Over the past couple of months, I've been dealing specifically with installed sales and the remodeling/retrofit sector of our business. This month, I want to approach it from a slightly different angle: providing installation services for your remodeling customers themselves. Yep, the remodeling contractors who buy from you are also prime prospects for your installed efforts.

Mike Butts I recently returned from a visit to a client who is adjacent to a very large metro market, where the housing starts over the past several years have not added up to much. It's not because people don't want to build or move there; there simply is no place left to build a house unless someone buys a structure for tear-down and starts over.

This company's primary customer is, therefore, the large remodeling contractor who will take on jobs that last for months, if not for more than a year, and in most cases are as complex as building a house from the foundation up. The only difference between these contractors and your building customers (other than that they are busy doing something right now) is what we call them.

These guys aren't your typical "hook and ladder" (or "dog in the back of the pickup") type of remodeling customer, but are contractors with established businesses and long-standing relationships with their client base. In addition, they subcontract a lot of work to other local professionals. Does this sound familiar?

My client wanted to launch a formal installed-sales initiative, offering services to his contractor base. The client doesn't cater to the walk-in or retail trade, and isn't looking to enter this market at present. Its only avenue is to offer service to its existing customer group. And its approach isn't off base at all.

We held a contractor dinner where I presented this opportunity to 60 of the dealer's core customers. After my client introduced me, we got on with the meeting. There were numerous questions concerning products and project direction, how to pay for work completed, insurance and license requirements, and other operational issues. But there weren't any complaints. Not one customer threatened to leave and take his business elsewhere.

In fact, several of those present were excited at the opportunity to refer business, for which they don't have time or don't want for whatever reason, to the company and this new program. Further, they saw it as a valuable resource when needing to button up a project by making one call to have the structure wrapped, windows and doors installed, and siding, soffit, and fascia put in.

Let's see: One call, bundled services, a resource for efficiency, and the resulting lower operational cost. In a word, convenience. This sounds like the same installed-sales model we've been discussing forever–only the face of the customer changed a bit.

The client was very pleased, the store staff was relieved (they were present, too) and all of the contractors left the meeting excited about the future. This would appear to have been a very positive move indeed. I have no doubt that this company will make installed sales work.

The thinking that "things are different here" and "that won't work for my customers" continues to be proven wrong. Our business is about sticks and sheets and helping our customers do a better job, make more money, buy more material, and do it in a way that moves the process forward.

It doesn't matter whether you are supplying the largest tract builder, custom or semi-custom builder, one- and two-man crews building three houses a year, or remodeling contractors. If you want a program to work and have the desire to move your company to more solid ground, this program can be a viable initiative for you. Customers are the same all over, and their needs don't change much, if at all.

–Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.-based LBM supply consulting and training firm. 517.668.0585. E-mail: mike@lbmsolutions.biz