The main reason building materials companies sales don’t grow faster is they are calling
When selling to homebuilders, I used to think there were three ways you could sell a homebuilder:
- Sell to purchasing
- Sell to construction management
- Sell to sales and marketing
I recently discovered a fourth one that is very successful with certain types of products.
Lately, I’ve been working with companies that sell products used in residential new construction. They were calling on builders but not having much success in growing their sales.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this, so I interviewed the builders they were trying to sell to.
I learned that these builders often liked the product and saw that it was better than the one they were currently using. Still, there were a lot of issues to weigh before changing to a new product:
- How much better is it, really? You might think your product is a league above the competition, but to the builder, it’s probably just a little better.
- Am I having any problems with the product I’m currently using? Unless they’re having a big problem, they won’t be in a rush to try something new. Often, the problem is just a
nuisance they’ve come to accept, like drywall cracks. Maybe the problem is dealt with by a subcontractor as part of their agreement.
- Is this a “nice to have” or a “have to have”? Unless there’s been a change in the building code or they see they’re losing sales because they’re not using your product, it’s probably just a “nice to have,” not something they need.
homebuyersasking for it? If they are, the builder has probably already called you.
- Where does this rank in my long list of important issues? If it’s high on their list of priorities, again, they’ve probably called already.
- How much time and effort will I have to invest to change over to your product? Most building materials companies underestimate how much of a hassle it is for a builder to switch products.
No wonder it’s so difficult to get a builder to change.
A Better Way to Sell
Two of the builders I spoke with also said something interesting. They wanted to know why building materials companies ask the builders to do their job.
Naturally, I was curious. I asked them to explain what they meant.
They told me building materials companies don’t appreciate the relationship they have with their subcontractors. With some products, the builder is fine making the decision to change on their own. With many products, though, the builder also wants their subcontractor to support the change.
Because there’s a shortage of labor, builders work hard to keep a good relationship with their subcontractors. That means including them in discussions about product changes.
For the two products I was working on, the builders felt that they would need to sell their contractors on the switch, and that’s a job they thought the manufacturer should handle.
Since the subcontractors matter so much in these decisions, I went to them next. In both cases, I found that the contractors had, even more, to gain from the switch than the builder.
With that in mind, I revamped the sales materials to focus on the contractor and encouraged the sales team to start calling on contractors. Their sales took off.
It worked because the contractors went to the builders and sold them on the switch. In one case, the contractor didn’t even ask – they just told the builders they were making the change.
I had a similar experience at the Builder’s Show last week. As part of my research, I took a builder on a tour of new products so I could get their feedback.
At one booth, two overzealous salespeople threw everything they could at the builder.
Our product is better!
It’s made in the US!
We have a bigger brand name!
We now take builders on trips!
And so on.
When that didn’t work, they started trashing the competition – the one the builder has been using for years.
The builder ended the conversation by giving the salespeople the name of his subcontractor and recommending that they start with him. The salespeople asked if he would switch if the contractor thought it was a good idea. He told them it would be very likely.
This approach isn’t right for every product or situation. But if you’re not converting as many builders as you’d like, maybe you’re spending too much time selling to them directly. Approaching the contractor might be a better strategy for you.