LBM consultant Dan Harris wraps up a three-part series on nixing your team's sales-chasing habits with tips for (permanently) swearing off projects that don't positively impact the bottom line.

We talked about what causes sales chasing and how to control it. Now the real work begins. You want sales reps to make the right call before they put projects into the system, which means (actually) looking at the plans and understanding each project from the start.

Qualifying a project is just as important as qualifying customers. A customer may be on your “good business” list, but that doesn’t mean the project they just handed you is. When reps thrust a new plan on your organization with vague platitudes like “It’s a remodel,” or “They just want trusses bid,” you have no idea if you’re about to open a project worth pursuing or one that stinks. Instead, look for substantive comments and instructions from the sales rep that indicates that they’ve pre-qualified the project: “We’ve got most of the products in stock. If we can get our package price to work with the owner’s budget and timeline, we’ve got at least a 90% shot at it.” A brief description of the project, product info, and sales potential should be considered the bare bones for every project to build up staff morale and to keep everyone focused on the right projects, for the right reasons. If either you or the rep needs to offer direction on whether, or how, to proceed, the solution is simple: open the plans and talk about it. Another concern about reigning in the sales chaser is addressing the litany of excuses. Here’s a classic: “Let me get this straight, we’re a lumberyard and we don’t want to sell lumber?” Most likely this project involves specialized products outside of your expertise:  glulam, timber framing, SIPs, etc. The solution is to have the rep present the project with detailed information on products, quantities, suppliers, and ask them to explain how they might present to the customer why it would or would not be in that company’s interest to proceed. Another is: “But we do all of their work. We can’t let this one go!” That’s a great way to not sell. Do I have to explain how to work through this one?  

With just a modicum of effort by your sales staff to learn more about each project, feedback at regular meetings, a simple sales-potential metric, and regular communication on projects and status, you should be running into fewer chased jobs and more sold business. The bottom line is simple: morale goes up and fixed costs (estimating, pricing, sourcing), while expensive and necessary, becomes a smaller percentage of sales. That’s good business. 

Dan Harris owns the construction consulting firm CSFI. He brings 30 years of construction and building materials experience, including two decades of sales, and sales management and training experience with manufacturer Weyerhaeuser and its TrusJoist brand. He can be reached at and (303) 862-9713.