How often do you hear the saying “Missed by a Country Mile” from a salesperson? How about a customer? Whenever I hear this saying in our business, I like to dig into the facts, or at least find out as much as I can. Let me use the example of truss quoting—when a salesperson reports to me that we were 10% high on a set of trusses, I ask them, “How do you know the exact amount?” They tell me that’s what the customer told them.

In this example, is the customer telling the truth? Was it closer to 8% high and they said it was 10% just to make it sound more drastic than it really is? Did the competitor’s price include tax? Was the quote comparison apples to apples? Since there are so many variables when it comes to truss pricing, make sure you qualify your bid and the competitor’s, and maybe your chances will increase to get that sale. Also, quite often the truss quote is faxed or e-mailed to a customer; when this occurs, your chances of getting that job just decreased because you were not there to go over your bid in detail and maybe catch a peek at your competitor’s bid (not that any of us would do that).

“Missed by a Country Mile” holds true throughout the building supply industry. How often do you turn in a bid that took you several days to complete only to see the customer flip to the last page and look at the final number? This is very frustrating for a salesperson, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe some of the following suggestions will help land that sale:

• Try to schedule a lunch meeting to present your bid. Once you’re on level ground with the customer and the atmosphere is much lighter, take your time, relax, and wait for the opportune time.

• Don’t oversell yourself or the company.

• Start your conversation with a non-work related topic, such as asking them how their weekend was, or talk sports, or pick something you know they enjoy.

• Talk less, listen more.

• If they’re new customers, offer them a special prompt pay discount on their first order, or some other incentive to try out your company.

• At the appropriate time discuss a little history about yourself and your company, but don’t overdo it.

• Keep positive at all times and don’t be pushy.

• Don’t expect the order the first time around; thank them for the opportunity but remain consistent with your office or jobsite visits, a key factor.

• Bring your boss along, it will show the customer how important they are. I’m sure many of you will agree that the building supply industry is heavily based on relationships.

If you can befriend a prospect your chances of getting orders just skyrocketed. Research your prospects and know more about them than they know about you. I’ll end with this: my two cents on all I have mentioned is pretty well known and practiced. I’m not telling you anything you don’t or shouldn’t know already, but I do know that if you practice a few of these suggestions, you will increase your sales.

George Fishtorn II is the general manager for Kimal Lumber, a dealer in Florida. He is also the chairman of the Florida Building Material Association for 2012. This piece originially appeared in the FBMA's April 25 newsletter.