The prospecting visits and proposals have paid off; you closed a big account and have been shipping product regularly for three months. You are checking in to make sure the customer is happy with the service. Now, how do you move beyond commodities and into higher-margin, higher-ticket products, such as windows, cabinets, doors, and millwork?

Getting the window or millwork package moves the relationship to a higher level and makes you, the salesperson, a bigger player in a builder’s portfolio of suppliers. In this recovering housing market, most builders are risk-averse, so expanding your share of the house can be difficult. You must have confidence and a track record with the builder in order to make this move.

So, how do you cross this chasm? After years of experience and practice, I have discovered an approach that will almost always work. It’s this: Ask for the business. Tell the builder you won’t let him/her down. And truly mean it!

Now that’s showing confidence.

I recently attended a sales call with one of the Lampert Lumber sales team. The builder had already committed several projects to us and we were there to sell a different window line, one with an attached receiver channel and jamb that made installing the window and interior trim much easier and faster. The builder agreed, and we left the meeting with a “Yes” on the window package and also two additional houses to ship immediately. We had become the primary supplier for the builder!

The upsell is much more consultative. If warranted, bring a factory or manufacturer rep to help explain details of the products, cost improvements, performance, etc. There are many reasons to upsell, and you can make a lasting impression with your customers if they can rely on you to bring them new or enhanced products to consider or sell to their customers. The margins are typically higher for add-on or upscale products. Another big bonus is the home-owner may be pleased with the outcome–and the builder will attribute that to you!

Upselling is a very different approach from an ordinary sales call. It requires:

1. Actually knowing the product you are trying to upsell and being able to explain why it is a better choice.

2. Pointing out other people who are using the product successfully, as well as showing how the product is applied and its track record.

3. Understanding the builder’s construction methods and products used, and then showing why your product is a good fit.

A few years ago we came across Roxul insulation, which was beginning to be distributed to the U.S. from Canada The cost was higher than current products, but its benefits were unique. The manufacturer’s rep did a full-blown presentation to the sales team, which then went out and educated builders. Soon after, we became one of the largest distributors of the product. Because we could educate our customers, our builders could educate their potential home buyers and it helped them win business.

Again, never underestimate the value of confidence. Your attitude about the value you bring to a builder and your product knowledge will determine your role in the supply chain. Keep up with new products, trends, and applications. Attend trade shows and product training sessions, read trade magazines, and talk to the sales reps who service your yard. Visit Parades of Homes and open houses to see the finished product in place. Possess the knowledge that will allow you to achieve your financial goals.

Jane Fesler is Twin Cities Division Manager at Lampert Lumber, based in St. Paul, Minn. Contact her at 651.695.3658 or