As Steve Schwarz, president of Thompson, Ohio-based Cornerstones Cement Products Inc., tried to expand his cast stone and architectural precast business for both large, commercial projects and upscale residences, he has learned that even a thorough product knowledge and hands-on training weren't enough.

Although Schwarz was very familiar with the production end of the business and felt confident when it came to bidding on projects, Cornerstones was struggling for sales in 1996.

That's when Tom Scully, founder of the Training Center, an affiliate of Bainbridge, Ohio-based Sandler Sales Institute, stepped in. The center specializes in sales, management, and customer-service training. It offers group sessions, lectures, role-playing, one-on-one counseling, and more to companies in Cleveland and throughout northeast Ohio.

The skills Schwarz has acquired through The Training Center have helped increase sales from $110,000 to $1.6 million since 1996. He found that improving basic communication skills not only boosts sales dollars but also the entire management process.

Schwarz came to understand that a contractual relationship with no bonding and rapport is a weak business relationship. He has learned that quality, service, and reliability are as important as fair, competitive pricing.

Cornerstone's staff has increased from 6 to 35 and covers a 350-mile radius that includes Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Keywords: sales, train, disarmingly honest, Cornerstones Cement Products, Training Center, Sandler Sales Institute