Scott Rowe of Rowe Fenestration: “Focus on Relationships ”

If you are listening, sensitive, and engaged in what their needs are, your prospect won’t feel threatened. The architectural products and construction industry is a finite business, it is many of the same people doing the same thing, building the same project for their whole career ― and they need to buy it. They need […]

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If you are listening, sensitive, and engaged in what their needs are, your prospect won’t feel threatened. The architectural products and construction industry is a finite business, it is many of the same people doing the same thing, building the same project for their whole career ― and they need to buy it. They need to buy it from someone and that should be us!

As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Rowe, Owner of Rowe Fenestration.

Scott is a 40 year veteran of the architectural glass industry, and has touched all aspects of the business. He thrives on relationships and sharing big ideas, while wearing fancy socks and a great pair of velvet shoes. As a small business owner, he has changed the game for manufacturers’ sales reps in the architectural industry. Because for Scott, relationships come first. Bridges are not to be burned, and helping your competition is sometimes the right thing to do. His integrity and long term vision is what makes Scott an incredible leader and salesman. He is training up the next generation of architectural sales reps with empathy, integrity, and prioritizing people over profit.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

It was the summer of 1969, as a sophomore in high school I took a summer job at a tiny upstart glass company that was soon to move to my hometown in the Midwest. I started as a loader on the line and moved up to glass cutter, before automated cutting, stoce, and optimization. I moved through the plant working many of the stations ― until the day that changed my life.

It was a hot humid corn belt kinda day in the factory. A group of five or six coolly sophisticated looking guys came in the side door. They wore pink and purple madras shirts, penny loafers with no socks, and were all sunburned.

“Who are those guys?” I had to know.

“Those are the sales guys.”

They were a couple of our customers and the sales team after a day of fishing and golf. I knew in that moment that I wanted to be like them ― their freedom, style of communication, and that footwear.

I continued to work in the plant all through high school and during every college break.

“Scotty, Bring a clean shirt, run to the airport to pick up our vendor/customer/architect.” Every opportunity presented brought me closer to connecting with people, talking to them, learning about them — and ultimately to sales.

I started full time as a management trainee in 1975 and I’ve been a sales guy ever since.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I have a lot of experience being humbled by embarrassment, and have had plenty of moments where I have learned hard lessons. That comes with experience and showing up. Over and over again.

That is the lesson. Show up, be present, do the hard work, go the extra mile for your customers, partners and team. Roll with the punches when you get knocked down, learn something new, reassess and try again.

Oh…and I was once able to use my trigonometry knowledge to figure out the algorithm for the stretch factor on a vertically tong held tempering furnace using a slide rule ― but that’s another conversation.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

These are most challenging and interesting times when a pandemic comes together with new and emerging technologies, and there are so many ways to do things that take us outside “the way we’ve always done it”.

Life is change. The technology of the products, the design, the process, the systems, the applications, and methods of communication have all changed greatly. The need for top quality, dependable, honest, and timely transactions and communication is as relevant as it has ever been.

The speed with which things happen now is nearly in real-time. The days of the traditional architectural library and catalogue are virtually gone ― you need to have a digital footprint, social media and an online presence with a positive user experience. Technology facilitates these opportunities ― as they say, “there’s an app for that.”

Transition into this new world is vital.

Adapting to the current challenges our customers and partners face is how we continue to serve them how best works for them. We are part of their team, and as such we are flexible and driven to find creative and cohesive solutions.

We strive to help architects reach their goals by delivering proactive, innovative, and comprehensive technical solutions. As a firm, we are committed to the success and satisfaction of our vendor partners and clients, and as a team are constantly looking to innovate and adapt to whatever the changing landscape looks like.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of the greatest things that you can have happen in your professional and personal life is to get a great mentor. One of the greatest gifts you can give is to be a mentor. I have been in the architectural business for over four decades at many different levels of the industry and have had the opportunity to learn from some great mentors.

Mentoring is undervalued and not employed enough in our current business culture.

People are the core of our business, and I am fortunate to have been surrounded by an innovative and hardworking team, and have the support of my incredibly smart and patient wife. We have built a small team of talented people from different backgrounds, and they are leading us to continued success as the world evolves.

I look for ways to provide value and mentorship to them, and they absolutely mentor me in return.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

I don’t believe I am an authority on the topic of sales, I believe I am a student of the industry, a student of the product, a student of the organizations we partner with ― and I am a lifelong student of human nature.

I try to understand how the puzzle fits together, and if you ask good questions and then listen, people will tell you how their puzzle fits.

When you are understanding of all the pieces: the product, the individual, the project, the competitors, and customer personality and needs ― that lands you with the opportunity for the sale.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Be informed, but limit your news consumption. Change and effect the things you can, accept the things you can’t.

I like to give our team the freedom and room to celebrate wins, appreciate good fortune and don’t spend time worrying about what could happen. We impact what we have influence over, we respond to the needs of our customers through technology, making different channels available. We show up for them in ways that serve them best.

On a personal note, I have found a silver lining during this past year. As unusual as it is with four teenagers at home, we have been fortunate to spend a long time in a house with our family, making breakfast and dinner, spending more time together than we normally would be able to!

We are thankful for our good fortune, as not everyone has had the same experience as we have, we acknowledge that and appreciate it.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

This is a glass of wine and sit on the patio question. I think historically sales had a negative image because it was generated stereotypically by people selling you things you don’t want.

But true sales should be a solution to a problem.

Sales is the blend of art and science, and a little magic. It is a complicated and fun process and the most enjoyable way to make a living. It is an aptitude, but you can be aware of it and work on your skill set.

I liken it to teaching impressionistic painting in schools. You can have a paint by number, and they look pretty good, but when you get the free flow of the art form, that natural aptitude is tough to teach.

Marketing and sales are many times lumped together or confused. Positioning is marketing, the sales guys are the boots on the ground, knowing, bringing those facts back in to employ into the marketing message. That is an age old tug of war, both are necessary and done right, without ego on both sides, can be incredibly impactful for a business.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

Change the way you think of it. Pushy is dedicated, determined, consistent, professional, direct. Follow through.

If you are listening, sensitive, and engaged in what their needs are, your prospect won’t feel threatened. The architectural products and construction industry is a finite business, it is many of the same people doing the same thing, building the same project for their whole career ― and they need to buy it. They need to buy it from someone and that should be us!

How can I prove to them that that should be us? By knowing the product, the competitors products, by their needs ― and by listening.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

Preparation and approach informs your presentation that then leads you to be influential.

My secret sauce is bringing humanity to the party and the corporate equation. Corporations are losing their humanity, we bring that back to the process.

People are always looking for the magic pill. They don’t really exist.

I liken it to a Bonnie Raitt interview I heard the year she won Grammys in four categories ― “How does it feel to be an overnight success?” She replied “Amazing, and it only took me 25 years.”

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Relationships. We are very fortunate to be in the architecture construction industry which is finite. We are continually building new relationships, but it is the same companies, cultivating and maintaining those relationships. Lead generation is not a challenge as it is in other industries. If you have quality service and vendor partners, you get invited back to the table.

We are invited to participate all the time, that is a result of competence of our team and by our vendors that we represent. It is a good experience for everyone, and if something goes wrong, we have the relationship and trust cultivated to deal with the issue and find a solution together.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

First of all, don’t take it personally. It is an objective decision made for good reason. In the process of your presentation, you identify their needs and close the gap, or change a habit from who they bought from before or who they like. There are a half a dozen reasons ― and there are just as many ways to move them past those objections, but it is not personal.

Secondly, I don’t want to sell you anything you don’t want to buy from me. If you don’t want to buy it, I will address it, but we’ll move forward. We don’t hold grudges and we stand ready to step in when you need us, or fix it when the previous choice doesn’t work out.

Because we are always looking at the long term goal, we will influence what we can for the benefit of the customer, project, partners, and industry. Not for the short term sale.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

  1. Focus on Relationships — My personal style is a consultative type of sales, being part of the process, bringing product expertise to the table regardless of the outcome. This approach tends to develop relationships with people that enhance the communication during the project lifecycle and get you the opportunity for the sale, and to the close.
  2. Be Solutions Oriented — It is not salesly, it is not pushy. You become a solution in their toolbox, they think of you. It is not so much about closing, as it is about providing a solution that is workable and will satisfy their needs. In order to bring those creative solutions to the table, you need to know how the pieces fit together.
  3. Ambition vs. Desperation– Closing is the Holy Grail. One of the great joys of sales is that your results are black and white, your numbers are there or not there. That motivates, stimulates, challenges you to reach for higher standards. You kill it or you don’t eat. You succeed or you don’t, it is not like so many other parts of a business that are more nebulous. You strive to be the best you can be. But don’t mistake ambition for desperation ― they can smell that a mile away.
  4. Utilize Technology but Keep Humanity. There needs to be a level of humanity in the equation that corporate America is moving away from. As a front line sales person, we add it back into the equation. When you buy from us you have more fun! Yes, we are competent, communicate effectively, are professional and represent quality products, but the opportunity is there to have more fun. Enjoyment and humanity in the process.
  5. Think Long Term — This underpins everything we do. Be honest and operate with integrity, even if the outcome is not in your favor. Give your best advice, even if it does not result in the sale. You are looking at the long game, not the short sighted sale. Pushing a lead into something that is not quite right for their needs reduces your likelihood of a good outcome, puts your expertise in question, and makes the potential for return business unlikely. Operate with integrity and with the long term in mind, always.

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

In the new world of technology with CRMs, when it first came around, I laughed at that. Customer Relationship Management? That is my job! Now you can track things on your dashboard, by product, by designer, by location, we have employed that as a company. We have humbled ourselves to employ these tools, and the truth is you can’t over communicate. In an effort to not under communicate, we over communicate. We have systems that lay those out and auto send reminders, if we err, we may err on over communication. And that is primarily driven by the desire to provide the best customer experience with the combination of personal relationships and technology.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

This is an exercise in knowing your customer. Do they like lunches once a month? Do they prefer a quick text? Are they partial to status calls or group video check ins? Read the room as they say, and be your authentic self.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The architectural business has changed in many ways over the years. We can now build better buildings with greater energy efficiency and more innovative design options as we continue to evolve toward net zero facilities. What has not changed is the need for humanity in the process. The need to develop understanding and a collaborative spirit between the ownership/design, the corporate manufacturing entities, the general contractors and the speciality subcontractors remains a vital challenge for a successful outcome.

Expectations are important, the need to succeed in sales so you can eat is important, but as a leader within an organization, expectations and respect of your employees is crucial. And if you expect and respect your team ― and then give them the freedom to go forth and do what they do best, they will deliver. If you appreciate and recognize the result and give them the freedom to do it again bigger, they will!

I am not a micromanager, most people don’t like being managed that way, I know I sure don’t. You know the old saying that people don’t leave because of bad jobs, they leave because of bad leadership. It’s true.

Your people are your greatest asset. Hire good people to do good work and then get out of their way. Work with them on a trajectory for their career path, and if they do get a better opportunity, support them in that personal change. Our world and our industry are small, you more than likely will cross paths again.

I am fortunate to have friendships and business relationships that have spanned decades, built on genuine friendship and mutual respect. Conversations and negotiations are enveloped in deep understanding of our industry’s nuances, shared personal histories, and excitement for our collective future.

That’s what happens when we do the work to connect with people, over and over again. And let me tell you, that is what success is built on. And I want that for all of us.

Let’s do the work. Onward.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow Scott on LinkedIn and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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