Blog for Building Materials Companies

People Problem in Building Materials

  |  Posted in Employees, Sales

People Problem in Building Materials

I recently worked with Carlos Quintero, President of Sales Effectiveness, Inc. on a study of the top challenges facing building material companies today. Carlos is the co-author of our book How to Become a Building Industry Sales Rainmaker.

The results of our study gave us some new insights into the biggest challenges as seen by building materials companies. If there is a common theme, the challenges are all around people.

Here is what we learned from the company leaders, sales leaders, sales and marketing people who took part in our study. Here are the seven biggest challenges facing building material companies, ranked in order of importance.

1. Selling Value Vs. Price

It’s something I hear constantly. “We make a better product or provide better support. Shouldn’t that be worth something?” These companies feel like they are delivering something above average, but they’re still getting nickel and dimed by their customers. Unless business is terrible, this has been a leading challenge in building materials for as long as I can remember.

What’s missing is a story that conveys value in the right way.

Salespeople are in front of the customers every day and, too often, they are not equipped with a convincing and relevant value story for each type of customer. Without a value story guiding the discussion, the customer is free to make it about price.

2. Transitioning Sales Teams into Trusted Business Advisors

Maybe not surprisingly, leaders ranked this as their second biggest challenge. My guess is that they know that a trusted business advisor is better able to sell value.

Making the transition from a product salesperson requires patience and training. Leaders see the benefits of increased customer loyalty and fewer pricing issues that come from developing business advisors, but I rarely see them taking steps to support their sales teams in making this transition.

3. Recruiting Quality People in All Departments3. Recruiting Quality People in All Departments

This is an issue that the building materials industry faces in general. Working in building materials just doesn’t seem all that cool compared to working for many other types of businesses, and this makes it hard to attract top quality talent.

This is partly the fault of the companies themselves. Where other industries take the view that they are fortunate to have talented people working for them and it’s their job to keep those employees engaged and interested, building material companies still tend to have the attitude that employees should be grateful for the job.

Until this changes, building material companies will keep selecting “people with experience” from a smaller and smaller gene pool. If you don’t think that’s a problem, I recommend you watch the movie Deliverance.

4. Developing High-Quality Sales Leaders

In my experience, there isn’t a clear path for salespeople to become leaders in most companies. There is an assumption that the current sales leader will stay in their post until they retire. If a salesperson is good and wants to move up, their best option is usually to leave.

The other problem can be a lack of clarity of what makes a high-quality sales leader. Too often, the salesperson who can sell the most is seen as the best candidate for a leadership position. But the best salesperson isn’t always the highest quality sales leader.

5. Acquiring Large Accounts or Opportunities

Leaders ranked this number five. There is a lot to say about it, but it’s best to think of this not as a client problem but as a people problem. Because it seems to me that this problem would start taking care of itself if a company addressed the first four issues on this list.

6. Salespeople Using Technology Like CRM and Online Tools Effectively

Companies are investing more in sales and marketing technologies but not seeing the benefits they hoped for. Poor planning and implementation are the main causes of this. I just completed a study on this subject with The Hunley Group. I will be sharing the results in the near future.
Companies are investing more in sales and marketing technologies but not seeing the benefits they hoped for. Poor planning and implementation are the main causes of this. I just completed a study on this subject with The Hunley Group. I will be sharing the results in the near future.

7. Getting Everyone in the Company to Support the Customer Experience

While leaders ranked this as the least important challenge on this list, salespeople ranked it number one.

Everyone says they feel that the customer should have a great experience when dealing with their company. That’s great, but the problem is they think they already provide it. The salespeople, however, know the truth.

When an order is wrong, a customer can’t get the information they need, a shipment is late, or your company fails to meet a customer’s expectations in some other way, it’s the salespeople who hear about it. They’re also ones who have to take time away from selling to try to get the customer what they want.

This is a big and costly blind spot for leaders. When salespeople or customers complain, they are not taken seriously.

The department heads who are dropping the ball on customer service aren’t measured by customer satisfaction, so it doesn’t matter that much to them. They also work in the same office space as the company leaders and they know how to brush aside pesky complaints from salespeople and customers.

Rather than assuming they provide a great customer experience, wise leaders know they can and must do better. If you are a leader in your company, here’s an easy way for you to know the truth. Each week, pick up the phone and call three randomly selected customers (not just the big ones or the ones you know like you). Ask them how you are doing and what you could do better.

You’ve Got Some People Problems

Every item on this list has something in common. They’re all about your people. If you work in building materials, chances are your company has some people problems.

Whether it’s not attracting the best talent, not giving them the support they need to do their jobs well, or not having processes that let them focus on their most important tasks, there are probably quite a few things you can do to make your salespeople more effective.

That might require an investment, but it’s just good business sense. Better salespeople will get you more accounts. Better salespeople will help you retain customers. Better salespeople will improve the reputation of your company and your product.

You can’t afford to skimp on them. Better salespeople doesn’t mean replacing your salespeople, it means giving them better support with:

  • Better customer knowledge that will enable them to become trusted business advisors who can sell value.
  • Better sales messages to each type of customer about why your product offers more value for them.
  • Better customer experiences so your salespeople can spend more time selling and less time doing someone else’s job.

If you want to grow your sales and make your business more resilient, you know what to do: invest in your sales team and give them the support they need.

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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.