This is my synopsis of the key takeaways from each presentation from the most recent Whizard Summit. Hopefully, you will attend the next Whizard Summit on April 10 and 11 and learn even more.
#1 – Introduction
Mark Mitchell – Whizard Strategy
Sales growth in building materials is achieved through a number of small and large actions. There are no magic bullets – no one big change or idea that will dramatically grow your sales.
For example, if you assume a sale is worth $100, it will take $100 worth of effort to achieve a sale.
Most companies put in $40-$60 worth of effort and stop. They also undervalue small efforts.
Some of the examples I shared:
$20 Ideas – 5 of these equals a sale
- More sales calls on more qualified customers
- More effective sales calls
- More effective website
- Marketing automation
- Better customer service and support
- Launching a sales excellence program
- Becoming the online leader
- Becoming a disruptor
- Aligning sales, marketing and customer service
- Redirecting your marketing budget away from what has worked in the past
- Using measurable sales outcomes to make marketing accountable
$5 Ideas – 4 of these equals a sales call
- Starting a content marketing program
- Developing an outbound email campaign
- Adopting a new trade show strategy
- Improving customer knowledge
- Launching a CRM
- Sales training
- Launching a social media program
Penny, Nickel and Dime Ideas – these simple piggybank deposits add up fast
- Social media connection, comment, like, or post
- Publishing a blog post
Attendees gained a new appreciation for the many small efforts they can make that will quickly add up the value of a face-to-face sales call.
What Building Materials Customers Want
- Competitive prices (not the lowest ones)
- Does not want better products
- Solutions to their problems
The 5 Reasons Your Sales Presentations Fail
- Your product is seen by the customer as having more benefit for his customer than for his business
- While the customer believes that your product is better, they don’t see it as enough of an improvement to justify the cost, hassle and risk of changing
- Your product is only presented as a way for the customer to be more successful when it is more effective to also present the risk the customer will face by not buying your product
- Changing to your product will not solve any of the customer’s most important issues
- Not understanding the customer’s business
The 3 Biggest Threats and Opportunities in Building Materials
- The increasing pace of change and disruption in products used and construction processes
- The continuing shift online for information and sales
- The increasing dissatisfaction customers feel when dealing with building material companies
#2 – Online Sales and Marketing
Zach Williams – Founder – Venveo
Building material manufacturers are losing sales by not providing their customers with the information they want to find online.
Building material companies are making it easy for newer and smaller companies to take sales from them because of their outdated view of the Internet.
Your customers no longer need you to find the information they need.
Your customers would prefer to do business with you – if only you didn’t make it so difficult.
Your website should be your best salesperson.
Three simple improvements you can make to your website today that will help you sell more:
- Improve the message on your home page
- Add a call to action
- Provide more value or reasons why to visit your website.
(We provided each attendee a suggested new homepage message, a call to action and ways to add value to each of their websites)
The best building materials websites focus on building relationships more than generating leads.
#3 The New Role of Printed Literature
Robert Schindler – Partner – Lightbox Strategy
Mark Mitchell is wrong when he tells you to stop printing everything!
There is still an important role for printed materials.
- You should still have literature such as a leave-behind when you make a sales presentation. Your leave-behind makes it easier for the person you called on to share your message with others in their organization.
- In sales presentations, a well-designed piece of literature can help the sales person make a more effective presentation. It should function more as a presentation deck than a traditional brochure.
- A well-designed piece of literature adds credibility to your company while giving the salesperson more confidence. Too often, a salesperson has to print out a PDF to use as a piece of literature, which makes a poor impression.
Most building material companies focus on presenting facts and logical arguments while ignoring emotion. The most effective literature starts with emotion to create interest and then supports the prospect’s positive impression of your product with facts.
The weakest part of most companies’ literature is the copy. They will frequently invest in excellent graphic design and photography and not pay enough attention to the quality of the copy.
Good writers are much harder to find than good graphic designers or photographers.
Too many companies design literature with no particular audience or goal in mind. A catchall piece of literature that is designed to work in any situation is probably a waste of your money.
Do not hand out literature at trade shows. Research shows that most of it ends up in the hotel room trash can. You also miss out on another way to follow up after the tradeshow by mailing them your literature.
#4 How to Sell Residential Building Materials
Mark Mitchell – Whizard Strategy
Understand how the residential channel of distribution is changing.
Proactively develop your own strategy for how you will deal with these changes or be forced to react when these changes are forced on you.
Six Questions to Ask Yourself:
- What will be the role of distributors and dealers in the near future?
- How do you plan to deal with the growth of online product selection and sourcing?
- What is your strategy for the growing amount of factory-built housing and components?
- How will you continue to make your brand important when the goal of distributors, builders, dealers and contractors is to make their brand more important by making yours irrelevant?
- How will you help builders reduce waste and inefficiency to help them stay competitive?
- How can you better focus your efforts by type of project, geography, or customer to become the leader in a segment instead of just a viable option?
Your biggest customers are getting bigger. How do you continue to be an important part of their business and not just a supplier who can be easily replaced?
The biggest change in residential construction is the new focus on driving waste and inefficiency out of the process of designing, sourcing and building. What are you doing to make dealing with your company or using your products more efficient?
Distributors, Dealers and Big Boxes – What will be their role in the future for your product? How will you proactively stay ahead of these changes?
Online Sales – As more building products of all types are being purchased online, what are your plans? Will you guide how your products are sold online or leave your future up to your customers?
Factory-built Housing – What is your strategy for dealing with this big change in construction?
Contractors – What are you doing to become the company contractors prefer doing business with? Are you with the contractors who will be the leaders in the future?
Home Improvement Sales – The reasons homeowners choose to do projects and the products they use are changing. Are you keeping up with these changes? Are you reaching more homeowners at the beginning of the project to create preference or are you letting the contractors or dealer control the products that are sold?
#5 How to Sell Commercial Building Products
Mark Mitchell – Whizard Strategy
There is a continuing drive toward specialization by architects and contractors while most manufacturers are still trying to be all things to all people.
Architects and contractors specializing in a type of building, such as multifamily, hospitality, education and others.
They want to know how your product is a good fit for the specific type of building they are working on.
You need to focus on a few types of buildings and develop the reasons why your products are a better choice for that type of building.
Architects and contractors prefer dealing with companies and sales reps who are very knowledgeable about the type of building they are working on.
Rather than exhibiting at larger tradeshows like the AIA show, you may benefit more from exhibiting at smaller shows that target the owners, architects and contractors who specialize in that type of building.
In order to reduce waste and inefficiency, architects and contractors rely more on technological solutions that can create a wedge between the manufacturer and your customers. These solutions can also make it harder to gain and keep a specification if you do not understand how to use them.
Owners and facilities managers are getting more involved in product decisions. These are new audiences for many building material companies.
In order to reduce construction time, budgets are being value engineered earlier in the process. Building material companies need a new strategy if they want to keep more specifications.
We spent time with each company addressing their individual needs. The most issues were:
- How to gain more specs
- How to defend specs and not be value engineered out of of a sale
- How to get meetings with architects without a lunch and learn
#6 Customer Entrenchment
Dana Schindler – Partner – Lightbox Strategy
- What is the value of a current customer?
- How much does it cost to gain a new customer?
- Are you overly focused on gaining new customers and your sales funnel?
Your business should be focused on customer retention and repeat business at least as much as gaining new customers.
Your goal should be to become so entrenched in your customer’s business that they cannot imagine doing business without you.
The three steps to customer entrenchment:
- Understand their business better than your competitors
- Treat them as VIPs and provide them with “over the top” customer service
- Develop proprietary marketing, sales and business management support programs
When you successfully entrench yourself with your customers, they will not leave you. No matter what a competitor offers, they will not leave you. They cannot afford to leave you.
While sales funnels are useful for gaining new customers, a flywheel is a better tool for customer retention.
With a sales funnel, you gain a new customer and move on to the next prospect. With a flywheel you are continuing to entrench yourself further and further into their customers business by constantly improving the way you help them be more successful.
In order to successfully entrench yourself with customers, you need to make two big shifts.
First, each person and department who interacts with a customer needs to be viewed as a sales and marketing asset instead of an operational expense. Their performance metrics need to be measured based on customer feedback instead of internal KPIs.
The second big shift is to direct more of your marketing programs to making your current customers more successful rather than attracting new customers.
#7 What is Sales Excellence?
Carlos Quintero – President – Sales Effectiveness, Inc
- Even with all the advancements in marketing, an effective sales team is still critical
- Salespeople can either be an expense or one of the best investments you make
- Most building material salespeople operate at less than 50% of their potential
The biggest mistakes building material companies make when trying to improve their sales is to use a singular solution, such as:
- Hiring a new sales leader
- Hiring more sales rock stars
- Sales training
- Implementing a CRM program such as Salesforce
When approached individually, these solutions will either fail to grow sales or only achieve a small increase.
Companies who have the highest performing sales organizations take a holistic approach that includes the following elements:
(Each company was given a worksheet to evaluate the performance of their sales team and identify areas for improvement.)
#8 Making Sense of BIM
Benjamin Glunz – CEO – Anguleris Technologies
“BIM or building information modeling is perhaps one of the most overused and misunderstood terms in the architectural industry today.”
– Matt Dillon, AEC Engineer
Every day, more and more ways for building materials companies to market and sell their products are introduced. The traditional methods relied on making more customers aware of your product and then getting them to prefer it.
You did this through sales calls, advertising, trade shows and other traditional methods of reaching architects.
BIM is disrupting these traditional methods by focusing on helping customers become more successful by providing better information.
If you want to use BIM to help grow your sales, you need to view it as a lot more than just a checkbox (as in, “We have BIM”).
Mark Mitchell’s Takeaways:
- BIM is not a sales tool; BIM is an information tool. The better the information you provide in the way the customer wants to use it, the more your sales will grow
- Like many of the other disruptions we are facing in building materials, BIM can either come between you and the customer or enable you to reach more customers and make you the preferred specification
- BIM can help you the most when you use it to guide customers more than to sell them
- BIM is not just for commercial projects, it is also being used in residential construction. As with most digital sales and marketing programs like SEO, market automation, content marketing and CRM, you should consider using an outside expert
- Several times a month, I am approached by a company with a newer, better way to grow building materials sales. As with any new product, most of these are going to fail. BIM is here to stay
#9 Online Leadership
Matt Lee – Founder – Lead Generation Experts
To be the online leader means that your website is the preferred source of information about your type of product for all customers, whether they buy from you or not.
The growth of your website traffic is one of the most important things you should be measuring. Think of it as the front door to your store: the more people enter your store, the more your sales will grow.
Every building material company should have an SEO program, but most of them are paying too much and getting poor results.
9 Reasons Why
- Not adding new content to their website on a frequent basis. If you are not adding new content, you are wasting your money on SEO
- Using a dedicated SEO firm with no building materials experience or using an agency that treats SEO as just another source of income without having any real expertise in SEO
- Trying to outsmart or trick Google rather than simply providing what Google wants: good content
- Wasting money on pay per click or other online paid advertising before improving their SEO
- Too much focus on the most popular keywords in your product category – every roofing company wants to be at the top of the first page for the term “replacement roofing.” They ignore the many search terms that have lower traffic but are easier to rank at the top of the first page. Keep in mind that someone looking for “trends in roofing colors” is also looking for a new roof
- Your content is overly focused on selling and promoting your company and products rather than providing the helpful information customers are looking for
- Not having an SEO strategy but simply taking the approach of “we have an SEO program and hear are the results”
- Not having a big goal. Most building material companies can double, triple, or even quadruple their web traffic within 12 months, but they settle for much lower growth
- Not seeing SEO and content as the giant killer it can be. The larger your competitor, the easier it is to outperform them online
(We gave each attendee at the Whizard an analysis of their SEO compared to their competition along with a plan for improving it)
Growing your website traffic with better SEO and content is the most cost effective way to grow your sales today.
#10 Turning Web Visitors Into Customers
Zach Williams – Founder – Venveo
Most building material companies treat their websites more as libraries of information or a marketing expense rather than one of their best salespeople.
Different people within your organization have different definitions of the purpose of your website.
When your website tries to be all things to all people, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well.
The average building materials website turns 0.64% of visitors into an inquriry. Your goal should be 2% or higher and it is not hard to do.
The five biggest mistakes building material companies make with their websites are surprisingly easy to fix:
- The homepage does not clearly communicate what product you make, who it is for and how it will benefit them. Customers will leave your site within 5 seconds and go to another website if you are not speaking to them
- There are no calls to action for the customer who is just beginning to gather information. They may spend time on your site and even revisit it but never contact you. Most of your website visitors are not ready get a quote for even request a sample initially.
- The website makes the customer wade through a lot of information, such as your company history, that they do not care about. The customer is impatient and will leave if you make them work too hard the information they need
- The website does not lead customers to a sale. It walks them into a warehouse of information and assumes that they know where to look. Too many websites contain too much information and force the customer to find their way through the maze. Most of them will leave to find a website that’s easier to navigate
- The website tells the customer more than they need to know. The main function of a website should be to meet the needs of new customers over current customers.
(We compared the websites of each Whizard Summit attendee to those of their competitors and suggested new homepage copy, a list of calls to action to turn more visitors into leads and a new customer path through their websites.)
You can make your website more effective and grow your sales with just a few cut-and-paste changes to your current site.
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See What Others Are Saying
“Great takeaways, Mark. Thank you for sharing the content.” Chris Gibson, Director of Business Development, Owens Corning.