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TOUGH CALL: The Installed Sales Disappointment


Tough Call
Hiring your customers to perform installed sales worked great…before Jimmy.

Your company has been serving its market for more than half a century. Though you’ve been around for less than half that time, the reason for your company’s success is remarkably clear and simple. You offer quality products at a fair price. You do what you say, when you say you’ll do it. You treat your employees and your customers well. And you stand behind your products. As you like to say, “it’s not rocket surgery.”

After the Great Recession, when you and your customers were scrambling for business of any kind, you launched an installed sales business. At first, you saw it as a crisis-management tool to serve two functions. One, since sales were down, you saw installed sales as a way to maximize the revenues you’d earn on each transaction. Two, without installers of your own on staff, you viewed this as an opportunity to push business to your contractor customers. After some initial growing pains (especially coming up with the right pricing for customers and compensation for your contractors), that decision has turned out far better than you’d imagined.

Indeed, nearly a decade after wading into the waters of installed sales, your company has established a reputation as a go-to supplier and trusted installer of many different building materials. Since it’s your company’s name on the line, you’ve been careful to work with established contractor customers whose work you fully trust. That’s worked out great…until now. Here’s the story.

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Gabe has been your go-to guy to install windows and doors since the early days of your installed sales program. Whether it’s a homeowner with a project, or a builder who’s shorthanded and needs some fill-in work, Gabe has done a great job for you. Since he appreciates the extra work, you’ve become his supplier of choice for virtually all of his materials. As his company has grown over the years, he’s become one of your largest accounts.

Lately, he and those on his crew who you consider his “A team,” have been too busy for your projects. Gabe still wants the work, however, so he’s assigned his nephew, Jimmy, to handle your jobs. “I’m really proud of Jimmy, and I know he’ll do fine work for you,” Gabe assured you. But that hasn’t been the case. As it turns out, Jimmy is essentially learning his trade while installing your products. In fact, he has caused more callbacks in four months than Gabe and his crew caused in the past 10 years. That’s costing you money and your reputation for solid work is taking a hit.

When you talked with Gabe about the problems with Jimmy, Gabe would have none of it. “I trained that boy myself, and I know that he can do the job. Jimmy tells me that you’ve been sending him out without everything he needs to do the job correctly, and that’s why you’ve been having callbacks.” Jimmy being less than honest with his uncle has put you in a pickle. If it were anyone but Gabe’s nephew, he’d be long-gone by now. You certainly don’t want to risk Gabe’s business over this. What would you do?

1. STAY THE COURSE. Jimmy’s skills aren’t there yet, but he’s young and learning. A few callbacks aren’t worth rattling Gabe’s cage. Give it time.

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2. ‘BYE JIMMY. You can’t afford to pay Jimmy to do substandard work, then pay someone else to fix his mistakes for an angry customer. Gabe will understand.

3. TRAIN JIMMY. Losing Gabe’s business would be a major hit to your bottom line. Don’t risk it. Instead, make it your job to see that Jimmy gains some solid, basic skills.

4. TALK WITH GABE. He’s Jimmy’s uncle, but he’s also a businessman. Explain what’s going on and that it can’t continue, and ask him what he’d do if he were you.

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What would you do?


See how your judgment compares with others in the industry at
Final results will appear in The Buzz section of the March 2017 issue.

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