You’re probably clueless about your customer’s business.
Whether it’s a contractor, builder or dealer, odds are you don’t really understand their business. You probably have a narrow view of the role your product plays in their business.
Here’s what builders, contractors and dealers tell me.
“I’m tired of educating sales people. As soon as they have learned enough to be helpful, they are replaced and I have to start all over again”
“They are just focused on getting the order and don’t have a clue about how it relates to my business”
“Most of their marketing programs show me how little they know about my business.
Or one of my favorites
“Their salesmen are really engineers who wanted to get out of the office”
If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, learn more about your building material customer’s business.
There are three levels of knowledge that will set you apart.
1. The big picture
For example, if you call on builders you need to understand how a builder’s business works. You need to know how a home is built from start to finish. How does the sales process work? What are the key areas that determine whether or not a builder makes a profit.
Take it to the next level and spend some time on jobsites to see what happens with your product. Ask the people working on the job site what they think about your company and the supplier they get it from.
2. The smaller picture
Next you should understand your customer’s individual situation. If he’s a roofing contractor, how much of his business is new construction and how much is reroofing? Who is his competition? Why do people do business with him? What are his plans? What problems is he facing? If you really want to do this in depth, you should talk to his customers and study his competitors.
When talking to his customers find out why they do business with him. See if there’s anything they feel he could better. Shop his competition to see what he’s up against. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of his competitors.
Have another meeting with your customer, review your findings and see if he agrees. Make suggestions about how he can improve his business, perhaps with your product.
3. The global picture
You should also be aware of the current state of your customer’s industry. For builders, you need to know more than just housing starts are up or down. Information like issues with financing, labor, land, materials and code changes are also important.
You can find a lot of this information online. An even more impressive and effective method is to simply sit down with your customer and ask him to educate you. I guarantee he will be impressed by your interest. Spend time on jobsites or in dealerships, talk to installers and counter people. For builders, spend time with their sales people.
You should be spending at least as much time educating yourself about your customers business as you do about your products.
How to use this information?
If all you have is a good understanding of your customers business, you will have an advantage over most of your competitors. If you want to take this to the next level, build a file on each customer about their business. Notice how they are each unique in their approach to success.
If you take the time to know your customers business, you will be rewarded with increased sales and loyalty. This also makes it easier to sell an upgrade and to defend your prices.