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Are you managing or firefighting?

Bill Lee sales & operations

When my work takes me to places where groups of salespeople have gathered for training, I’m often asked a question such as this: What single area of a contractor-oriented business do salespeople most frequently neglect? My answer: Marketing.

While there are notable exceptions, I believe that, for most salespeople, less time is spent on fine tuning the marketing process than any other area of the business.

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My favorite definition of marketing is: making sure your company is on customers’ and prospects’ minds when customers or prospects are ready to buy. In most construction supply businesses, the outside sales force accounts for about 90% of the company’s marketing effort. But while an aggressive sales team is essential, there is a lot more to marketing than making sales calls on customers and prospects.

Much of marketing has to do with competitive analysis; that is, researching your competitors to determine what your company must do to maintain or gain a competitive advantage. Without strategic advantages that have been identified, measured, and communicated to the sales force, most salespeople will rely too heavily on the competitiveness of their prices to meet their sales objectives. As a manager, how much of your personal time do you spend managing or analyzing your salespeople’s and your company’s marketing effectiveness?

We recommend that an executive—someone who is not personally accountable for day-to-day marketing activities—periodically scrutinize what’s going on in the marketplace by asking these kinds of questions:

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— Have our outside salespeople written a personal marketing plan for 2022 or are they flying by the seat of their pants?

— If I were my competitor, what tactics would I use to compete against my company? In what areas is my company most vulnerable to the competition?

— In what specific areas do we beat the pants off the competition? Do I have evidence to support these claims?

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— Why do our customers do business with us? What do our customers say about us behind our backs?

— Are there qualified prospects we are overlooking?

— Are our salespeople talented enough to take our company to the next level?

— Is customer care a top priority at all levels in our company? Have our salespeople, yard personnel, drivers, credit personnel, etc., been trained in behaviors that make our customers feel special?

— How does our delivery fleet compare with that of our competitors?

— What have we done in the last six months that we need to tell our customers about? Have we added a new product line? Have any of our customer service policies changed?

— How many of our customers need to be pruned? Have we identified customers who are so time consuming that they are preventing our salespeople from having the time to grow their business?

Someone in your organization must make marketing a top priority if your company is going to have a fighting chance to optimize gross margins and grow sales without using price as a weapon. The answers to the above questions will tell you what you need to do—or continue doing—to set your company apart from the competition.

While 2022 is still relatively young and there’s still some life left in this blow out housing market, take the time to draft a marketing plan for your sales year. What are some activities you will stop doing to give you the time you need to grow your sales and your customer base?

Most salespeople allow themselves to get into a rut, and a rut is a lot like a grave, only a grave is about six feet deeper than a rut.

Bill Lee is a respected sales and business consultant in the LBM industry. For more information, contact Bill at

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