Business people regularly quote to me Albert Einstein’s saying that “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” I agree this may be true in science, where objective measurements of a repeated experiment yield consistent results. But it doesn’t work in our world. In fact, I believe that in business, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the same result.
The difference lies in the fact that business conditions evolve, so what worked in the past won’t necessarily succeed in the future. Think of Sears Roebuck: For years, its stores were successful using a model in which it put products on the shelf and then asked customers to come buy them. But Walmart, Target, and Costco converted consumer habits from simple product purchasing to destination shopping. The new model is to measure what people buy and then stock more of it.
Likewise, Borders ignored online shopping and eventually lost the book-selling battle to Amazon. Circuit City, considered one of the most successful companies for a quarter century, suffered when Best Buy created a better shopping experience. Now Best Buy is losing to other companies with a business model that’s better for today.
To succeed as a salesperson in the LBM channel over the coming years, you will need to do many things differently. Here are a few:
Build your information base. It still astounds me that salespeople and sales organizations take a cavalier approach to information management. I hear salespeople say, “I’m not sure I ‘get’ LinkedIn.” Sales executives regularly tell me, “I know we need to do a better job managing our database.”
The most successful companies moving forward are going to “get” new technology and they are going to give priority time to controlling information. You can’t win a gunfight with a slingshot and you are never going to win the sales fight with a pencil and paper. Tomorrow’s winners are going to be the companies that manage information electronically.
Help your clients sell. I’ve written on more than one occasion that your clients don’t build things for a living, they sell them. If you truly believe you are a sales expert, then teach your clients to sell their products and services more effectively. Sales managers are not created by titles on business cards. Sales management authority can only be attained by the credibility you bring to the table as a sales leader.
Teach your clients how to enhance search engine optimization at their websites. Show them how to make better presentations. Bring them leads. Earn the credibility to participate in sales calls with their customers. Promote the marketing tools your company and vendors offer. Instead of bidding and selling to builders and remodelers, sell for them.
Use fewer miles. The old way of selling featured lots of face-to-face meetings that ate up gas and valuable time. Today’s successful salespeople are more efficient in two ways. The first is by using text messages, e-mails, phone calls, and alternatives to physical visits to build sales momentum. The second is by moving away from the traditional, reactionary LBM sales mode of waiting for customer demands and lists of materials to deliver. That mode results in frequent deliveries, inefficient jobsite management, and unnecessary costs. Instead, salespeople must help clients order efficiently and anticipate problems to become part of a lean management and delivery system.
It’s convenient to believe the rising tide of the market will relieve your organization of its woes. But recognize that an “up” market in the next couple of years will still be half as large as it was a decade earlier. You must change with the competition to merely rise with the tide. You must change better than your competition if you want to rise above it.
Rick Davis is the president of Building Leaders, a training organization devoted exclusively to the sale of building materials. His latest book,“The Sales Secret,” is now available. To order it, go to www.buildingleaders.com , 773.769.4409, or contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.