As a consultant to building materials companies, I see how the industry is evolving based on the types of inquiries I receive. Some requests for my assistance are constant, while others are new and constantly changing.
How Building Materials Companies Are Changing
On average, I received three inquiries per week from building materials companies who are interested in getting me to help them grow their sales.
The inquiries I receive on a regular basis are ”How do we grow our sales to architects, homebuilders or contractors?”
Another regular request is “Can you help us grow our sales with Lowe’s or Home Depot?”
I used to get requests about growing sales in the green market but it seems that no one is interested in the green market anymore. Everyone now makes a claim to being green so it’s no longer a distinct market or a point of differentiation.
Over the last two years, I’ve been getting inquiries to help companies grow their sales in some new areas:
- Design build
- General contractors
- Facilities managers
- One- and two-step distributors
- How foreign companies can grow their sales in the U.S.
And in the last six months I’ve started getting inquiries about:
- Off-site or factory-built construction
- Online sales
A New Kind of Inquiry
In the last 60 days, I’ve been getting a new type of inquiry: “How can we improve the performance of our employees through training?”
Building materials companies are struggling to find the right caliber of people. To stay successful, they’re recruiting talent from outside the industry.
The problem with people from outside the industry is that, no matter how smart and talented they are, they need one to two years of experience to truly understand the building materials business.
These companies tell me they can train their new people in the details of their products and how the company works. If they’re a salesperson, they can also train them to be a better salesperson.
What they can’t teach them is how the building material business works:
- Customers don’t buy your product for what seem like the logical reasons
- The person you think is the customer often isn’t really the customer
- The person you think is the decision-maker frequently has less power than you would think
- The role of, and difference between, one- and two-step distributors seems to baffle new people
- The reasons why a type of customer will decide to use your product can be hard to uncover and to understand
Because there’s such a pressing need to get these valuable employees up to speed sooner, I have noticed two changes.
There’s been an uptick in the sales of my book. My sales used to be to individuals who took it upon themselves to improve their knowledge, but now companies are ordering 25 or more copies at a time.
I am a frequent speaker at building material sales meetings and industry events. But now I’m getting requests to train building material marketing and salespeople based on the specific needs of individual companies.
Some of these requests are for something as simple as a webinar, while others are more involved, with either in-person or distance learning that is treated as a course.
Why I’m Telling You This
- This interest in educating and training employees in how the market works and how the customers thinks is new. Some of your competitors are being proactive about improving the performance of their employees. The companies that don’t recognize and act on this are at risk of losing business to their better prepared competitors.
- The second reason is to have you consider having me train your employees in how to better understand the market and its needs. It can be as simple as providing them with a copy of my book, a webinar or a more formal training program.
Whether you decide to work with me or not, I encourage you to find a way to train your people in how the building materials business works today.
While it certainly benefits new people by giving them a year’s worth of knowledge in just a few hours, it also benefits your experienced employees by giving them a refresher and review of all the changes in the building materials marketplace.