If you want to sell more building materials products, you have to change the way you think of yourself.
You work in sales, so naturally, that’s how you approach customers – as a salesperson. But your customers don’t need a salesperson or a company rep – they need a firefighter.
No matter how successful their business might be, your customer spends a big part of their day putting out fires. There’s always something urgent to deal with, some pressing problem that needs to be solved right away.
But salespeople don’t think about fires, they think about products. So, that’s what you’ll tell them about. You’ll make a case for why your product is better. You’ll show what it can do, how it beats out similar products by your competitors, and all the superior features and ratings it has.
If your product truly is great, your customer will be impressed. But being impressed doesn’t matter much. It’s not likely to move the needle.
That’s because your customer can’t stop and carefully consider the pros and cons of switching to your product. Not when they’re smelling smoke.
They have fires to deal with, and those will always be their top priorities. Your product? If there’s no smoke, it goes down the list. It’s something that “would be nice to have someday in the future.”
They might eventually get around to seriously considering your product and whether they should buy from you – once all the fires have been put out.
But there are always new fires. So, you keep calling and emailing and they keep considering your product for a moment and moving on to something more urgent.
So, what can you do?
Well, you can take off your suit and put on your firefighting gear. The jacket, the helmet, the oxygen tank strapped to your back – the works.
You can help your customers put out their fires.
If you approach customers as a firefighter instead of a salesperson, you won’t just have their undivided attention – you’re also far more likely to make the sale.
To do that successfully, you need to do two things: locate the fire and help your customer extinguish it.
Step One: Find What’s on Fire
Firefighters don’t just show up to a fire and start spraying water everywhere. First, they have to locate the fire.
That’s more difficult than it sounds. When there’s smoke filling every room, it can be hard to find its source of it. Fire can also burn inside walls, completely out of sight.
Before you can put out your customer’s fires, you have to do the same thing. You need to look into your customer’s business and figure out what’s on fire.
Every customer will have their own set of problems and priorities, but there is also considerable overlap. If you ask six homebuilders, architects, or glazing contractors about their biggest problems, you’ll see that many of them are trying to put out the same fires.
Those fires could be:
- Labor shortages make it difficult to get projects staffed and completed on time
- Labor costs stretching their already tight budgets
- Construction delays eating into their profits
- Adapting to changing building codes
- Competitors offering lower prices
So take a moment to look past the smoke and take stock of the situation.
If you’re selling to a category of customers, do your research. If you want to reach glazing contractors or architects who focus on multifamily projects, find out which fires those types of customers deal with.
If you’re pursuing a single large prospect like Home Depot, ABC Supply, or Turner Construction, hone down on their particular business. Do some investigating and ask around to learn which challenges preoccupy them the most.
Step Two: Extinguish the Fire
Once you know what’s on fire, you can start thinking of ways to put it out. That way, you can present your product as a solution instead of a building material. And not just any solution – a solution to one of their biggest problems.
Does your product install faster? Show your customer how it can cut down on labor.
Is it a one-step solution that could take the place of two or three separate products? Tell them it’s a waste destroyer.
If you have a clear idea of what your customers struggle with the most, the right way to frame your product will become obvious. Just like locating a fire shows you exactly where to point the hose.
Stop Selling Products, Start Fighting Fires
Being a firefighter for your customers is all about knowledge. It’s about knowing what fires your customers are dealing with and how your product can help extinguish those fires.
More importantly, it’s about knowing your customer’s problems better than your competitors do.
It’s difficult to stand out based on product features alone. Everyone is trying to sell the same customers, but those customers simply don’t have time to sort through all the options to find the best product in the category. They’re too busy putting out fires.
If you want to grow your sales, don’t show them why your product is better. Use your product to help them extinguish those fires.