I recently asked a home builder to tell me the biggest misconception building materials companies have about builders. He told me that “Building materials companies see all builders as being the same. The only difference they see is how big of a customer we may be for their products.”
This comment got me curious, so I ran it by other builders, as well as some contractors, architects and distributors. All of them agreed. To most building materials companies, an architect is an architect, a roofing contractor is a roofing contractor, a drywall distributor is a drywall distributor and so on.
You may think you’re the exception and that you don’t act this way. But your customers think you do, and what the customer believes is going to affect the way they deal with you.
One of the reasons your customers feel this way is that you don’t seem prepared when you meet with them or try to sell them.
To you, being prepared might mean being able to deliver a sales message about your product. You may also be prepared to show why you are the right choice for every builder, contractor, architect, or distributor.
It’s easy to see large distributors and their competitors as being the same.
The same goes for contractors who sell and install a type of building product.
And builders, architects and others.
So, you rely on a generic sales message that makes it seem like you don’t understand an individual customer’s needs.
How Your Customers Think You See Them
How Your Customers See Themselves
Whether they are architects or builders, contractors, or distributors, your customers see themselves as different as these dogs and cats.
If you want to be more successful, do a little more preparation by finding out what makes each customer different or unique.
Three Ways Added Preparation Can Benefit You
1. It sets you apart from the competition. Your customers don’t have high expectations. They’re not expecting you to understand what differentiates them. Even a little effort will give your customers a pleasant surprise.
2. It helps you close more sales. When you can show a customer why you’re the right choice for them and not just anybody, you will sell more.
3. You will waste less time. Being prepared means knowing what type of customer is the best fit for you. You can focus on those customers and stop wasting your time on the ones who probably won’t buy.
Being better prepared can pay big dividends. The bar is set so low that even a little effort will get noticed. As you see what a difference it makes, you will probably want to become even more prepared.
Become a student of your most important type of customers. Don’t wait for your company to teach you about them. The best students learn because they’re curious and know it will give them an advantage.
Since there aren’t many other students, you will be amazed at how quickly you will earn the respect of your customers.
How to Prepare
Look at your customer’s website. Taking a minute to look at your customer’s website is more than most salespeople do. Be sure to ask the customer a question about their business based on what you learned from their site.
2. Google them and see what comes up. It may be a news story, a new product announcement, or a new commitment to sustainability. Whatever it is, asking them about it shows that you went a step beyond their website.
3. Ask others about the company. A distributor, a dealer, or their customers may be willing to share their opinions with you.
4. Ask them about their business. Most of your customers will be happy to answer your questions, including:
- What makes them different?
- Who is their competition?
- What are the biggest challenges they are facing today?
- Who are their best suppliers and what makes them the best?
- What is the biggest problem they have with your category of products?
- What do they like about their current supplier?
- What do they wish their current supplier would change?
- And more
5. Create your own customer personas. Base these on your product and what you have learned from your research. For example:
- Categorizing the different types of builders or other types of customers
- The factors that differentiate each type of builder or customer
- How your product or company can solve a problem or help each of these customer types be more successful
Develop these personas for your most important type of customers, such as architects, contractors, distributors and others.
Reading trade magazines and newsletters will also make you better prepared.
Being a salesperson is not like going to college. Many students stop learning once they earn their degree, but you have to keep up with the ways your customers are changing every year. Taking the time to prepare will always help you succeed.
A Final Thought
If you want your sales call to stand out from the other ones your customer is getting, preparation is essential. It’s important, however, not to waste your time overpreparing.
Being prepared doesn’t mean knowing everything there is to know about your customer. You only need to know enough to ask them great questions about their business. That will help you understand their needs and show them that you’re serious about wanting to serve them better.
Take a curious approach. Make it a goal to learn something from everyone you talk to, including your customers. If you do that, you’ll be more valuable to them and more successful because of it.
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