Some LBM sales professionals feel that finish carpenters are the prima donnas of our industry. Unlike framing carpenters, the finisher has exacting expectations and demands. Both are necessary to get a house built, even if they have different perspectives about the job at hand. I argue that good salespeople must have both “rough” and “finishing” sales skills if they want to outperform the competition.
The difference between the two types of selling skills was revealed to me many years ago while watching a sales representative submit an order to his branch office. The order was hand written with questionable penmanship and a delivery address listed as “Lot 27 in The Hampshire.” In other words, the salesman “roughly” got it right.
I asked the salesman how the driver would know the delivery location and was told, “He knows this project well.” The branch had two drivers and both, when queried, assured me they could not tell me the location of “The Hampshire.” Predictably, the “finish” work was left to an inside sales rep who had to track down the buyer, verify the address and, in this case, even the quantities of lumber needed. Needless to say, this process created additional costs and frustration, and it diminished confidence from the buyer.
Today, I still find salespeople who are very good at getting the “rough” picture right on an order while expecting buyers and internal customers to sweat the details. Naturally, some organizations create a structure that enables this type of order processing. Even so, the best salespeople I know take the time to ensure someone is handling the finish work while delivering maximum information to support the process. To all salespeople, I say:
Start the sale and order process with the end in mind. Sales success is a matter of meeting expectations, not merely delivering quality “service” and “value.” Service and value are more than a personal belief that you’ve done a good job. They are benchmarks of expectations your client has about you. Even if you think you’ve done a great job, it won’t matter if your customers’ expectations are unfulfilled. Ask all the questions about quantities, accessories, delivery schedules, and more to finish the job properly.
Accept the limits of operational capabilities. We work in an industry in which emergency demands are standard operating procedure. Foolish promises to fulfill last minute orders and emergency requests unfairly penalize the buyers who work within the confines of your company’s operational capabilities. You might believe you’re doing your job by constantly pushing for customer favors. In reality, a salesperson who does not respect operational limits is virtually guaranteed to create mistakes and failure when it comes time to finish the job.
Own the details. Okay, so you’re a salesperson with stellar inside support from a team of people who mysteriously get things done even with minimal information. To that, I say, get the information anyway. Ensure that you are meeting the expectations of your teammates. Proactively discuss ordering procedures; solicit information inside salespeople have picked up from customers; over-communicate to ensure each job is handled efficiently; conduct regular huddles to discuss ways to continually improve internal process and your customer’s experience.
Nobody sees the framing lumber when they move into a new home. Your customers don’t see the process behind the scenes at your organization, but only whether the order was delivered with complete accuracy and on time. I’m not suggesting you earn a reputation as a prima donna, but instead as a sales leader who can be depended on to supply all the relevant finishing details for your client’s success.
Rick Davis, president of Building Leaders, is a premier sales trainer in the building materials industry. His latest book, Sales Economics: The Science of Selling, is now available at buildingleaders.com. Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.