle, if you will, sand over the rocks in the jar, the artistic side of selling that allowed them to know how to use the science side appropriately 

I’m not sure how many moving companies hire non-moving industry salespeople so I find that really interesting. And last time I connected with you, you told me about potluck in the pit where everyone on your team, your movers, sales, customer service, the whole back office comes together for—is it twice a month? 

We do that twice a month.

So tell us more about potluck in the pit and why you care about bringing people together. 

Well, I think bringing people together… Your work is your second home and it should feel that way. And it's cliche but people work for people. And the reason I began potluck in the pit was—hey I'm from Louisiana so i do like to eat but secondly, I wanted the guys to know that I had a servant-like mentality. So for the first few months, I cooked everything and I brought everything. And then slowly we began to do the potluck where we all brought something to the table. And now we pick a different meal type and we do it. 

But I began to bring movers into the sales area in the contact center. let them eat with us. Operations managers, HR, so that A) they could mingle and get to know one another because when you get to know someone on a personal level that whole “I'm doing things with a good intention” mindset is kind of bled into the culture. And when you have that, we're doing everything with a good intention mindset, then silos are eliminated and when silos are eliminated, Heidi you and I both know the customer can feel that without even realizing what they're feeling

Even with my team, we're all remote at the moment. So I wish that we were able to get together for a potluck every other week. And I'm sure that it's helped to bring people to just understand all parts of the business—that it's a collaborative effort like we talked about in the beginning. 


So just to turn it over a little bit—I want to talk about reviews. So being in the moving industry, probably in any service home-related industry, having good reviews is key. So I'm curious, seeing the good and bad reviews, how do you address both positive and negative reviews?

yeah, I address them, as simplistic as this may sound, I address it like I would address a personal issue. And what I mean is if Heidi you had an issue with me, I would want to listen to you and I'd want to address it immediately. And I don't come to any one-star two-star review with a solution originally.

So we have systems and processes in place for this, meaning we pull the calls, we listen to the original estimate, we talk to the movers, what was the experience like, what was the interaction like between you and the customer. And then I take that data and I call the customer and I listen. I don't listen with a solution. I listen to understand. and once I hear the customer, we should be smart enough at that point in our roles to connect those three dots—from the estimate to the moving experience, to the customer's perspective. And I'm telling you, nine times out of ten, there is a very, very easy, low-cost solution for the customer.

The first thing that my mind goes to is just like a reimbursement of some kind or is it sometimes not even that?

It's not even always that. A lot of times it's that they wanted to be heard. And I'll be honest with you, the most common thing I hear is, “Ellis, we've never had anybody call us and listen. It usually falls on deaf ears. Ellis, you asked about my kids when I was telling you my kids were involved and I was having to balance a new baby while watching the movers go in and out. You asked me what my kids did for sports.” It was really more about, again, a conversation between me and the customer. 

And the really cool thing is I began to teach my sales team how to do this. And why is that important? If I give you the estimate as a sales consultant and then you have an issue and your boss doesn't call me but you call me instead because you had the relationship with me, that is a much quicker and easier way to come to a solution. And my people feel empowered to make decisions based on the customer without any fear of retribution on my end. So it has really become a one-stop solution sales arena and customer service arena at Black Tie Moving. 

Yeah, and giving your salespeople—making sure that they're empowered to do so, did you have to set rules, or was that always kind of part of the culture? Because I think it's difficult to be able to empower your employees. 

Well, there has to be rules. There has to be parameters and I have to trust but verify—“inspect what I expect” type of thing. But, again, it is part of our culture and the byproduct of allowing your salespeople to do that. Because nobody wants to have a tough conversation, so my salespeople were not raising their hands to do this. I gently voluntold them to do this. And here's the thing: by doing it, these guys now know some of the common objections and pitfalls that customers run into, so the estimate experience is even evolving more now. So some of these things that might happen are now being covered in job notes, or maybe between conversations with salespeople and the operations managers beforehand. So it's made us better consultants by these guys resolving their own conflicts.

Yeah, it's probably a lot of miscommunication that happens that can be addressed upfront, especially when you have them on the phone or even notes through email.


When a new sales member joins your team, what kind of training do they go through? 

It's rigorous. I interview for culture fit and for attitude. But they begin with a three-to-four-week shadowing process. Now that's 100+ or 200+ calls a day that they have to listen to. And salespeople are extroverts so that three-to-four weeks is really arduous for those guys because they feel like they're ready early on. And they shadow my top salespeople and listen to calls. They get their hands on the software program that does the estimates. They listen to objections and stalls. They understand how to not penalty sell, but to offer solutions. And it's just muscle memory over and over again. And we don't compromise those three-to-four weeks whether we're busy or not. 

Then we take them and put them in a secondary sales queue so they get the overflow of the calls. And we're there to shadow them, so the roles are reversed so now they're taking the calls. we're providing in-the-moment feedback. We're helping these guys learn how to give great estimates with great inventories while sprinkling it all with hospitality on the phone. 

And then what I will do weekly is on Friday, I'll pull them into my office and we listen to calls that have been recorded and we let them hear themselves. And the test is, Heidi, tell me what you liked. Tell me what you would change if you could do it again. So that creates a self-awareness piece that allows them to begin to almost self-coach when we can't be with them. 

So they're put in the hot seat and get direct feedback. I like it.

Yeah, they have to scrimmage before they can play the real game. 

In terms of estimates, you know from COVID from last year I was curious, do you guys find that the virtual estimates or just the phone estimate—the customer telling you the estimate—or in-home estimates are best? What works? What do you have to focus on? 

Yeah, it's a great question. So there are certain square footage parameters where we'll go in-home versus just doing it over the phone. To your point, we have found that Facetime or zoom is exponentially more effective and more comfortable for the customers. The byproduct from a business standpoint is that we're able to do 40 more a day that way. And here's the fun fact: conversions up eight base points with all of those, so it has been a win-win for everyone. 

What's your secret to virtual estimates? Because I also talk to people who think that the virtual estimate doesn't allow the salesperson, the estimator, to connect with the customer and build that relationship. How are you able to build that relationship right away when you're just on a Facetime call? 

The same way you and I did the first time we met over Facetime or zoom. I mean we just talked; we had a conversation and I was a human—I wasn't a checklist. I'm asking you questions. So A) they have to dress the part; they have to be branded. They have to be good conversationalists. And again, I don't just let everyone Facetime and zoom. It's my most experienced people that can do that very well.

Wow, that's interesting because I would almost think it's the opposite, like if you're not a top salesperson, then we would want you to be in person. 

Yeah no, it's the other way around. It's a little harder sometimes to connect to your point over zoom or facetime, so you have to be really good at engaging a customer and really have a good sense of hospitality. That's the artistic side of selling when you're doing that. But again, our conversions are at 97 and 98% doing this. And we do 10 to 12 per person per day.

That's a lot. I want to remind everyone that they can message or ask a question in the Q&A. I wanted to bring up Daniel's question: In my role of three weeks, brand new director of sales. Also new to the moving and storage industry. He's looking for the best approach to have success in my role. So an open-ended question, but would love to hear what you have to say.

Yeah, that's a very open-ended question, but I will tell you this Daniel: get great people. Your job will be very good or very difficult based on the talent you surround yourself with. Again, cliche but do not be afraid to go find people who are better than you. And do not hire for skill set as much as for attitude. And if you do that and you can coach and you're passionate about coaching every day and until you're exhausted, you will build a team and your job will be much easier. 

I'm an athlete myself and I'm used to being coachable. What you're looking for is people who are coachable. But in terms of having someone join the moving industry when they're brand new, these new salespeople that you hire, how do you get them to understand the industry probably in the four weeks that they're onboarding?

Yeah, so we have training modules that we take them through. We put their hands on the systems. They get the practice. So they get to put the equipment on, they get to run around the field. We have these little scrimmages with them where we'll roleplay or practice scenarios. We'll pause as things may be missed and talk about it and then resume the roleplay. So we do a lot of that now, much like as an athlete you had held practices. I think of it this way and just take any sport. Most sports play once or twice a week but they practice five to six times a week. So your practice should be five to six times greater than your actual engagement with a customer. And if you're not doing it that way, don't be surprised that your customer experience is lacking, if that makes sense. 

Yeah so being able to coach but constantly reiterate on that. And as a leader, you have to be able to get feedback and change yourself.

A hundred percent. and I intentionally do not close my door. People will try to close my door. I leave it open, I want to hear. I leave my office intentionally to talk to the guys and most of the time we're not talking about business, we're talking about them. The adage that people have:  they'll only care when they know you care. That is so missed often and again they have to feel that the feedback they're getting, A) is relevant. Their boss can do the job that they're coaching them to do. That’s one. And two, that you truly care about their growth and development, so when tough feedback is given, they know it's just really to help them and not to call them out if you will.

Yeah, I think that that's something a good leader knows how to do. But that's also a skill that has to be learned. How do you give good feedback that's also being heard in the right way? So it's the delivery, the tone. You make it sound so easy to care about your people even though it's peak season and you're swamped. So I think it's a skill that I admire. 

We just got another question from Joseph. This is more marketing related. But what do you find to be the most successful forms of marketing for your company, meaning what drives the most valid leads for you? 

Yeah absolutely. Google is a big one for us. We work a lot with GLSA PPC. They're big for us. We have weekly meetings with our partners there in marketing and we analyze that data. And we shift monies around based on where we're getting the most hits and the cost per hit. So Google is one of our biggest. Our agent referrals are another really big one and we have an agent incentive program that incentivizes agents monetarily to provide leads. So those are just two examples of many. The real estate agents.

Yeah, I find that a lot of moving companies do partner with real estate agents. So in my mind, I'm like they're all being taken, but I'm sure that there are still real estate agents that moving companies should be building relationships with.


When we last talked, you told me about how you also do some public speaking and I just want to share with everyone more about your sales background, how you are able to have the philosophy that you have today—the servant leadership mindset and being able to really care and empower your whole team. 

It really goes back to me having great leaders. I have had such great leaders as a young guy in New Orleans. People that put their arm around me and say I'm going to give you tough feedback but you need to hear it because I love you. I've had great leaders who forced me to read books I didn't want to read. They would help me learn and force me to think differently. I've had so many great moments that were sometimes great, fun to hear, and maybe others that were difficult to hear, but always layered with “I'm here to help you and it's because I love you, Ellis. it's because I want you to grow” and I really began to pick up on that. I became a byproduct of the environments I came out of. So I have to give a lot of credit to a lot of great leaders that have really influenced me. 

So you had to go through the coaching to get to be the coach. 

Oh, trust me when I tell you I've made a lot of boneheaded decisions. I've had some tough phone calls, not on the front end. And I've been forced into very tough situations that my leaders knew would make me grow. so it has not been a bed of roses. 

I'm curious in terms of sales scripts and coaching your movers to be conversational but also hit the points that they need to when they're talking to a customer on the phone. When they're on the phone with someone, is there a script that they're following, or is that something that is only happening in the training part at the beginning?

Yeah so there are certain things they must cover and the script is used more in the first four to eight weeks. But that script turns into a conversation—that's the art side of selling. I think the most important thing that you can uncover in your conversation with any sale but especially in the moving industry is, “what's most important to you about this move, Heidi?” In other words, if Black Tie does this move for you and we hope we earn the right to do it, what's the single most important thing that we can give to you as a consumer? And they will sometimes go “well I mean I have valuables,” or it's “you gotta get me on this date,” or “you gotta make it seamless for me while I'm out of town,” whatever that is. Then we take that need and we build the entire estimate around that need if that makes sense. 

Yeah. I would think that most people are just saying “just make it happen. i want it to be stress-free” but yeah you never know unless you're asking them what is most important to you about this move.

Yeah, and you are right. It is usually because it's stressful—that's one of our top reasons. The other one is, we have a lot of valuable things. I call those in my coaching “memories” because we're moving memories, we're not moving inventory. I hate the word inventory because, hey listen, it's inventory until it gets damaged and then it becomes a priceless heirloom. So let's just treat everything like a priceless heirloom and let's give quotes or estimates as if we were moving our grandparents or our best friend. And if we treat everything like that, then our attitude about the estimate and our attention to detail intensifies, so that's our approach.

So I do love that question, “what do you care about the most? what do you value the most in this move?” Are there any other questions you find really establish a relationship with the customer?

Gosh, it's the small talk. It is the “Hey look, I know things are stressful for you right now. What are the things you have going on with the move right now?” They may say, “Well I'm looking for someone who disassembles cribs,” or “I'm looking for somebody who can do x, y and z for me during the move.” And sometimes we can offer solutions to that through third parties, but more than anything we're listening and we're connecting. I call it a BRT moment where we build relationships of trust by doing those things. Because giving an estimate is not difficult. I ask questions and I give answers based on an algorithm in a software program. The artistic side of it is the small talk. It's the sand that falls over the rocks of the estimate that really creates the experience. 

[laughs] I've never heard that, “the sand that falls over the rocks.” I guess, creating that small

talk as a salesperson because I've called around, I've gotten estimates before and it's very transactional. So back to coaching your salespeople to be able to build that relationship, i guess take it slower than other companies or probably like get the information, give them that quote, and be done with it. But at the same time, I'm sure that even if there are customers that are more on a tight timeline or they don't want to talk on the phone, I'm sure you guys adapt to that as well. 

You have to. You have to code-switch, meaning you have to adapt to your client. Some clients are transactional and they have 10 minutes, they're on their break. Other customers need that time with you. But it's the simple things, such as “how's your day going?”, “what do you have left to balance other than the move itself with getting into your new home?”, “what do you know about the community you're moving to?” It's those small components, it's the laughing on the phone, it's the smiling over the phone that really builds the relationship and trust between you and the customer.

Yeah, you make it sound like calling Black Tie Moving is a fun phone call when usually I'm sure everyone is just looking for an estimate and want to get off the phone as quickly as they can.

How do you choose a doctor? Somebody with bedside manners and they don't spend an hour with you longer than they do their other patients. It's all the small talk. And so we are trying to create that same culture here. We don't want you to hang up and go, “Gosh that was cheesy, that was not very authentic,” but we do want you to feel different when you hang up with us.

Yeah. I want to think about your best salespeople. What are some traits that they have—I mean you mentioned they're able to make small talk, they're coachable and able to focus on building up the relationship. What other things do you think make a salesperson, in the moving industry if you find anything specific to that, what makes them successful?

People by default when they call in, they want the lowest estimate possible. They don't ask that but they're looking for it. So what we do is we try to be very, very honest with the customer and so I think my best movers are very honest people. That’s one. Number two, they're very detailed on the operational side. Salespeople by default are born and genetically predisposed to not like operations. And so I have to make sure that not only do they build relationships, but they're extremely detailed on the inventory or the memory side of the estimate. 

And we have customers all the time say, “gosh nobody else went into that great a detail with me.” And so that allows us, or I call it earning the right to then say, “hey this is going to be an eight-hour move. This is going to be 1800 not 11 like the previous competitor told you. But Heidi, it's 1800 because you said this, you said that. And so I want to be honest with you upfront so that you don't feel good today and you get sticker shock so that you can better prepare for the true price of the move.” 

So a big part is educating the customer about all the costs of a move. And I'm sure that as the costs of move rates are going up everywhere, that education I think is very crucial because even my friends that move, they don't really know everything that's part of why a move is so expensive. So I do have friends that go the u-haul route. they're like I'll do it. But at the same time, they do it once and then they'll probably hire a mover and the next time. 

Yeah well and I think that's the final part of the estimate before you ask for the sale. And that is going through the details or the itemization of the estimate and explaining why there's a vehicle maintenance fee or explaining why they may see a materials cost on the estimate when they didn't ask about materials. So if we're putting materials on the truck, we may say, “Heidi on the estimate you're going to see $80 worth of materials on this estimate. Here's why because in case you need tape, in case you need shrink wrap, we at Black Time Moving believe in being prepared for you, so that's why we equip our trucks with these things.” So in other words, I'm taking the cost, I'm tying it back to how it serves the customers' needs. And when they understand that, again, there's no sticker shock. And there's value created between the estimate and the close.

Yeah. You're pretty much selling packaging materials on the truck. No, but that's cool, you're prepared. I like that. Well, Ellis, I do want to start wrapping this up. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experience. My favorite part is learning about potluck in the pit and I hope that maybe others that are tuning in can implement something like that at their own companies. 

And for everyone that tuned in to this session, Supermove is offering a free month of our software. Just go to our website, fill out a form to check out a demo, and mention that you attended this webinar. And Ellis, any last words before we close it off?

Love your people. Spend time with your people. Book a move or two with your people. Do not live in the ivory palace but stay in the trenches. And if you do that, your culture will grow.

Those are good words. Thank you all for attending and we'll be continuing this webinar series later this summer. So Ellis thank you again, really appreciate your time. 

My pleasure.






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