Contractors are critical to the success of most building product companies.
3 things to keep in mind about contractors.
1. They are resistant to change.
2. They are installers at heart.
3. They are family businesses.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
Contractors see change as risk. Show them the risk of not changing, and the benefits of change.
Contractors can no longer count on making serious profit from material mark ups, making labor cost changes their biggest risk. Their profitability hinges on getting the project done in as few man-hours as possible, making correctly installing a new product in a timely fashion the biggest concern.
You need to show the contractor how he could be left behind if he doesn’t embrace change. This is where marketing support, such as a “Qualified Contractor” program, can really pay off.
Promoting that is he is approved by a well-known manufacturer raises a contractor’s market stature and credibility, and increases his loyalty to you. If the “Qualified Contractor” program is designed correctly, he will spend his own marketing dollars promoting your brand. Legal departments don’t like these types of programs because they think it increases the manufacturer’s risk. I believe that the sales benefits far outweigh the legal risks.
Focus on the Right Contractors
Many times, the largest contractor is least likely to be open to new ideas or change. They have a lot invested in the status quo. In many instances, the newer, smaller, younger contractors see change as a way to gain business that they would normally have lost to the larger contractor.
Installer training needs to be as brief and simple as possible – ideally on the job site where you can walk them through the installation. Relate your product to the one they are used to installing and point out were errors might be made. Installation instructions aren’t read, but instead are often used as a reference tool.
Contractors may be concerned that your new product may result in increased callbacks and possible liability.
Another potential problem could be the product source. Contractors have preferred sources of supply. If you don’t use their preferred source, you may have a problem to overcome.
Installers at Heart
Most contractors started as installers before opening their own business. Because of this, they don’t often have backgrounds in finance, marketing, manufacturing, operations, human resources, etc. To be successful, they need to have some understanding in all of these areas.
Many contractors dislike selling. They also are afraid they will lose a project so the under price it. You can provide marketing programs to help them and they will reward your efforts with loyalty.
The Curse of Family Businesses
Most contracting firms are also family businesses and have some of the traditional family business issues like employing relatives who may not be the best employees, including a son who takes over the business.
Often, the son doesn’t learn how to succeed. When you see the new Porsche in the parking lot, keep a tight rein on their credit, as they may be heading for trouble.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Many of them overcome these challenges very successfully.
In-home Selling Contractors
In-home selling contractors require leads and the ability to close. Get familiar with their lead generation programs and help them improve their results. Teach them how to use your product to gain more leads. Recommend new avenues for leads such as displaying at a House & Home Show or a mall to yield more leads.
The in-home sales team needs to be trained on your product and they need in-home selling tools. You need to understand where your product fits in the sale. Is it the main sale or is it an add-on? Is it worth his effort to try to sell your product? How hard is the sale? How much time will it take? And most importantly, how much will he make when he sells your product?
Contractors are a critical audience for most building material manufacturers. If you step back and take a fresh look at your marketing programs and sales strategies, you will find areas where you can be more successful by helping your contractors be more successful.