Mike Butts
Tom Gennara/www.gennara.com Mike Butts

One of the most prevalent questions that gets asked before entering the installed sales arena is “Will I be competing with my contractor customers?” I can’t begin to estimate the number of times this has been asked, and answered–with a resounding “No.”

To understand why, let’s look at the two potential buyers of your installed sales services: Consumers and contractors.

This is where it all began with installed sales, and where many of us find ourselves today. Looking at the two bulges in America’s demographic spectrum—millennials and boomers—research shows both generations are in the stage of life where they want someone to “do it for me,” albeit for different but similar reasons. Millennials are entering peak earning years where they don’t have the time, skills, or tools to complete most jobs themselves. In addition, they really don’t know a world without a Big Box store offering to install everything for them. Add to this the ever-present services from dry-cleaning pickup and delivery, to dog-walking, grocery shopping services, online shopping with at-your-door delivery. Millennials expect to secure a service with one call—or, as we used to say, “one throat to choke.”

Boomers (and I’m in that group) are in a similar phase where we prefer to have someone else perform work. It’s not that we lack the skills or the time. We simply have reached that stage in life where we would prefer to hire something done and spend our time enjoying other activities.

And who provides this labor service to your customer? Typically, it’s your contractor customers, who shop with you every day. When you create a customer-oriented installed sales service, you are simply selling material plus labor for a fixed price to the customer. The contractor provides labor, which you set by knowing their calendar and scheduling them during downtimes. They bill you, you bill the customer and everyone plays nicely.

Housing economists estimate the home construction industry has lost approximately 1.4 million workers from its peak in 2007, and today contractors say overwhelmingly that finding workers to match the growing housing/remodeling market is their biggest challenge. There aren’t enough bodies to build the houses. So, providing labor and material to your contractor customer for some critical product groups becomes an expected and much-appreciated service.

Which product should you seek to install? That’s up to you and your customers; what services are you comfortable in estimating and providing? Exterior openings, siding, interior trim, flooring, cabinets and countertops … all are necessary to complete a house, and all, with the possible exception of siding, require specialized training and a labor solution that ensures a high-quality finished product. Look around your customer’s jobsite for products he/she is already purchasing installed: It most likely includes HVAC, plumbing, electrical, insulation, flooring, and paint. The list encompasses many, if not most of the product groups used today.

And finally, look at your carpenter base. How many of them are also installing product for a specialty kitchen and bath showroom, working with or for a Big Box, installing for a window and door store? Many of the customers you see every day are already providing labor for another retailer in your market.

So is the competition issue really valid? I don’t believe so, and neither should you. Regardless of the customer group you serve, they need the same service, have similar expectations and need a solution provider. Step up and provide that solution and reap the rewards.