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3 Common Assumption Building Material Companies Make (That I Recently Made Too)

  |  Posted in Marketing, Sales, Website

3 Common Assumption Building Material Companies Make (That I Recently Made Too)

I give companies a lot of advice about getting the best way to get their message across. I’m always going on about driving the point home and hooking the customer with a clear and focused message.

But it occurred to me that I haven’t been following my own advice. I wasn’t making it clear to the visitors of my website what I do and how working with me could benefit them.

New Whizard Strategy

I was making a lot of the same assumptions that many building materials companies make.

  1. You know who I am and what I do.
  2. You know how I can help you or why you should hire me.
  3. I have a lot of things to share – the more I share, the more you will want to hire me.

Like many building materials companies, I was also too close to my situation. I also took some of my own advice and hired some talented outsiders who helped me see the forest for the trees.

If an “expert” like me could get it so wrong how can a building materials company do any better?

My homepage is updated now and I think it does a much better job of getting my message across, but it got me thinking about assumptions. Specifically, the kinds of assumptions that cost building material companies a lot of sales.

Many companies have an amazing product, but they struggle to sell it because their assumptions get in the way of communicating their product’s value to their customers.

With that in mind, here are three assumptions to look out for. Chances are you’re guilty of at least one of them, and avoiding all three will help you keep the customer interested and increase your sales.

1. Your Website Is Written for the Wrong People

I visit a lot of building material company websites. And a lot of the time, I need to do a lot of scrolling to find out what they do or who their product is for.

These are homepages that greet you with buzzwords like “innovative,” vague testimonials or a paragraph-long blurb about the company’s history – but no clear description of what they make.

These companies made one big (and mistaken) assumption when they put together their homepage: that everyone who visits the site already knows something about them.

Here are the main messages of four building materials companies’ websites. Do you know what they make?

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The products you sell and the value you deliver to your customers needs to be obvious right from the moment a visitor clicks on your website. Potential customers won’t take the time to read through a bunch of hype and buzzwords on your home page in hopes of finding out what you do.

A Fast and Easy Way to Assess Your Website

The first thing you should do when evaluating your website is something that probably never occurred to you when designing it: get the opinion of someone who knows absolutely nothing about your product, your company or your industry.

Find someone who is totally green to what you do (it could even be a complete stranger you found at Starbucks) and ask them to look at your website. Give them three seconds to look it over before closing the laptop and then ask them what your company does, what it sells and who it’s for.

If you’ve got a typical building materials website, you’ll get responses along the lines of, “Well, it’s an innovative company but I’m not sure what they make,” or “They’ve been in business since 1925 but I couldn’t tell what industry they’re in,” or “Their products will save energy but it didn’t say how.”

Comments like these are a bad sign. They mean a lot of people will find your website but leave it before they learn what you’re selling or how it could benefit them.

That information might be somewhere on the homepage, but most visitors won’t stick around long enough to find it. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, “To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.” Or in plain English: people only spend a few seconds on a website before deciding whether it will be valuable to them or whether they should look elsewhere.

Your Website Should Speak to New Customers

Your average customer is probably very busy, a little bit overworked and might feel like they’re falling behind in their job. Their time is scarce, so they put a premium on it. They won’t waste it playing detective, digging through your website for clues about what you do.

If your message isn’t clearly stated at the top of your website, then it’s designed to speak to people who already know what you do and who are already interested in buying from you.

Those aren’t the people your homepage is for. The first few sentences visitors read should be aimed directly at the people who have no idea who you are or why they should care about your product.

2. Your Salespeople Assume the Customer Knows More Than They Do

It would be bad enough if this was just a problem with building materials websites, but I’ve seen a lot of salespeople make the same kinds of assumptions.

It happens more often than you would like to imagine: a salesperson sits across from an architect, a builder or a contractor and launches into a pitch that either assumes the customer already knows about the product or that they’re willing to sit there and figure out the benefits for themselves.

Get to the Point

In a lot of ways, sales and marketing people are storytellers. Their job is to tell a story about the product they’re selling so the customer can see themselves using it. But many of them violate one of the most fundamental rules of good storytelling: they never get to the point.

What’s the point of your story? Well, it depends on your product. It could be that it will make installation easier and cut down on the amount of labor required. It could be that it’s more energy efficient than what the customer is currently using. It could be that it will last ten years longer than the competing brand.

Whatever the point of the story is, get to it right away. Show the customer why they should be interested in your product, don’t assume that they’ll do all the work of figuring it out.

Free Up Your Customer’s Mental Space

If you assume your customer already knows the point of your story, or that they’ll be able to immediately connect the dots between your product and how they would benefit from it, you’re missing a huge opportunity to gain your customer’s interest.

When your customer is busy trying to work out what your product does or how it could be valuable for them, they won’t be ready to ask more questions about it. All their mental space is used up with listening to your salesperson and trying to connect those dots. Giving them a good, clear statement of the value your product delivers will free up all that mental space and them allow them to get curious and start asking the kinds of questions that could lead to a sale.

Your sales team probably has a habit of assuming too much. They’re so familiar with your product, they think everything about it is obvious and it would be a waste of time to spell it all out. It’s not. Take the time to remind them that they need to educate the customer, not just act as the point of contact for customers who already happen to be interested.

3. You Assume the Customer Sees You in the Best Possible Light

Another assumption I see a lot of sales and marketing people fall into is thinking that the customer will have a glowing picture of the company and its products.

They’ll keep going on and on as if the customer already loves the company or thinks that, say, the fiberglass bathtubs they’re selling must be great.

That’s a risky assumption.

While your salespeople are busy talking up your company and its products, the customer might have some nagging doubts in mind. They might have heard that shipping is an issue with your company, or maybe they tried another fiberglass product in the past and had a lot of challenges with it.

But if your salespeople are just patting themselves on the back the entire time, the customer probably won’t bring these things up. They might just nod, smile politely – and never buy from you or answer (or even open) any follow-up emails.

The customer’s preexisting notions can be a barrier to the sale. It’s hard for them to really hear what your salespeople are saying if they’re just thinking that it would be too much trouble to start buying from you or if they’re wondering why your product is so expensive compared to other brands.

Your salespeople need to draw out their opinions, to find out how they feel about what you’re selling. That means engaging in a conversation and asking questions like “Have you considered using fiberglass before?” or “How much does the product you currently use cost?” That will open them up to voicing their concerns about buying from you and give your salespeople the opportunity to speak to those issues.

Addressing those concerns can often be enough to cut through the hesitation and land a sale.

Conclusion

We often make things too difficult for our customers. Without realizing it, we outsource a lot of the work of figuring things out and connecting the dots to them. The result is usually a customer who has lost interest.

Every building material company should be working harder to spell out the value of their services and products in a clear and concise way.

The best way to do that is to start questioning your assumptions. Imagine that your customer knows absolutely nothing about you. If you only had 10 seconds to convince them to listen to you, what would you tell them?

What Others Are Saying

“Really loved this one.”  Dana Schindler, Chief Marketing Officer, Associated Materials

“Another great read, thanks a million!!”  Mark Callison, CEO, Elmwood Reclaimed Timber

“Great article”  Kim Scholten, Regional Manager, Western Colloid

What is the biggest challenge to your sales growth?

Contact me to discuss how I can help you grow your sales.

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.