March 25, 2012

"The Value of NAHB: Knowledge as a Benefit"

Last week's blog, "The Value of NAHB: Volunteerism as a Benefit" , focused on the advantages of being involved with fellow members of the HBA. Truth be told, networking and building relationships is as old as time itself. The value you bring to the network is you. What helps you be distinct is your personality; are you likable? Your commitment to following up; are you trustworthy? If people like you and trust you they will build a relationship with you. When it comes to selling those are two key features of You, Inc. that will bring your potential customer  closer to utilizing your services and deepen your current business relationships. However, as I have written in past articles, unless you have zero competitors and your product/service is a must have, you will constantly have to look at ways to give yourself more value. 

  1. Let's assume that you have competition and your career is in the building industry. You probably sell to builders but in some cases both builders and associates members could utilize what you are selling. I will focus on the builder, who may or may not be an HBA member. Know that what I will be explaining could be applied to selling to associates as well.  The Builder you are selling will be unconsciously acknowledging to him/herself regarding you;

    1. "Do I like this person?"
    2. "Could I trust this person?"

    These two points are all you. "You either is or you ain't" to borrow an expression. The next points the builder will be looking for may or may not be up to you, if you work for someone or self employed;

    1. Pricing (again, unless you have a unique product or service, with no competitors, pricing will almost always be a concern).
    2. Service.
    3. After purchase follow up and customer care.

    Let's add something that your competitor may not have, or may not utilize like you could; knowledge. Not product knowledge which I would assume you already have or should seriously acquire before you venture out in sales. The knowledge I'm talking about is "industry knowledge" the kind that you won't find in school are in sales training. The knowledge you can only obtain by being involved with your HBA and gaining a major benefit from your HBA investment. 

    Joining the committees that address the very reason for the HBAs' existence, industry advocacy and protection. Most local HBAs, and all state HBAs as well as NAHB, have legal action committees and legislative committees. It is within these two committees, you will be listening to staff and engaged members discuss  issues that affect builders. Ask questions so you fully understand the impact of each discussion. How does it affect a builder If you are directly impacted by the information discussed, and the actions taken, by these committees. How could you utilize the information so it is considered a benefit to you or your employer?

    1. Become more than just a sales rep that delivers pricing and product information; you can, through the industry knowledge you receive. This only helps to further your credibility, gives the builder relevant information that they could utilize in their business planning, helps breaks the “salesmen” illusion and gives you the golden opportunity to become the “go-to pro” for the builder. Some builders may already have the information but will be pleasantly surprised to realize that you know it as well.
    2. The information obtained by you could also be utilized by your employer, by helping them have a better view of the building industry; currently and near term.  Sales reps are always preparing sales projections for their employers or, if self employed, their company's strategic business plan. Having the knowledge of what is being affected and what may be affected will most certainly give you a better chance to accurately establish potential business opportunities. If you don't know, you could be "chasing your tail " and losing valuable business time which could affect your personal time. 
Point 1 not only strengthens the bond you have with your current accounts but will help you to differentiate yourself from your competition giving you a clear advantage. Add industry knowledge to being likable and trustworthy and you have "power" over your competition.

Point 2 helps you prepare your business on the realities of the industry and gives you a value that your employer will deem invaluable. All this for what you are currently paying on your HBA dues. When you actually sit down and do the math on time spent to obtain this information outside the association, an HBA membership is incredibly low cost. 

Knowledge is an absolute benefit of membership and if utilized properly will pay for your HBA membership multiple times over.  Last week's post, combined with this week's post, are two opportunities for you to receive that proverbial return on investment. The excuse "I'm not receiving any business from the association" is an excuse not to re-invest in membership that is only a viable excuse  to you. The differences between a sales representative and a sales professional are the tools that you add to your sales kit. The HBA can't teach you to be likable or be trustworthy; again, that's on you. The HBA can't influence your pricing or how you make deliveries; completely up to your company and, by extension, you. What the HBA can do is teach you the business of building from a completely different viewpoint IF you are willing to be more than just a sales representative.

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