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How to Grow Your Business When You Can’t Make Sales Calls

  |  Posted in Sales

How to Grow Your Business When You Can’t Make Sales Calls

I did a virtual keynote presentation to the Building Supply Industry Association of Canada and the British Columbia Floor Covering Association on How to Grow Your Business When You Can’t Make Sales Calls. I thought it would be good to share on my blog..

Susan McFee:

On behalf of the Building Supply Industry Association of BC and the BC Floor Covering Association, I’m pleased to present our keynote speaker. Today’s topic is how to grow your business when you can’t make sales calls. We can think of no one more qualified than our speaker, Mark Mitchell, consultant and author of the industry bible, Building Materials Channel Marketing. Mark has over 30 years experience increasing sales for over 100 building materials and flooring companies in commercial and residential, new construction and repair and remodel. If you have a question for Mark, please enter them below. We’ll address as many as possible during the Q&A. Mark, the floor is yours.

Mark Mitchell:

Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m so glad to be part of this. Hopefully, give you some insights that will help you all to be more successful. I am now going to share my screen here, the presentation that I’ve prepared for us. Hopefully, you all can see my slides here. I thought a great subject would be how to grow your business when you can’t make sales calls. Many companies that are reaching out to me today and asking for help and advice on how to do this. I thought it would be quite topical.

My goals in my presentation are, one, to add to your knowledge. You, already, are successful people. You know what you’re doing. I want to just add to that. I also will want to challenge your beliefs that we find many people are kind of set in their ways, they go by the status quo of what has always worked. I want to challenge your beliefs about some things. To get you, also, to think and see your blind spots. From there is the way that you will most effectively be able to grow your business. By adding to your knowledge, maybe, challenging your beliefs about what it takes to make a sale or keep a customer, and to get you to think and see your blind spots.

Now, today, you and your customers, all of us, are facing uncertainty. Your job in these, we’ll say, challenging times are to offer certainty in a sea of uncertainty. Just having the customers back. More and more times, people will say to building material dealers, builders, architects, contractors will say that the level of customer service continues to decline that they receive from suppliers, manufacturers, so that they can’t get information in a timely fashion. They, maybe, can’t get accurate information. They can’t get commitments. Just being there that somebody that trust your word and what you will do provides certainty to them in the sea of uncertainty.

I also think right now, speaking at a bigger scale, there’s never been a better time to grow your sales. I don’t know what’s going on in Canada right now. But, in the US, our remodeling businesses is just skyrocketed. There’s not enough installers or labor. Some manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand that they’re having. As well as in new home construction, we’re seeing builders are surprised how many people are shopping for homes. There’s a lot of activity going on.

A bigger picture thing is changes even before if we took coronavirus out of the equation, that we take a look at companies like Katerra or Entekra, is that they’ve really found a way and focused on reducing waste and inefficiency in construction. That also leads to solving some of the labor shortage problems by producing buildings, homes and buildings, off site or parts of them off site. This is really exploding with growth. It’s mainly because the owner sees that they could get in the building quicker.

The question they’re now asking, like Gerry McCaughey, the CEO of Entekra, if a builder comes to him and says, “I’d like to talk to you about building my homes,” The first question Gerry asks is, “How much does it cost you for every extra day the home is not completed? If you can’t answer that question for me, I can’t help you.” The whole thing is changing because of this. We’re going to see across everywhere, we’re just going to see a drive toward reducing waste and inefficiency. If you’re thinking about how your product can help reduce wasting efficiency, you’re going to find that’s going to be coming more important to your customers who are going to hear that message.

The other thing that’s helping us is the building material industry, it’s like 10 years behind the rest of the world many times. It’s very stubborn and slow to change, difficult to introduce new materials, new products. I remember back when I first started my career in building materials. I remember, here’s this DuPont company with this paper wrap you’re supposed to put around your house.

Builders are looking, like, “Why do I need that? The way I’ve been building is just fine. There’s no reason for this.” It probably took DuPont 20 years to change building codes, get their project accepted, and get it used. Then along, comes up James Hardie from Australia with this crazy product called fiber cement siding. I remember all the vinyl companies laughed at it, like, “This is never going to see. There’s so many problems with it.” James Hardie, in 10 years, captured a huge share of the market at the expense of vinyl.

Then, along comes a company called Huber Engineered Woods. They answered the builders need, once again, for reducing waste and inefficiency. They literally combined, we’ll say, house wrap with OSB sheathing board. Now, the builder looks and says, “I only have to go around the house one time. I don’t have to have one labor install sheeting, a second labor put on house wrap on top of it that I hope he does correctly. And, I hope the wind doesn’t blow it off before we get the siding on.” It literally took them four years.

I don’t know about in Canada. If I go anywhere in the United States and I see things under construction, I’m likely to see this green color for the sheeting on the commercial or residential project. The pace of change is also helping. Now, people are more open to new ideas, new products, new ways of doing business.

Now, this is how I see the world. When I’m working with somebody and they’re in the commercial building materials, my mind literally looks at this graphic that I designed years ago, and look and identify. It helps me identify who are the influencers and who are their decision-makers? Who are we forgetting? When I take on a project. The same thing in the residential market, whether it’s selling to a big box, or through a one-step distributor, two-step distributor, the role of the contractor, the role of the builder.

These really guide me to make sure that I haven’t overlooked somebody. Many times, I find where we can sell a builder on a new product, the builder wants it, and then, only to find out that this contractor doesn’t want to install it or doesn’t want to use it. We didn’t get the contractor on our site beforehand. We just went to the builder figuring that he’s the boss and he’ll tell the contractor what to do. With today’s labor shortages today, the builder, he wants to view his contract relationships as partnerships, not, you work for me and I’m going to tell you what to do. The guy will just say, “I walk down the street. I’ve got plenty of business. I don’t need yours if you’re going to be difficult to work with.”

Many times, it’s figuring out the best way in the door and the order of people to get on your side. We’re recording this so you’ll have a copy of the recording. I’m also going to send Susan a PDF copy of all my slides, in case you want to use any of them or refer back to them, you’ll have that.

There’s two ways to grow. First one is current customers. The second one is new customers. We’re going to start talking about current customers. Excuse me. I also view there’s two kinds of companies. One, companies that focus on current customers. I’ll talk to their sales reps. They spend every day on spending time with their current best customers. The idea of going out and getting a new customer is not something that they’re particularly interested in. Then, you have companies that focus too much on new customers at the expense of current customers. I’ll see a certain company that, maybe, they want to grow 6%, but every year, they lose 2% of their current customers.

Now, you’re really going to have to go 8% to hit your 6%. It’s much easier to keep a current customer than it is to gain a new customer. But, it takes a balance. However your company is working, that’s fine. Just my observation, working with many companies, is they find it difficult to have a correct balance between business development of getting new customers and, let’s say, account management of keeping current customers happy.

The way to keep current customers, one, is to don’t take them for granted. It’s amazing how many building material companies take their existing customers for granted. Not their largest customers. They pamper them with all kinds of attention, and so forth. But, the medium to smaller-sized customers, they tend to take them for granted. The way to keep them is to literally go out and ask them, what could you do better? Even if they love you, there’s something you could do better. I like to think that my wife loves me. But, if you sat down with her and gave her a legal pad, she could fill it up with all the things she wished I did differently. Don’t assume you know what they want. Ask them what you could do better.

The next most important thing here that I’ve learned is to know more about their business than your competitors. If your customer is a lumber dealer, let’s say, then, you want to know more about the lumber dealer business and this particular customer how their approach to the lumber dealer business than your competitors. It’s amazing how powerful this is. Many contractors, architects, builders, and so forth will tell me that they get called on by salespeople who know their products but have no idea how a house is built, or just how their business operates. They just are focused on, “I got my sales message down. I know my product. I’m going to go in and pound it over, sell to this builder.”

Builders, literally, they tell me that, 50% of the time, when they get a sales call, they need to meet with salespeople, they want to meet with salespeople, to keep current on things. 50% of the time, they find it’s a waste of time because the salesperson, while having product knowledge, has no knowledge about their business and what it takes for them to successfully use your product.

I had a client that’s in a molding business. One of their sales reps called me, and he said, “Mark, next Wednesday, I’m meeting with Michigan State Lumber Dealers Association. I’m going to get 15 minutes at a table with 12 lumber dealers because I paid $350 to be a sponsor of something. What do I do with that 15 minutes?” I said, “Don’t talk about your product or company.” I sent him a list of topical questions that lumber dealers would be interested in, such as, “Wow, how do you compete with big boxes? How do you meet the ever increasing demands of builders who now want, maybe, deliveries twice a day, or whatever other things they’ll keep asking you to do more but they don’t want to pay more.”

I gave him a list of six questions to ask them. That afternoon, he called me back. He said, “Mark, it was amazing.” He said, “I had to leave after 90 minutes, because I had another engagement. The builders wanted to keep talking just because I started this process.” Now, there were 15 builders there. Three of them were current customers of this molding manufacturer, 12 or not. Three of those 12 handed their business cards to the sales rep saying, “Anybody that understands our business this well, we should be doing business with. I want to talk to you.” That says that their competitor that they are with, the sales rep really has no idea how a lumber dealer, what their daily struggles are and how to ease that up.

You can grow current customers in two ways. One, if they carry you and some competitors. Maybe, you have 30% you think of their business. Well, you can gain a larger percentage of their business is one way to grow. The other way to grow is to sit down with them and say, “What are your plans for 2021? How can we help you achieve those?”

Usually, there’s something they’re facing a challenge. They’re facing a competitor. Maybe, they’re trying to enter a new market, get new customers. If you sit down with them, like a business planning meeting, and have them lay out, I would literally say, “How did 2020 go for you? What are your plans for 2021?” Then, ask them, “How can we help you?” Also, to think of other ways that, maybe, the customer hasn’t thought of, of ways that you can help them to grow the sales of your product.

An example is, many times, lumber dealers are not great salespeople. They struggle with going out and calling on a new builder, a builder they don’t have but they’d love to have. Sometimes, maybe, you, as a salesperson, you can make a better pitch for them that they can. You can do a joint call or something like that. I think that there’s two ways to grow them. One, get a larger percentage of their current business. Secondly, help them grow the sales of your product.

Now, how to gain new customers? Now, this is much tougher than keeping a current customer happy. Building material companies frequently make the mistake of thinking, it’s all about the product, the customer is looking for a better product. The customer, most of the time, is not looking for a better product. Even if they think yours is better, the one they’re using today is good enough, maybe they’re not getting any complaints or having any problems. What they’re really looking for is they’re looking for how to make their business more successful. If buying your product or buying from your company will help make them more successful or solves a problem for them, that’s the language they want to talk about.

The next part of how to gain new customers is back to this knowledge base. Know more about, if it’s the flooring retailer business or the lumber dealer business, know more than your competitors about their business. Be able to talk intelligently about it. Read their trade magazines. Ask them questions like, “I just read this article. Is this affecting you? What do you think about this?” Those are the types of discussions they love to have.

Now, the next part is, let’s say they have a current supplier that’s your competitor, once again, identify what frustrates them when dealing with their current supplier. Much like I said, to ask your current customers, what could you do better, there’s something about their current supplier. No matter how loyal they are, how much they love, there’s something that frustrates them, or they wish that it would be different. It’s something, maybe, you could go, “We could easily do that, if a supplier could do this for you.”

I met with a large landscaping distributor a few months ago. He told me how one of his largest vendors he buys from decided that they are going to stop acknowledging orders. This is the Director of Purchasing. He’s trying to turn his inventory. He’s measured on his performance of how well he manages and turns inventory. When he has an order coming in on Tuesday, every week, he needs to know that, one, yes, we’ve got your order, yes, we’re going to fulfill the order, yes, it’ll be 100% complete, or these items will be backordered.

Now, the problem is, instead of the manufacturer telling him this information, he literally hears the assistant have to take time every week to call the manufacturer, make sure they got the order, make sure it’s going to ship on the right date, and make sure it’s 100% complete, because he can’t afford to not have a part that a landscaping contractor might need. He’ll have to go find them somewhere else just to make sure that he has them. It’s surprising how companies that we think are really good and successful, they sometimes do stupid, short-sighted things that they don’t realize the pain they’re causing their customer.

Then, the next part is back to this idea about they want to solve a problem or be more successful. Don’t think about you’re selling them a product. Think about you’re presenting them with a business proposition of how they’re going to be more successful or solve a problem, or both, by doing business with you. Then, if your product’s better, that’s icing on the cake. That is usually not the primary reason somebody is going to switch products.

Now, another thing that I’ve learned over the years is the idea of switching to you, let’s say, or starting to buy from you, starting to use your product, it starts with a single person who has an idea, who sees this would be good for the company. Now, normally, sometimes, it’s the owner. He can just say, “yes.” Many times, you got one person in there that thinks this is a good idea. It’s kind of like, I view them as your champion. They are going to have to go in, sell different people on the idea, and overcome resistance that they would get.

One of the things I found really important is to find out what’s in this for them, personally. People don’t just make business decisions. They make personal decisions. Anytime I change something, there’s a risk that it won’t go well, and I could be blamed for that. There’s something motivating that person to be interested in your company or product. He think that we’ll help him get a promotion, the boss will think better of him, whatever it is. There’s something that’s personally motivating him.

I did a project for a large automatic door company two years ago. They gone in, and we’re talking to the facilities managers of the largest retailers in North America, like Walmart, Home Depot, and so forth. They were finding that they had this product they thought was the greatest thing in the world. They presented it and didn’t get any sales. No interest at all. They said, “Mark, will you help us figure out what’s going wrong here?” They were presenting it as a software solution that would have a learning curve and be able to print out all kinds of charts and graphs and so forth and enable somebody to make better decisions. No one was going, “Do I need another piece of software I have to learn how to use?” No interest in it. Even when they tried to give it to them for free, there’s still no interest.

I went and interviewed a number of these facilities managers. I found out that they, personally, are kind of viewed as glorified janitors. If there’s a broken window, call her to fix it. If there’s graffiti on the wall, call her. If the doors won’t lock, call her. They’re always putting out fires but they’re never viewed at the same level as other executives.

When we change the message that this software will enable you to, let’s say, basically, gain more respect from your boss, they couldn’t wait to start using it. They feel unappreciated. They’re undervalued. All of a sudden, when they looked at it differently, that, “I’m going to start to look smarter to my boss because of I can show him how I use this,” all of a sudden, they couldn’t wait to sign up for it.

Same product, same thing, just a different, one, identifying that champion, and then, realizing what’s their personal motivation for doing this. He or she is taking a risk anytime they make a change. You want to make sure, do everything you can to make them look like a hero. That first order has to arrive on time. Everything about it, make them look like a hero.

This same molding company that I was working with, we identified in the United States lumber dealers that could buy a million dollars a year of molding from them who were not customers of theirs. We took them five dealers at a time. We targeted them and put together a very focused campaign to convert these people. Each one literally got their own custom sales presentation based on who they were in their marketplace. If they tend to do more do-it-yourself business, they wanted to grow builders, they have a showroom, whatever the factors were.

Then, on the first order, we told the drivers delivering on the first order. We didn’t tell them exactly what to do, but we said, “Do something special the first time you’re delivering to a new customer.” One of the drivers just decided, we didn’t say, “Here, give people ball caps.” We left it up to them.

One driver stopped and bought a dozen donuts. He pulls up to the loading dock at the lumber dealer, and introduces himself, hands the guys the box of doughnuts, and then, unloads the truck. Well, this lumber dealer, I think, has eight locations in Southern Illinois. That afternoon, the president of the lumber dealer called the president of the molding company, they did not know each other, just to say that dropping off the doughnuts reinforced that they made the right decision to go with this new company.

When you get somebody to buy your product, there’s a whole bunch of other people there that like the old supplier. Maybe, they coach Little League together or they go fishing, or something. If there’s one person that’s for you, there’s a number of other people that wish things didn’t change. They’re looking for you to screw up on beginning. So then, they can point out how the old supplier didn’t do that. You need to kind of go overboard to win over more of those people, as well as to support the champion that got you in the door in the first place.

Now, this is the thing that people frequently also overlook. They’re looking at, literally, “Well, switching to my product is like switching brands of toothpaste.” It’s not. When a builder changes faucets, let’s say, or changes flooring, changes anything that homebuyer can see, there’s literally 17 different things that purchasing person has to do in order to make that switch.

It’s like, “Are displays in our model homes, our computer ordering system, what our website says.” It’s just this whole list of administrative things, as well as sales and marketing things that need to be changed. I’ve seen so many times when the builder looked at this and really wanted to do it. But then, said, “Gee,” kind of as he’s weighing a scale, here’s the benefits of this but here’s the cost and risk. They’re looking like that.

I had one client sold the builder. The builder was ready to go, but the builder said, “Hey, I want to buy from you but I can’t do it for 90 days.” He’s like, “Why not?” He says, “Well, the person that inputs everything in our computer system, she’s backed up three months. We can’t take her any new tasks to do or anything.” The salesperson said, “Well, if I paid her to come in on a Saturday and do this, do you think we could make it happen?” The purchasing person walks down the hall to the computer woman. I think it was 150 bucks or something like that. Came back and said, “Yeah, she’ll do it. We can make the sale happen.” Many times, there’s so many different variables going on behind the scenes that you need to kind of probe to find out what is going on. It’s just not as simple as “my product is better.”

Then, the other one along those same lines is, I’m not a big fan of going in, we’re cheaper. That customer will, then, also easily leave you when somebody comes in with the next lowest price, where a customer that’s not buying you based on the lowest price but a competitive price, you got a better chance of them being loyal to you.

Then, the other thing that I see is people give up too soon when pursuing a big customer. It’s like, be patient and don’t give up. The best customers can take months or even years to sell. A friend of mine who recently retired, she was the Director of National Accounts for DuPont Tyvek. Her job was the top 20 builders, to go in to those 20 builders and say, “I know you’re using this house wrap. Ours is only 20% more. But, here’s why you should use it.”

I saw one of the biggest home builders. She converted them. But, it literally took her over two years to do it, but she didn’t give up. She got to know them every time. Every interaction, she learned more about them, more about their issues, their goals, how would converting to Tyvek help them achieve those. She just stayed at it. Too many people give up too soon.

Now, the next thing here is I want to talk about communicating today. You need to communicate with customers the way they want to communicate. There are some people who still prefer face-to-face meetings. There are some people who prefer phone calls. There’s some people who prefer email. There’s some people who prefer text, even social media, or Zoom. You need to identify the best way to communicate with your prospects and your customers.

For example, I get three inquiries per week on average of companies who want to talk to me about working with me. One of those comes from LinkedIn. I don’t know them. They found me. Their first communication wasn’t a phone call, wasn’t an email, wasn’t a form on my website, but was a message in LinkedIn. I’m like, “Wow.”

I also discovered that, let’s say, I know the VP of Marketing for a large building material company and they’re in the roofing business. I’m going to go to the roofing convention. I’d like to see if he could meet with me. We know each other. I have his cellphone number, his office number, his personal email, and his business email. Now, I found I could use any of those things and may not hear back from him. I found, in his case, if I go to LinkedIn and send him a message, within an hour, he’s like, “Mark, yeah, Wednesday afternoon, let’s get together.” He’ll be right back to me. That’s the best way to communicate with him.

I have another client who’s like, “Mark, if you need to talk to me, just pick up the phone and call me. I’ll either answer the phone, or I’ll call you back.” He’s going, “Don’t send me an email.” Then, I even have one client. I don’t understand, really, Twitter unless I guess you’re Paris Hilton or Donald Trump. I have one client that the surest way I can communicate with him, get his attention, is on Twitter. He’s on there a lot. He’s in the wood processing business. I’m learning each of these, looking at each one and saying, “This is how they want to be communicated with.”

You need to be able to adapt to the way they want to communicate, because they’re going to be more responsive to you. As opposed to leaving voicemails, or sending emails that you don’t get back or hear return, if you see people either using social media as a way. I view that LinkedIn, some of these people, like the VP of Marketing, they literally say, “I’m giving up on my inbox. It’s so out of control. Now, I’m going to have a little screen that if I know somebody on LinkedIn, I’m more likely to respond to them. They kind of rise to the top.”

Not everybody is into that, but there’s a growing percentage of people that do things in different ways. Some companies will use a communication app like Slack or something like that. I work with some clients, they’re going, “Mark, here’s this app. We need you to sign up for it. This is how to communicate with us.” I just need to be adaptable in how to work with them.

Coronavirus has changed the way customers do business. Now, they’ve always been overworked and understaffed. Now, with higher demand for many of their products, they didn’t add any more people. They’ve come to realize from working at home, particularly, that time is their most valuable resource. The larger the company, the more meetings they have. The attendees realize the there’s not much value in attending the meeting, but you kind of feel like you have to. They’re kind of waking up to, how do I make the best use of my limited time? How can I make decisions quicker and easier?

I also find that younger people prefer newer ways of communicating. I had a client last fall that contacted me and said, “Mark, I’ve got 20 salespeople. 10 of them are older and 10 of them are younger. The older ones don’t understand anything. Telephone, email, and meetings is all they understand. The younger people can’t see the wisdom of a phone call or a meeting. They even question email. How do we get them to share their knowledge? How can the older people teach the younger people how to do things, and the younger people teach the older people?” I think it’s a challenge that the building material industry faces.

Now, just another thing, leading up to, let’s say, how to turn cold prospects into what I call warm prospects? Let’s say that the value of a sale is $100 or 10,000, or 100,000, or a million dollars, whatever you think that customer is worth. But, we’re just going to say it’s $100. If we go back to this thing of, it’s going to take a minimum of five sales context, probably, to convert them, that would be a $20-effort. A personal sales call on somebody is a $20-effort. Meeting them at an event, we say, is a $20-effort. It could be sales calls, website visits, events. Even an effective email will say the salesperson had to take time to write the email, so forth. It gets opened. We could say it’s one of those five contacts we need to make. It’s worth $20.

Now, what I’ve started to notice is I’ve experienced this myself, but, also, a number of building material sales representatives for a variety of companies, I’ve been watching how they, I call it it’s like they literally have a piggy bank. Every day, they’re putting some pennies, quarters, nickels, dimes into the piggy bank. Eventually, those turn into a $20-bill.

What I’m talking about is, this is an example of two people. In the top right is Mike Kennaw from Fox Blocks. They make insulated concrete forms. Then, Jim Groleau is the New England representative to an extremely high-end window company that I think is based in Quebec. Jim has all of New England, big cities, Boston, small cities in New Hampshire and Maine, and so forth. He has that whole market to go and find residential architects and high-end custom home builders. Those are his customers.

One of the things he’s learned is, “Okay, I identified there’s a builder that I didn’t know existed. There’s a builder that I think should be using our windows based on, probably, he has a thing that probably says, ‘If your new home doesn’t cost $2 million, you can’t afford our windows.'” He’s got a very select group of people.

Rather than just going up and knocking on the door and asking for a meeting with a builder or a residential architect, the first thing he does is find their company on LinkedIn. Then, he pushes the Follow button. Then, he goes and looks at the employees, and figures out who are the key employees. It may be one person or, maybe, two or three. These are the people that I need to interact with. Then, he sends them a connection request. “As we’re both in the, whatever, high-end residential building market, I’d like to connect with you,” just something as simple as that. Give them a little reason why they should connect with you. He gets, maybe, 80% of the people will connect with him.

Now, every day, he spends a little time, go into LinkedIn. He’s looking, did this builder, either as an individual or a company, did they post something like, “Here’s the new home we just completed?” It doesn’t have Jim’s windows in it. Jim will either like it or he may say, “Wow, that is really impressive. What a beautiful home,” just some comment like that. If he’s really impressed, he might even share it.

These builders and architects, they are very social media savvy. They’re monitoring how many followers, likes, all those kinds of things. When a new person shows up and starts to like or comment on things, they take notice, “This gym guy, he said a nice thing about our home.” Always in the window business. Maybe, he might give it six weeks. He will, then, say, “Hey, can I stop by and talk to you?” It’s like they already know each other, but they’ve never met before. Person feels warm toward that.

The same thing with Mike at Fox Blocks. He does a very similar tactic of using LinkedIn, particularly, to do this. I also have a similar experience myself. A little secret here, I cheat. I have a virtual assistant. Everyday, she goes on my LinkedIn account. If it’s your birthday, if you got a promotion, some other nice thing happened to you, she’s going to say, “Happy birthday,” or, “Congratulations,” or something from me. Over half of them come back and say, “Thanks, Mark. How are you doing? Gee, I want to catch up with you,” or whatever. It’s amazing how just little bits of attention, making somebody feel special, goes a long way. I think back to Jim Groleau, what he’s doing is making the builder feel, “Oh, Jim admires my work. Jim must be a cool guy.” It’s just that simple.

Using LinkedIn to warm up cold calls, one, is improve your profile page. Have a good picture of yourself. Then, look at the copy of how you’re describing yourself. Too many people on LinkedIn, it’s like they’re writing a resume for their next job. They talk about how many dollars they’re in charge of or raising profit margins, or all this kind of stuff. Rewrite all that crap that makes it look you are an expert in high-end custom windows, or whatever you are. Write that for the prospect or customer, not for your next boss.

Next thing then is, if you haven’t done this already, it’s just literally every single person you know in the business, connect with them. Any new connections that you make, when I get home, every day, if I get an email from a new person, or I meet somebody at a trade show, that night, I’m sending them a connection request on LinkedIn. Then, as Jim and Mike do, I would send connection requests to new prospects, companies that you want to do business with you’re not doing business with today. Then, start to like, share, or comment on the post of these prospects, as well as your current customers. You’ll see.

I got two minutes. I got to talk fast here. Anyway, trust me, builders, architects, people like that are watching their social media performance and watching who is saying what. Even if they’re not using your product today, you can say something nice about them. It will get noticed.

The other thing about LinkedIn, as an individual, you can join groups. A company cannot. You can find groups for, literally, any type of specialty that you want. This is just an example. Here’s a quick example of a woman who sells high-end air barriers in Texas. I lead them through how to do this. She sent me this thing. “‘I posted a short article on LinkedIn featuring a local project and mentioned a local architect.’ A contractor who has never used this before emailed me. I replied to the email, visited the next day to drop off materials. He’s now bidding on a project that I had no idea about, using our products.” Just that, there’s an example.

This isn’t something.

This is the last thing I want to share with you, is, also, be a source of knowledge. This is an example where I was working with Masonite commercial doors, and hotels are a really big prospect for them. I found this article about how the millennial generation is posing its will on design of hotels. I sent this to all of the Masonite reps. I said, “Send this to all your architect customers.”

A week later, I just heard back all these, “Oh, my God, Mark. I got all this response. Thank you for sharing this. This is a very helpful article. We do a lot of hotel projects and I didn’t see this article.” Something just as simple as finding something that would be of interest. Don’t assume they’ve read it. It’s like be a little curator of sending them information. It continues to raise the bar of what they think of you as an expert who understands them.

Just in closing, you can feel free to go to my website there. There’s a weekly newsletter you can sign up. There’s over 500 articles you can access for free about, probably, any subject in building materials. I have a podcast, YouTube. Or, connect with me on LinkedIn. With that, do we have any questions?

Susan McFee:

Thank you, Mark. I also just want to say, “thank you,” while people are thinking of the questions they want to ask. I just want to thank you for being willing to share your slides. We’ll definitely be sharing those with our members. I also want to answer your question that, yes, the building supply business is high in demand in Canada as well. Also, your insights into sales psychology is absolutely excellent. I can see those powerful perspectives helping our members, too.

I will just look in the chat and see if we have any questions. [Amandeep 00:43:19], he is saying that it’s well-explained, really great and powerful information shared. Thanks a lot for sharing. He really appreciated it. You’re getting some-

Mark Mitchell:

Thank you.

Susan McFee:

… nice accolades. That’s very nice. Thank you, Amandeep.

Mark Mitchell:

Also, in the coming days, if somebody has a question, just email me with your question, and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Susan McFee:

Here we go. we have a few coming in now. Thank you for your patience. Next question. This is Reggie. He’s asking, when should a local company take on a greater vision of going national or going global? Is the financial goal the right way to go ahead?

Mark Mitchell:

Well, I think you always should be looking for growth, because you’re either growing or dying. You don’t stay still. Even you may be thinking that you’re growing. But, maybe, some competitors are growing faster than you. You don’t realize you’re losing market share. I think the biggest thing about your ambitions, I start to say, “We’re a local company.” How do you become a regional company? What’s the next step? Is there a market 50 miles away that we could have a presence in?

Depending on what your product is, when you start to say national and global, the thing that comes to my mind is money. Do you have access to enough money to make that happen? Growth costs cash. You don’t want to outgrow your ability to fund the operation and you don’t want to outgrow your ability to staff the operation so that you maintain a high level of customer service.

Susan McFee:

Thank you. It’s a good point. Next question, we have a question from Tom. He’s asking, do you have any advice on how to walk the line between staying in contact over months, or maybe, even years long sales cycle without becoming a pest?

Mark Mitchell:

The easiest way to do that is to be sharing information and insights with them. I tell people, if you’re going to regularly post on LinkedIn, you should, maybe, have a ratio of four non-selling posts that are just informational and helpful advice or something, or sharing an article a story. Then, one time you’re selling your product. I think that, if it looks at that ratio of the context of, “Hey, I saw this article or this new piece of information that I thought would be helpful to you.” It’s not like, “When you’re going to start buying our product.” You don’t have that.

The other thing is everybody, everybody in the audience is an expert and a thought leader. You may not think of yourself that way. But, you know things about your business, your customer’s business, your products, and you see mistakes. For example, one of the five most common mistakes a foreign retailer makes. Many of you know that. What are the five most common mistakes alum dealer makes? Just sharing some of those insights is a way that further does your expertise.

I guess, Tom, what I would say is think about four communications that are helpful, sharing an article, asking them a question. I was reading about this is affecting your type of business. How is this affecting you? It’s like anything but asking for the order or presenting your product. You just keep that ratio. Then, it’s okay. I’ll say one time out of five, you maybe are talking about doing business.

Susan McFee:

Fantastic. 80%, as in helpful positive information, and only 20% as in promotion. That’s great. The next question we have is from Amandeep. Working with prospects, making them a client, generating leads, what’s the best way to maintain time and revenue generation for the company while being in the process, especially, for new customers and expanding the business?

Mark Mitchell:

Well, every company, the leadership of each company, needs to say, there’s a cost to develop a new business, in terms of manpower or time allotted. I just had a conversation with a customer, a client of mine, yesterday in which I pointed out that there was an opportunity they have right now, because their competitor has managed to upset many of their contractor customers. We outlined a plan of 12 markets where they would need a contractor. They’d like to have a contractor in these 12 markets that they don’t have coverage right now. This current contractor buys from the competitor that is having trouble with their contractors.

We identified we’re going to take one sales rep. It’s going to be his job to go and communicate with those 12 customers. They agreed to sit down with that rep and say, “Look, any lost, don’t worry about your compensation, because we think it’s going to take six weeks for him to do this. During this six weeks, you’re not going to be able to fully cover your market as well as you’re normally doing. You may see a little downturn in sales. That’s okay. We will compensate you for that.”

Now, that’s a special situation. Normally, I like to see however you measure things. Pick a ratio. It’s like, “I expect you to spend one day a week on business development, or eight hours out of your week on business development. How are you going to do that?” It’s a half a day, or it’s two days, but there’s some ratio there.

Then, I also find, some companies, there’s people who are better hunters than, I’ll call it, farmers. If you’ve got a person that, really, is great at closing new deals, make that their job. Then, as soon as they land a new customer, it’s turned over to somebody who knows how to manage an account and stay on top of them. That’s another way that I see, that, many times, we see all salespeople as being the same, and they’re not. Different people have different skill sets.

Susan McFee:

Fantastic. Your insights are incredible. I just got the response here that Amandeep was saying, “Thank you for answering. It’s very helpful.” With that, I see no further questions. Thank you for your time, Mark. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. We will see you next time. From the BSIA and BCFCA.

Mark Mitchell:

Thank you.

Susan McFee:

Bye for now, everybody.

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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.