Since our last industry downturn at the end of the 80's, early 90's, during the time frame of 1993 through 2007, most sales representatives were mostly order takers. There really wasn't a glaring need for sales professionals. Wind shield time was critical in order to plan your day and a great working relationship with your company's staff assigned to help deliver product or service was a necessity (still hasn't changed). Business was flowing, projects were flourishing, commissions were up and life was good. Slowly, the building slow down that started in 2005 was being felt by associates in late '06 and throughout '07 and almost three quarters of '08 . The proverbial well was drying up. But all indicators were showing a slow recovery. Happy days will be back before you..... September 2008.
Let's fast forward to 2012 and beyond because there is no sense in rehashing the industry depression we, some of us anyway, have lived through. Let's talk about the new industry and what it will be like for sales professionals and what will be needed now and long term.
Building Industry Sales Professional.
OK, B.I.S.P. is definitely not a sexy acronym. I wasn't looking for sexy when I started this post; I was, am, looking for a separation. That separation being the difference between a sales representative, someone just looking to sell a product or service, and an industry professional, one who understands their customers' business and how the product or service works within the builders' project.
I have met quite a few sales representatives in my career and I have met a fair amount of sales professionals as well. The professionals are looking for long term, career making success. The sales representatives I have experienced are looking for short term, "need it now, might not be here tomorrow" gratification. I'm quite positive that most employers just would like sales results and leave the sales techniques to the individual. Nothing wrong there, if that's your preference. However, I can guarantee you that your company is viewed by the employees you keep, your sales growth and retention is directly tied to the professionalism of the representative. Sales professionals look for the opportunities for both associate and builder. Sales professionals perform at a higher level, and it shows.
A typical sales representative will visit with builders, find out how many starts or projects they will have in a certain time frame, drop off numbers, company brochures, a credit application (if new account) and latest product information. Sounds like a good plan. Maybe. Let's check on the sales professional and his or her day;
- Before visiting with builder visit builders web page. Find out what type of product the builder offers.
- Visit a project recently built by builder.
- Ask questions, regarding builder, of fellow associates who may have business dealings with builder.
- Find out who your competition will be, visit their websites, maybe even locations if applicable.
- Find out type of project the builder is asking you to come in to discuss. Preliminary conversation with builder is appreciated; builder knows you are serious about meeting.
- Understand what building industry issues are present that could cause your potential or current account problems with permits, bank loans, appraisals or other factors. Your local home builders association membership can easily provide that information.
- Day of visit all material that will be used is updated and relevant to the builders needs.
- Dress the part, both men and women.
- Do not waste the builders time in these meetings by being unprepared. Over the past several years, many builders have downsized to a point where they may have staff wearing many hats and can't afford any time in the day being down time or it's the builder making the decision but also selling the house, filing the permits, dealing with building departments, etc. Don't assume anything because nothing is as it was.
I know this may be your style already, however, you would be surprised (maybe not) of how often the above does not take place. The day of the meeting, if the above has been given thorough consideration, is the day you know if your a sales representative or sales professional.
- Come prepared because you know the builder will not tolerate a wasted hour in their schedule.
- You deliver your presentation in a way that the builder feels like you are on their team already.
- You show the benefit of how your product or service becomes a value to the builder.
- You demonstrate how the builder can provide value, with your product or service, to the end user, meaning potential home buyer or current home owner.
- You will never be able to avoid price. Most sales gurus will say never discuss price because then it allows transfer of control of meeting. News flash..... price, in today's economically challenged world will be on the top of every builders mind. If you think I'm wrong you haven't been paying attention to the building industry or you have a product that is needed and have zero competition. It's how you deliver the price, tied in with benefit translated to value, that fades the possible price objection.
- Always ask open ended questions. Obvious I know, actually done, not so much. Keep the conversation flowing. Make sure you understand the builders needs and make sure you leave presentation knowing a direction for follow up or actual contracts being signed.
- Never say you "closed the deal." A sales representative looks at it as closing a deal. Unless your product or service is a one time purchase, with no need for additional contact, you are "opening a relationship."
Next week our Sales 101 series will break down today's post and deliver continuing building industry education advise, utilization and implementation. Education is never ending and changes in the building industry are constant. Professionals keep open minds and welcome career shaping habits. Education, if delivered properly, can be habit forming.
If you have any comments or extra advise on this or any blog articles, you are welcome by posting below or in the comments section of the social media site you may have found Association Maximization.
If you have any suggestions for articles in the future, or you would like to be a guest blogger, click on my name below and contact me. Posts must somehow be relevant to our NAHB membership and not a commercial for your product or service.
Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP
NAHB 2nd Vice Chairman Membership Committee
Past NAHB Associate Members Committee Chairman
Past NAHB National Associate Chairman
(click here) NAHB Advocacy - The Passion of an Industry podcast