Blog for Building Materials Companies

Building Materials Pros Now Want to Shop in Their Underwear

  |  Posted in Sales, Strategy

Building Materials Pros Now Want to Shop in Their Underwear

McKinsey & Company did a study * of the changes in B2B purchasing decisions. As usual, this is a very well researched and written report from McKinsey.  After reading it, I saw how many of these same changes are affecting building materials companies and their ability to effectively sell to their B2B customers.

Whether they are selling to architects, builders, big boxes, dealers, distributors, contractors or distributors, their sales efforts are becoming less effective every day.  One company that McKinsey studied found that 70% of their marketing dollars and sales efforts were not directed at what mattered most to customers.

Up To 70% Of Your Sales And Marketing May Be Wasted.

That figure really stopped me and made me think about how much money building materials manufacturers are wasting.  I frequently hear building materials manufacturers say they can’t afford to spend more on sales or marketing. Even if you feel you are not doing as poorly with your sales and marketing dollars as the example company, in my experience, you are wasting at least 30%. Can you imagine what you could do with 30% more sales and marketing budget?

And that increase in your budget doesn’t cost you anything but a willingness to look at how you approach customers today.

How Has Your Pro Customer’s Buying Process Changed?

The person who used to be “the customer” is now a group of people, many of whom are important but may not be visible. “The customer,” who followed a predictable path to purchase, now uses a much more complicated path.

To stop wasting your sales and marketing budget you need your “selling” approach to get in alignment with your customers “purchasing” approach.  The touchpoints to a sale are changing as are the message points.

The biggest change most building materials manufacturers need to make is to get sales and marketing to work together.  The silos need be broken down.  The marketing leader and the sales leader need to be comparable in their ability.  They need to respect each other.

Marketing needs to be measured with metrics that are comparable to sales.  They should no longer be measured by whether they got the new website done on time and on budget and that the CEO liked it.

For most building materials companies, this will mean raising the level of their marketing people. In too many building materials companies, the marketing people are second class citizens compared to the sales people.

This change will take a huge effort.  I think it is more about willingness to take on the task than it is about spending huge amounts of money.  In fact, companies frequently spend the money without the real will to change and get nothing for their investment.

McKinsey reported that companies who successfully changed their marketing and sales process saw the following results:

20% More Leads

10% More First Time Customers

20% Less Time to Close The Sale

Business Customers Now Shop Like Consumers

Building materials B2B customers have higher expectations of your product, company and sales person. They do their homework and frequently know more about you than you know about them.  Unfortunately what they know about you may not be correct.  The customer decides how they get information and it may not be from the manufacturer.

Whether it is a blogger, a customer experience in a LinkedIn group, a Tweet or a trade show seminar, the customer has formed an opinion of you before you’ve talked to them.

Customers Want Manufacturers to Get Out of Their Way

As a consumer, we used to be comfortable ordering something like a book online.  There were many categories of products that we couldn’t imagine buying without visiting a store, talking to a salesperson and having the ability to touch the product or try it on.

We then transitioned to where we would look at something online but still wanted to talk to someone online.  Companies then began to make it easier to do everything online while making it more difficult to actually talk to a person.  Some companies did this well while other companies made it very frustrating.

Today we regularly order clothing, do our own travel planning, financial planning and more without talking to anyone.   People are even beginning to buy houses online without ever visiting the house.

Contractors, builders, architects, dealers and other building materials customers don’t understand why they can’t work online in their business as easily as they can in their personal lives.

Why Your Customers Want to Shop in Their Underwear

Building Materials Shopping Online

Part of my process, when working with clients, is to do qualitative field research.  I travel and spend time with their builders, contractors, dealers, distributors or architects.  On one of these assignments, I was with a successful contractor who shared with me:

“To stay successful, I have to work a lot of hours.  I also have a family life.  Everything doesn’t happen between nine and five.  I shop online at home as a consumer.  As a business person, I also frequently do things like quoting jobs sitting in my underwear at home.  Only a few building materials companies or suppliers make this possible.”

I hear similar issues from architects and builders.  Even if they are sitting at a desk with their clothes on, what they don’t have is time or patience.  Many times they aren’t even trying to place an order but just to get an accurate piece of information about a product.

They are very frustrated that they can’t get the information they need online and how the website may not be accurate. It also frustrates them that there is not a clear path to getting the right answer.  When they do contact someone, that person frequently doesn’t know the answer and has to get back to them. If they talk to more than one person or department, they frequently have conflicting information.

McKinsey reports that B2B customers will regularly use six different interaction channels as they are making a product decision. 65% of them will be frustrated by the inconsistencies between websites, sales, customer service, technical support, order processing, distributor or dealer.  When was the last time you sat with a customer and tried to deal with your company?

The ability to get accurate information online, to quote a project with custom features, to place and track an order without human interaction is becoming more important everyday.  This ease of interaction is more important than a lower price or even a better product. Give your customers the option to order your product on a Saturday morning in their underwear.

The building materials manufacturers who make the investment in redesigning their customer experience will have a real competitive advantage.  Dealers and distributors also need to be part of this change.  If I were a manufacturer, I would be monitoring which dealers and distributors are investing in this.  They would be the ones I want to partner with.

How Building Materials Manufacturers Can Stop Wasting Sales and Marketing Dollars

Building Materials Sales Funnel

The Sales Funnel is Obsolete.

You need a new set of sales tools and measurements. Rather than following a predictable path to a sale, the process is now a journey.  Rather than thinking of how you can sell your product to a customer, become part of their journey.  They are on a journey to success and you need to find out how to make your product the destination.  You also need to realize that this is a group trip and everyone has an opinion.

You need to map out the journey that each type of customer takes to be successful in their business.  From this information, you can identify how using your products are a better choice for their journey.

You can not rely on what you think you know about your customers.  You also can not rely on what they tell you.  This is why so many surveys are wrong.  You need to spend time with the customer and to have an open mind.  This is why it is usually a good idea to have an outsider do this research, as they don’t have the preconceptions that an internal person may have.

It’s hard for internal people to be open to counterintuitive ideas.  Something that may make no sense to you may be very important to the customer.  And it may be something you can offer them easily and at little or no cost.

The building materials manufacturer with the best customer knowledge is the one who is in the best position to profitably grow. Customer knowledge comes from spending time with them so you learn what they do and not what they say.  Customer knowledge does not come from reading research studies unaided by a more intimate knowledge of the customer.

Realign Sales and Marketing To Match Customer Journey to Purchase

This is where companies found they were spending up to 70% of their sales and marketing dollars ineffectively.  They were spending money in ways that had little or no effect on a customer’s decision to purchase.

I constantly hear building materials manufacturers tell me they can’t afford new programs like content marketing without increasing their budget.  In my experience, every building materials company is misspending at least 30% of the sales and marketing budgets.  There are usually too many sacred cows that no one wants to challenge like events, literature, trade shows and more.

Changes in sales and marketing are too often driven by reaction to a competitor than to what the customer really needs.

I loved this quote from the McKinnsey article, * “Seasoned sales executives and sales leaders often struggle to accept the reality that long-standing truths about how to best serve customers no longer apply.”

An important part of this realignment is the willingness to test ideas.  Sales and marketing should collaborate on what they can jettison and what new ideas should they test.  You can not use the “all or nothing” approach to having one big idea that may or may not work.  It’s better to test several ideas on a smaller scale and then run with the winner.

The Biggest Challenge – Integrating Sales and Marketing

In the most sophisticated companies like consumer packaged goods and technology, sales and marketing know how to work together. In most building materials companies, sales and marketing do not work together.  They are separate silos that do not see their success linked to each other. Here’s a great article from Geoffrey James of Inc magazine that outlines the issues and offers solutions.

This will be the biggest challenge for most building materials manufacturers as people will get defensive and fear this level of change.

“I’ve spent years of hard work to get to this level of respect and importance in the company and now you want to change things?  There are less experienced younger people that I now have to treat as equals?”

It takes a strong leader to overcome this resistance and help their valuable experienced team members be able to make this change.

Contact me if you’d like help in getting your sales and marketing in alignment with your the way your customer makes purchases.

* If you have not visited McKinsey & Companies website in the past, you will need to register to gain access to the article.  Let me know if you have any difficulty.

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Thanks for the following comments.  I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.

” Mark Mitchell really gets it”
Rick Sheffer
Senior Manager
MNC Wooden Door Manufacturing

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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.