Be an order instigator

Davis Building Sales

It seems the highest insult you can pay to a salesperson is to be an “order taker.” If that is true, then the opposite of being an order taker is to be an order instigator, something all sales organizations should have recognized during this unprecedented period of logistic nightmares.

First, let me begin by saying that I’ve never favored the criticism of the order taker. If someone gives you an order, you should absolutely take it! The best salespeople in our industry aren’t constantly begging buyers to do business, but instead have established the trust that leads them to have orders dropped into their lap. That’s a good thing.

- Sponsor -

All those kudos to veteran order takers aside, we have learned something new in the current environment. The highest form of sales leaders is becoming the order instigator. It is the key to avoiding problems in the future. The old days of giving buyers two-to three-week lead times have evolved into the new world of four-to six-month lead times.

The implications of the new lead time reality and logistic challenges are vast. First, the improper timing of an order can delay a project by months instead of days or weeks. Second, leaving an item off an initial order means a longterm problem that could take many weeks instead of days to resolve. Third, the implications for the buyer go way past a costly delay. It means disappointing a customer, losing subcontractor commitments, and more.

There is a method to avoid costly delivery delays for your buyers and the answer is to become an order instigator. This means no longer delivering lead times and waiting for the buyer to a) remember the lead time you quoted and b) properly manage the ordering process. An order instigator observes the flow of building permits and job site progress.

Instead of waiting for an order to be placed, the order instigator tells the buyer when it’s time to place the order.

You may ask how a salesperson does this without being seen as a pushy, obnoxious conniver. The answer is simply to offer the buyer a choice by letting the builder know… “one of two things can happen in eight weeks when you need your products. The first is that my branch has the goods prepared for delivery when and where you want them. The other is that you call me and ask me to put out the fire caused by not getting an order on time. I’ll make the calls and still likely not be able to help. We’ll all be frustrated while we do our best to cope. So, of those two options, I recommend the first one, which means we should finalize the details of your order perfectly before the end of this week.”

Considering the multiple products and scheduling challenges a contractor copes with, isn’t it really the salesperson’s responsibility to ensure that the product they sell gets the proper administrative attention? Isn’t this the best way to help contractors cope in these times of absurd logistical challenges? Isn’t this how a great salesperson establishes a reputation for thoroughness and consultative credibility?

In truth, this concept is nothing new for me. It is what a good salesperson should have been doing all along. The only difference between today’s market and the one of yesterday is that surreal delivery lead times have revealed a performance deficiency rather than created it. Good salespeople are order instigators at all times. It just so happens that today’s market provides the opportunity to proactively manage expectations at a time when buyers are seeking guidance.

Be an order instigator for all times. It’s the key to establishing credibility and long-term business relationships of unbreakable loyalty.


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 Rick can be reached at

Stay Updated

Get our email newsletter with LBM industry trends, data, new products, and best practices.