Follow the leader

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Sales - Rick Davis

This time of abundance is the perfect time to concurrently and proactively seek accounts that provide long-term benefits.

Great sales leaders recognize that every sales opportunity should provide follow-up. This isn’t the type of follow-up where you dot your I’s and cross your T’s while ensuring that you delivered what was promised, although this is certainly critical to success. I am referring to the pursuit of sales that will automatically present follow-up opportunities.

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When Sally noted that homeowners walking into her kitchen showroom were a pain in the neck, she had not considered following-up with contractors and designers. In essence, she was leaving opportunities on the table because she lacked a complete understanding of the client’s construction process. Sally started to ask every homeowner who walked in the door for information about his or her contractor so she could cultivate new relationships. She later started to ask about homeowner’s designers, again to generate more follow-up leads.

Your mission in sales should be to seek opportunities that create opportunities. Consider some of these angles:

  1. Evaluate Future Sales Potential: A young salesperson was engrossed in preparing a proposal for 200 windows on a condo rehab project. The manager calmly noted that this was not the type of customer the salesperson should pursue. The manager called the client a “homeowner,” explaining that the client would never buy windows again after this project. The salesperson concluded that this condo deal wasn’t a good follow-up sales opportunity. The moral: Rather than hunt for one-time projects from homeowners and commercial projects, consider that smaller sales from repeat purchasers might provide more stable business.
  2. Back into Big Opportunities: As more LBM dealers recognize the importance of cross-selling, the common practice for salespeople is to strive for a top-down sales progression in which a primary product, like lumber or millwork, launches the relationship. But the problems that builders often face in the market are with secondary items: exterior trim, fireplaces, insulation, and the like. Rather than push a product to a builder who is wholly satisfied with their existing supplier, discover areas in which the builder needs the most help, even the little items. The small sale can launch a big relationship.
  3. Find Cooperative Negotiators: Salespeople throughout our industry lament price objections. But this should not blind a salesperson to what virtue there is; many prospects and clients continue to be compromising, even cooperative negotiators. The work is in finding them. You have to work to stand out from average performers who rely on market fluctuations. There are good clients out there and finding them will take work. That is the job of selling. Work to find new follow-up opportunities, and you will discover that you can make a difference for your company during good times and bad.

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

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