To best illustrate the two extremes of installed sales (success vs. barely breathing), I want to describe for you two very similar operations within our organization. Both of these locations are in the same region, and, as with most of our stores, they are both pro-oriented and offer installed sales. Both stores have very similar net sales volumes, markets that share very similar demographics, and managers who have been with us and in the industry for quite some time. They also have very similar staff structures. In short—they are almost mirror images, but with one major difference: the level of focus given to installed sales and the teamwork committed to the installed programs' success.

Last year, Store A had installed volume of 16-plus percent of net sales. Store B struggled to hit 1.1 percent of net sales. Ironically, the store with the lower net overall sales actually had the highest installed volume, yet is also in the smaller of the two market areas. So how did this location's final numbers disappoint while Store A shined?

I had the pleasure of making a call to the manager of Store A and congratulating him on an outstanding 2004. I asked him, “How did you do it? What made your store a standout?” His simple answer was this: teamwork. Everyone in the yard, absolutely everyone, is on the same page pulling for the team. And one of the team's missions is the furthering of installed sales.

The outside sales reps at Store A do their own bids and takeoffs for installed products, each and every customer is presented with installed proposals, and every account is constantly analyzed for growth potential. OSRs know what every customer buys, how much they buy, and where customers get the balance of their materials if they are not buying everything from us. As for installed services, each product category is carefully analyzed for gross margin, net profit, and growth opportunity. In short, the entire store, from the manager down, is committed to the program.

Store B doesn't share the same commitment to the installed opportunity. My suspicion is that there's a vicious cycle at work: Installed sales represents such a small segment of this location's business that perhaps the employees don't feel the need to devote the time and resources that a more dedicated team might put forth in order to make it grow. The outside sales reps don't do their own takeoffs or bids, and I would venture to say that some customers don't even realize that installed sales is offered at this location. The yard only installs one product and is not looking to expand into new categories. What's more, the installed manager wears a couple of other hats, too, so even he can't focus solely on the goal of growing an installed sales base. From the top down there is no team-wide dedication to the advancement of the program, and therefore no impetus for it to grow.

This yard-to-yard comparison substantiates the importance of “commitment to a program.” One store has it in spades, the other store doesn't. It's just that simple.

How's your installed program? If you find similarities between your yards and Store B, or if your program is just not doing as well as you'd like, perhaps it's time to consider your company's level of commitment. Do you have an entire team pulling together to promote the service? Is everyone on board, fully supporting installed sales across jobs and departments? Do you have plans for growth? Is everyone committed to advancing your installed sales program? Until you can honestly—and emphatically—answer “Yes” to these questions, you need to bolster up your staff's promotion and implementation of installed sales and encourage a deeper commitment to its success from everyone on the team. - Mike Butts is director of installation services for United Building Centers. 507.457.8453. E-mail: