How much do you need to know about the building products you’re selling in order to be a successful sales rep? Many LBM executives tell us that detailed knowledge wasn’t that big a deal half a decade ago, when home builders were busy and goods were flying off shelves. Today conditions are far, far different, but the reps often are the same. So William Davis, vice president of commercial building materials at 84 Lumber, decided to ask his peers on the 4,600-member ProSales LinkedIn group for their opinions about the importance today of product knowledge. Here’s what some had to say.

It is important to know your product or products and the places to go to find answers your customers may have. This is being called a consultant and not just a salesperson.—Mike Schwindt, builder sales rep, ProBuild

Being a salesperson is so much more than just product knowledge. There is no way a single person can have all of the knowledge about every product that is available out there. That’s why I use my manufacturer’s rep as often as possible. You need to be able to listen first to be an effective salesperson. Builders do not expect you to know everything. They do expect you to know where to get the information, and get it to them in a timely manner.—James Jurey, commercial and residential sales consultant, Buck Lumber

Knowledge is of two kinds: when you know a subject yourself or you know where to find information about it. You’ve got to have a good network (people & technology) and have the skills to utilize them.—Pat Smith, president, Build LLC

If a salesperson is going to succeed in the building material business, they will need repeat sales. You will get fewer and fewer repeat sales if you do not bring FULL product knowledge, including correct installation techniques, to the table for your customer. Want to poison a customer relationship quickly? Recommend the wrong product or incorrect installation for a job. Your customer will never forget, nor fully trust you again.—Dave Luecke, vice president of sales and marketing, Forge Lumber

Have opinions of your own on this topic? Visit the ProSales LinkedIn page and participate in the discussion.