Over communicate with customers and prospects

Bill Lee sales & operations

Most of us who landed our first LBM sales job began quoting prospects and contractors who had been assigned to us long before we had any idea how they might respond to what we had to offer.

The only advice my sales manager gave me was to go out and dig up some business. So, I began my sales career looking for job sites and asking the decision maker for permission to quote on some of his upcoming needs. Nine times out of ten he would give me a handful of products to quote on, which took me to the nearest payphone to call one of the inside salespeople at our yard who would give me the prices to quote. Our company didn’t believe in “buying” the business.

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Quoting was all I knew to do. On my first day on the job I must have quoted a dozen jobs and got not one order to show for it. Among the responses I received were: Your prices are too high; I’ll get back to you; your company is not on our approved supplier list; my boss won’t allow me to change suppliers without his permission. I failed to get credit approval on any of the contractors before I quoted, so even if I had gotten an order, odds are all of them would not have received credit approval. I finally figured out that quoting every job in my community was not the most intelligent way to build my territory.

More professional approach to prospecting

  1. Do your Ask your sales manager or a veteran salesperson to help you put together a list of creditworthy prospects. Find out the company’s history with each prospect, who the decision makers are, the buyer’s buying style, and something of interest about each prospect you might use to open conversation.
  2. Common sense made me believe it was not wise to quote or ask for an order on the first call. I came to this conclusion because I knew I was up against a competitor who had a relationship with each prospect and I did not, so I would have higher odds of success if I built a relationship first.
  1. My price kept getting in my way. Not with every prospect, but with a good 70% of them, I was told my prices were too high, or I wasn’t competitive, or sometimes just something like, “You need to sharpen your pencil if you want to get your foot in the door with us.”

I kept written records of the exact words each prospect used to question my price, and I discussed those words with a couple of the veteran salespeople. I was told that a lot of prospects test new salespeople to see what they can get away with. I learned that a lot of rookie salespeople will use almost any excuse to cut the price to make a sale and I was being tested.

I spoke with our owner and got his opinion. He told me that until I earned a decision maker’s respect, I should expect a lot of our discussions to be about price. Once the salesperson earns the decision maker’s respect, price will be discussed less and less.

Provide services your competitors don’t provide

When it comes to service, go over and beyond the call of duty. Examples:

  1. Visit each job site once or twice a week to make sure you got on order the products the contractor needs on the job the following week.
  2. Confirm in writing or leave a voicemail when you place a special order with the vendor and again when the special-order item had been received.

Confirm in writing or leave a voicemail anytime a customer has a complaint and you have made progress in resolving the complaint.


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

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