Many building materials companies are letting their sales skills decline. As the demand for building products has begun to exceed many companies’ capacities, they have turned to managing their current business instead of growing it.
When they’re already overwhelmed, the last thing they want is a new stack of orders and even more customers to deal with.
Unfortunately, there can be serious consequences to putting your sales on the backburner. Selling is a skill that requires practice and improvement. The more you sell, the better you get at it. The more time you spend warming the bench, the rustier you get.
That might not be a problem now, but it will be when the demand for your product drops off. You’ll need to start selling again and it will be very difficult to get back in the game.
Building materials salespeople should think of themselves as professional athletes. They’re very good at what they do, but they still have to stay sharp.
Professional athletes have coaches and experts to help them improve. They review videos of their last game and study the way their upcoming opponents play. They have practice sessions in between seasons.
There’s a whole institution built around keeping athletes in good form – gyms, arenas, professional trainers. Salespeople have to do it all on their own. They can take the time to review sales calls or prepare for upcoming ones, but there won’t be any coaches to help them do it or play-by-play videos for them to study.
Despite those challenges, many building materials salespeople manage to do a good job selling their company’s products.
The Problem is When They Get Out of Practice.
When the demand for your product unexpectedly shoots up, the reaction is to hit the brakes and stop selling. This is a mistake and I’ll tell you why.
A VP of Sales and Marketing for a major building materials company recently came to Colorado on business and wanted to meet me. His plans and energy are what inspired me to write this article, so let’s call him Mr. Energizer!
Mr. Energizer’s company is experiencing record sales and the lead times are getting longer. They’re doing everything they can to meet the new demand. Meanwhile, they are also aggressively focused on growth and selling with two strategies.
Two Ways to Sell When You Are Sold Out
1. Focus on the Long Term
We live in a time of instant gratification. I can order something from Amazon and expect it to arrive tomorrow. I send someone an email or text and expect an instant response. So naturally, when someone makes a sales call, they expect to make a sale that same day.
This short-term focus causes building materials salespeople to go after small, quick wins instead of paying more attention to bigger, longer-term opportunities.
Mr. Energizer’s plan is to focus his sales team on selling opportunities in 2021 that won’t pay off until 2022 to 2025. That’s a great way to stay in practice and raise your skills by going after more challenging sales!
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Who is a really big customer you would like to have? Invest the next year in making it happen.
- Rather than chasing commercial projects, spend time becoming the preferred source for architects, contractors and owners.
- Want to enter a new market such as residential or commercial, new construction or remodel? Now is the time.
- Is there a geographic area where you should be stronger? Pursue it now.
- Is there a different business model or type of customer you want to develop, such as offsite construction or online selling? Do it now.
The benefits of this approach are twofold. First, you are planning for the future by pursuing bigger opportunities that will take longer to sell. Second, by doing so you’re improving the selling skills of your team.
2. Keep Selling the Company
Mr. Energizer and his team are also selling to their current customers. These times are just as difficult for your customers as they are for you. It’s a great time for your salespeople to show your customers why you are their best supplier.
You do this by enabling your salespeople to provide accurate information. It may not be what customers want to hear, but it’s reality. If your customer has accurate information, they can make the right adjustments.
Many companies don’t provide accurate information to their customers. Telling them things like “We don’t know when your order will ship” or “We shipped an order to you but we don’t know what’s on it” don’t sell your customers on the idea that your company is the best one to be working with.
Your customers don’t measure your performance when things are going well. They measure your performance based on how you handle challenges. Many companies are not performing well with their current customers – make sure you’re not one of them.
Don’t Get Rusty
Mr. Energizer’s plans really inspired me and I hope they inspired you, too. It should give you some things to think about as your company is entering this new year.
How active are your salespeople? Could they be doing more? Are they just dragging their feet until things start picking up?
It’s important to keep them practiced and limbered up. When business slows down, they’ll need to be as sharp as they’ve ever been.
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