Two events early in my ready-mix sales career motivated me to learn all I could about the science of concrete design and placement. Actually, the first event was more of a mandate. As my boss Tonya and I arrived in a new subdivision to inspect several cracks in a recently poured driveway, she said that in two to three months I would have learned what caused the cracks and how to minimize the future occurrence of cracking.

To myself, I wondered what I had signed up for. In the sales arena, I felt comfortable and confident, but as a “concrete guru” who could diagnose a problem just by looking? Boy, I felt that I had jumped in over my head.

The second event was when a contractor called me out to a concrete placement he had done two days earlier, that had many cracks running through it. He said that since he had been doing this kind of work for many years and never had this occur, then I must have sold him some defective concrete. I took this diagnosis back to one of the senior guys in the Quality Control department. He smiled and said, nicely, that I had a lot to learn about concrete.

With the support of my boss and help from many of those working in quality control, my education began. With formal classroom training and field experience, I learned about the chemistry of concrete and the proper placement and finishing techniques. I also learned about the effects of admixtures and fibers, as well as how the use of excessive water affects the setting and strength of placed concrete.

During this training process, I got a copy of the delivery ticket for the “defective concrete” and one again visited my unhappy customer. I nicely explained that the 50 gallons of water he had added to the 10-cubic-yard load, which had arrived at a 4-inch slump, was the primary reason his concrete driveway had so many cracks. I also advised him that the use of admixtures was the best way to raise slump without losing concrete strength and causing excessive cracking. He thought we used extra water at the plant to raise slump and then charged him for our addition of the water.

The point is that, because of the extra training and education I received, I was able to keep this important account and increase the company’s profits by educating the customer about the uses and benefits of admixtures.

I will never claim to have all the answers about the performance of concrete. However, I believe that a strong QC department will help you strengthen the trust and the relationship with customers. You will become a strategic partner of your customer and this special arrangement will become more important than having the lowest priced products.

As a result of increasing your knowledge about the science of concrete and concrete placement, you will gain credibility and respect among your peers, as well as with existing and prospective customers and general contractors you will meet at most job sites. The QC Manager will also appreciate the fact that you are providing feedback about the performance of his/her mixes in the field.

As a ready-mix concrete sales professional, your ACI-Level I certification should be just the beginning of your technical education. In addition to producing more profits for your company, you will become more aware of the company teamwork needed to prepare and deliver, on time, the best concrete in your area.