During the 30-plus years you’ve been operating an independent LBM business, you’ve seen a lot of changes, which has introduced a number of great opportunities and an equal number of daunting challenges. One big change, which seems to gain velocity with each passing year, is the growing number of product choices. In virtually every category—from decking and fasteners to siding and engineered lumber—there are far more options today than there were even a few years ago.
Many of your current offerings represent incremental improvements over a previous generation of products from brands you’ve carried for a long time. Others represent innovative new products from new brands that you discovered during your annual trip to the International Builders Show. It’s this second category that’s both helping to differentiate your business and creating a headache with one of your customers.
Like most new things, there’s a learning curve for builders to learn to install new products. Most of your builder customers get this. They rely on your informed team for insights, and they’re careful to read the directions to make sure they don’t miss an important detail. On the other end of the open-to-learning spectrum is “Stubborn” Al Stonehead from Stonehead Homes.
Al has been building a long time. In fact, he launched his company about the same time you launched yours. Like you, he’s done well. He focuses on starter homes, with an emphasis on practicality and value. He’s never been interested in the hottest new product, sticking instead with the tried and true. Until now.
When he was in your showroom last week, a new line of roofing caught his eye. Surprised by the low price point, long warranty and great design, he decided to use that for six homes in a new development. Al venturing into new territory was a welcome surprise, until your salesperson started explaining the need for different fasteners than those that worked with his usual roofing product. “You don’t have to tell me what kind of fasteners I need to roof a house. My crews have put more roofs on more homes than you’ll ever know, and the fasteners we’ve always used are just fine, and I don’t want you trying to upsell me on roofing nails!”
The fact is, since the new roofing is thicker, it requires longer fasteners. And if his crews don’t use the right fasteners, the new roofing won’t stay put. You called to talk with Al in person, but he’s dug his heels in and won’t budge. You think the new roofing will look great on his homes—but you know he’ll blame you when the products fail, which they will if he uses the wrong fasteners. What would you do?
|1. No Sale. Tell Al that if he doesn’t go with the longer fasteners that the manufacturer specifies, you won’t sell him the roofing, because it will fail.
2. Call Your Rep. Describe the situation to the manufacturer, and ask if they’ll intervene—maybe by offering to demo proper installation to Al’s crew.
3. Not Your Problem. If Al refuses to listen to you or your team, and goes ahead with the wrong fasteners, it’s not your fault. You did your best. Sell him what he wants.
4. Jobsite Visit. Drop by with a free box of the correct fasteners for the crew to use. They’ll realize what they need, and hopefully Al will listen to them.
If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to Rick@LBMJournal.com
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