Blog for Building Materials Companies

Big Change in the Role of Building Materials Sales People

  |  Posted in Sales

Big Change in the Role of Building Materials Sales People

When digital marketing is done right, it can produce a lot of new leads, but they’re not being handled properly. Sales teams don’t know how to qualify and nurture them. They’re not closing nearly enough of them.

It doesn’t help that digital leads are even more impersonal. You may not know who’s on the other end of the screen. Are you dealing with an architect? A distributor? A homeowner? Are they a big opportunity?

Salespeople who are used to communicating face-to-face are frustrated and struggling to adapt.

Digital leads are a new type of prospective customer, which means they require a new type of salesperson to handle them. I spoke with Mark Allen Roberts from OTB Sales Solutions. to find out how building materials sales teams can be restructured and retrained to adapt to the new realities in the industry.

A Brief History of Building Materials Sales Personas

To find the root of the problem, we have to rewind the clock to before digital marketing became so effective. Salespeople were generally categorized as one of two types: the hunters and the farmers.

The hunters are the go-getters. They’re tenacious, gritty individuals who can turn a “no” into a “not yet.” They’re fearless salespeople – you’ll never see a hunter back down from a cold call. They’re fast-thinking, fast-talking, coffee-drinking closers.

The farmers are the cultivators. They’re detail-orientated, with a knack for data analysis and building trust. These nurturers are best-suited to fostering accounts, using their deep customer and product knowledge to find the best offerings and opportunities for growth. They know how to grow customers while making them more loyal.

Introducing the New Salesperson: the Fisherman

The issue with digital leads is that they’re unknown entities. Sure, with new software, CRMs and widgets, we can track the lead’s interactions with our company. But how do we know which salesperson to deploy when the lead makes contact?

This is where the need for a new salesperson has arisen: the fisherman.

A fisherman is neither a hunter nor a farmer. They are patient with a keen eye for detail. The fisherman studies the customer and understands that they need the right tools to hook the right fish. A fisherman knows the difference between a nibble and a bite. He knows how to reel in his catch.

A hunter is likely to yank the hook out of the prospects mouth or to give up too soon. A farmer may misread the prospect and fail to close the deal of a customer who is ready to buy.

Strategies to Restructure and Re-Skill Your Sales Team

The first step to restructuring your sales team is to identify who your hunters and farmers are. If your lucky, around a third of your sales team will be true to these personality traits, and their skills will be heavily suited to one type of sales over the other.

These salespeople should be left to do what they do best: hunt and farm.

The remaining salespeople exhibit a blend of hunting and farming skills. These are your fishermen. Once you have identified who they are, you can begin the process of upskilling these agents and giving them a more defined role.

The Vital Functions of the Fisherman

We’ll focus on the two most essential functions of the fisherman salesperson: discovery and qualification.


As we mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge with a digital lead is that it’s such an unknown. We are less likely to have face-to-face interactions with buyers or meet a contractor or architect hunting for specific building materials.

A fisherman has to discover who the lead is and what they need. That means being able to ask excellent questions, demonstrate competence and build trust. The fisherman is adept at conversational marketing, using strong messaging tailored to the buyer.


A fisherman knows his waters. He knows exactly where to go and at what time if he wants to catch his prey. In the building materials industry, a fisherman knows their organization from end to end. They’re able to ascertain what approach is best suited to the prospect on the end of the line. They know when a nibble turns into a bite.

If a lead exhibits strong buying signals, they know to bring them to the hunters, if needed, who will close the deal. If they’re only at the beginning phase of their project, they hand them over to the farmers who can nurture those leads into customers.

And they’ll catch everything else in between by understanding the buyer and what they value.

Advanced Strategy for Small Building Materials Businesses

The importance of the fisherman in today’s digital ecosystem is evident. But what if you don’t have the luxury of re-deploying salespeople to their strengths? If you’re leading a sales team in a small business, you can’t afford to specialize a sales person to handle one type of lead.

To overcome this, we’re going to talk about building awareness of the strengths and opportunities of your sales team. Sit down as a unit, talk about your sales team’s strengths and discuss the skills of each role (hunter, farmer, fisherman) and their relevance to your building materials company.

Then it’s about cultivating an understanding of when to think and act differently. Leverage the data you have available to define when you need to hunt, farm or fish.

And remember, it’s one thing to have a strategy. It’s another to believe in it. So emphasize the virtues of switching mindsets and your team will be more inclined to adopt the new approach.

The Significance of a Sales Hybrid Model: Return on Your Investment

Lead generation remains one of an organization’s biggest expenses. Advertising. Websites. Software. Dealer Locators. They all cost money. According to research, acquiring new customers is six to seven times more expensive than retaining existing ones.

If you’re not turning these leads into customers, you’re on a sinking ship. Why? The growth of any business is mainly dependent on repeat customers. Any customer who purchases with your building materials company has a 60% chance of becoming a repeat customer. If you’re not closing new leads, you’re not acquiring repeat customers.

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.