Building materials companies tend to focus on the customers who are immediately in front of them. It makes sense—if you interact with builders, architects, facilities managers and homeowners, that’s who you’re going to be trying to sell to.
But with each of these customers, there’s another one standing right behind them, one that’s easy to overlook. I’m talking about the contractor—specifically, the installing contractor.
Over and over, I see building materials companies with great products that think they’ve landed a sale with their primary customer only to lose it because of a contractor.
I can see where these companies are coming from. The contractor works for the primary customer, so they’ll just do whatever that customer wants, right? Unfortunately, that’s often not the case.
Why Contractors Resist Change
- Because of the shortage of labor, good contractors are in high demand. That means they can turn down work or up their price if the job involves having to learn something new or even just doing things a bit differently than they’re used to.
- While you see changing over to your product as an opportunity, the contractor sees it as a risk, even if the product is better.
- Let’s not forget plain old stubbornness. A lot of contractors are just set in their ways. They might even just be using a product and installing it a certain way because that’s how their dad or their old supervisor used to do it. They’re also a nostalgic bunch, so it’s not hard to find a contractor who thinks that homes and buildings aren’t built as well as they used to be. They might not find modern construction methods and products all that appealing.
- For a contractor, switching to a new product means losing money for a few reasons:
- They risk losing money by giving too low an estimate or losing the job by giving one that is too high.
- They have to bear the cost of training their installers.
- Those installers, even once they’re trained, will take time to adjust and that extra time spent getting used to the new products means a reduced income for the contractor.
- The odds of a callback are higher on the first few jobs.
- The contractor is probably perfectly satisfied with their current supplier, and dealing with a new one is time-consuming.
- A lot of contractors are very small operations, often with fewer than 20 employees. They know the people who work with them and feel responsible for them. They don’t want to take risks that could jeopardize the well-being of everyone at their firm.
- Most contractors don’t have a business background. They started as installers and have worked it into a more profitable venture. If they’ve managed to stay afloat for the first few years, they know they’re doing something right—they might just not know what it is. All they know is that they don’t want to screw it up, so they’ll play it very safe.
- Contractors are looking out for their customers. If they have any worries about using an untested product instead of going with something they know will do the job, they’ll share those worries with their customers.
- Finally, they just don’t see it as a big deal. The market’s been good to them, so they believe that, even if other contractors make the change and they don’t, their profit margins won’t be affected.
You Don’t Have to Lose Sales Because of Contractors
Their resistance to change might make installing contractors a source of frustration for you. But the last thing you should do is ignore them. Even when you’re selling to your primary customers, keep in mind how important the contractor is. Make sure you reach out to them, find out why they’re reluctant to use your product and help them get over their hesitation.
Look at the list from the last section. Put yourself in the contractor’s shoes and ask which one of these are the biggest concerns and what it would a building materials company have to do for you to overcome them.
And, one last thing: most companies will try to sell their products based on the benefits. But those might not mean much to a contractor, so you need to develop a sales approach that speaks directly to their resistance to switching over to a new product. Make it clear that even though using a new product like yours might be risky, the real risk is in not making the change.