Most building materials companies say they want to grow their sales, but then they just keep doing what they’ve always done while expecting a different result. If you are ready to really grow your sales in 2017, here is how.
Improving Your Marketing and Sales for Growth
I can have a tendency to write long posts, as I frequently have a lot to say about improving your building materials sales and marketing. If you are mainly interested in marketing, just read the first section. If sales is your thing, read the second section. Or if you’re interested in both, I hope you’ll read both; it should take you about 7 minutes to read the whole post.
Section One – Marketing Changes
Marketing is changing faster than most building materials companies can keep up with. The building materials industry is ten years behind most other industries when it comes to marketing. There are also lots of Old White Guy leaders who are more comfortable with the way things have always been done.
As your competition is probably also not making big changes in their marketing, there is currently not a lot of risk of losing to the competition, in the short term. The bigger risk is in losing customers. Your customers don’t understand why you continue to invest in marketing programs that are no longer effective with them. You are now making it more difficult for your customers to do business with you.
The first company in your category to change their marketing to meet the needs of the customer will grow their business, not because of their product or price, but simply because they are reaching the customers the way the customer wants to be reached.
Online Leadership is Key
If there is one area to focus on it is your online presence. You need to think about this in a way that is bigger than you probably can even imagine. Here’s how big you need to think.
What Would You Do If Your Online Presence Was Your Only Method of Sales and Marketing?
Your online presence should be based on the idea that you don’t go to trade shows, print brochures, run print ads, or have any sales people. Everything you do is online. This also assumes you are selling your products through the same channels as you do today.
You will keep your sales people and probably do some other marketing programs. If you make the goal of your online presence is that all of your sales and marketing are dependent on it, you will be headed in the right direction and ahead of your competitors.
This means you should have the best website in your category, as defined by your customer and not by you or your web designers. You should be the “Go-To” website in your category with the most helpful educational information for your customers. Even if they plan to buy from your competitor, they should prefer your website to get their questions answered.
You should own SEO with better content on your blog than anyone else. You do have a blog already, don’t you? If you are a smaller to medium sized company you can easily beat the big guys, in this area.
You need marketing automation so you know who comes to your website and can start a relationship with them. You also need to get seriously involved in social media.
Too often I hear companies tell me that they will do these things when they get more money in their marketing budget. I tell them that most of the money is probably already in your budget and is being spent in areas like trade shows, printed ads, literature and other legacy programs. When I do find a forward thinking marketing director, they tell that the Old White Guy Leaders won’t let them shift marketing dollars online. They have to have their trade shows and literature.
The marketing leader is then left trying to cajole the sales leader into changing. This is the time when the President needs to step in and make a “This is the way it is” decision.
You should be working with outside resources who are experienced in building materials and the constantly changing online world. Doing it all in-house is not a good idea as the best approaches to online are changing daily.
If you’d like to see how you are doing online and get some recommendations from an expert, here are three firms I recommend you contact. They each will be happy to give you an initial consultation at no charge. You can ask them anything about your online efforts.
Point to Point – Mark Goren
Orange Inbound – Pete Czech
Venveo – Zach Williams
I recommend these firms because I know them and respect their knowledge and expertise in this area. I also know that they are not aggressive used car type new business people. They will not pester you if you contact them.
The companies who fully commit to online, really help their salespeople sell more products. No more unqualified leads. No more cold calls only warm to very warm calls. A lot more inbound inquiries from potential customers that you may not have known existed or thought you would ever sell.
Section Two – Improving Sales
Improving the performance of your sales should be about shortening the sales cycle and lowering the cost per sale, and that doesn’t mean paying your salespeople less.
Listen to Your Salespeople
The first step to having a better sales results is to listen to your salespeople. Salespeople are usually talked down to and given orders. If this is all you do, you are missing a big opportunity. The opportunity is to grow your sales is by listening to your sales people.
They are closer to the customer than anyone else. They can tell you what needs to change to grow your sales. What programs are not working? Your current customers are your fastest, easiest and least costly way to grow your sales.
I have never met with a building materials company’s customer who didn’t tell me that they would start buying more of their products tomorrow if they would only change one thing. And that one thing is never to lower the price. Your sales people know what it would take to gain more sales from your existing customers, but no one will listen to them.
Help Salespeople Gain New Customers
I have written about this before, but this plan has never failed to gain more new customers. Have each salesperson provide a list of five customers they would like to gain or grow. Pull together a support team from marketing and other areas. Help them research the needs of the customer to tailor the sales approach to each customer.
They do not call on these customers with the standard pitch; each pitch is customized to that customer’s needs, situation, challenges, and opportunities. It’s easy to see most builders, architects or dealers as being the same. When you spend a little time, you can easily see what makes each of them different and unique. You can then craft a more effective sales approach about why it makes sense for that individual customer to use your products.
I work with one client where I am a member of their target conversion team. We have weekly conference calls with the salesperson and the marketing team member. We now have a template we follow to identify what makes each customer different and then to craft the best sales story and offer to each customer. Their goal is to approach one new customer per week.
At the end of a year, they will have made very effective calls on 52 new key customers. They are closing more of these than they usually would. Some of the targets may take a long time to close and with these customers, the discussion has started and in a serious way.
This is in addition to the normal sales call they are making every day. The lessons learned with this special effort also help improve all of your sales and marketing. Think of it as your special forces unit.
Improve Your Sales Processes
The majority of building materials companies have invested in a CRM program, and most say they are not using it effectively. I keep hearing, “Mark we just can’t get our sales people to use our CRM program.”
Here is my take. CRM has many practical uses, with the main being recording your customer information and activity. Frankly, for this purpose alone, I recommend that using CRM be a condition of employment.
Some companies think that if they could only implement their CRM program, all of their sales issues would be solved. I am not an expert in CRM or it’s implementation, but it is such an issue that I am currently researching how a building materials company can succeed with CRM. Many companies do go overboard in the expectations they have for CRM, and I am eager to learn more about that.
Best in class sales teams are about a lot more than superior salespeople and strong managers. It’s about having a system that ensures improvement. Implementing CRM or providing sales training by themselves does not yield great returns. Implementing them as part of a selling system has been shown to drive growth and performance. Sales leaders need to see their sales teams holistically, similar to how a plant manager views, measures and optimizes the output of his factory.
If you’d like to see how this works, I recommend you reach out to Carlos Quintero of Sales Effectiveness, Inc, the co-author of our book, “How to Become a Building Industry Sales RAINMAKER!” When I first met Carlos, I thought he and his team were good trainers primarily, who happened to have a lot of experience in building materials. As I have worked with him the last two years, I came to appreciate the approach to sales process improvement in working with building materials companies. His approach made me think of the idea of the weakest link. Your sales team and system can only be as good as the weakest link, no matter how many rock stars you have.
The weakest link is not about replacing the weakest sales person. It’s about how when a great salesperson is part of a weak system, the system always wins.
If you’d like to learn more about improving or even transforming your sales team, I recommend you talk to Carlos at Sales Effectiveness, Inc.
Will Next Year Be The Year You Are Ready To Make Some Real Changes For Growth?
I have given you one big marketing recommendation to become the online leader in your category. Even if you aren’t ready to go as all in as I am recommending, the further you go in, the more effectively your marketing will be in growing your sales.
I have given you three suggestions to improve your sales. All of which will grow your sales and any of which will help, I recommend that you go as far in as possible.
If you are tired of settling for your current level of growth, I am ready to be your guide.