Lately, I’ve urged salespeople to learn “useless information”—knowledge that might not apply to your business but could be extremely beneficial to your clients. If you possess this informa-tion, you become a consultative sales leader. If you don’t, your value to clients is limited to knowledge of your own products and services.

The power of useless information came to me recently after reviewing ratings from a program for remodeling contractors that had been sponsored by an LBM dealer. The contractors unanimously loved the session, but the three salespeople for the dealer regarded the program as merely average.

Why? The dealer’s salespeople failed to see value in the program because it didn’t provide ideas to help them sell effectively. But that’s because the program wasn’t tailored to their needs. Rather, it emphasized ways for remodeling contractors to generate leads through better use of website design, referral programs, and repeat business.

Here is the problem with those sales reps … and the huge opportunity for you. Most dealer salespeople focus too much on the transaction and the bid. But most contractors can get products from lots of dealers in the market. What contractors cannot get from most dealers is a salesperson who knows how to help the contractor grow.

Your mission should include acquiring knowledge about marketing and sales that, while seemingly useless to your line of work, can be highly valuable to dealers. For example, you will never gain much benefit as a supplier by registering with Angie’s List; your contractors, on the other hand, may find this one of the most lucrative lead sources available. You may never have to design a website for search engine optimization, but you would be a highly valued resource for your clients if you knew (as I teach in my contractor session) how a builder can get links to his site to appear on the first page of a Google search.

Another area in which dealer salespeople can be effective consultants to clients is operational management. Most dealer salespeople can’t begin to describe the typical markup their clients use or the impact of worker’s compensation on their budgets. In fact, very few I have encountered understand the methods by which builders and remodelers calculate burden when pricing projects.

What “useless information” should you learn first? I suggest these:

1. Stop ignoring social media and website search engine optimization. The name of the game is leads for both builders and remodelers, and they are anxious to discover ways to gain more of them. You will have no problem gaining better prospects and holding your margins when you can help your clients become more effective marketing machines.

2. Become a student of profit-loss statements. Your clients’ goal is to generate a profit. You are in a unique position to see how multiple builders and remodelers price their projects and can therefore lend insights without giving away proprietary information. You can tell clients, frustrated with price objections, how their competitors (generally) are pricing projects, thus helping your clients hold their margins.

3. Share sales ideas. Great salespeople in the business-to-business realm are passionate students of the profession. Here at ProSales we offer lots of ideas that can help builders and contractors sell more effectively. Share your sales expertise and some of the great articles that come from this publication or sister Hanley Wood publications, such as Builder, Journal of Light Construction, or Remodeling.

Become more than an expert at selling your products and services. Become an expert at the ways in which your clients effectively market their services and manage costs. The more you know, the more valuable you will be to your clients. The more valuable you become to your clients, the more they will buy and willingly pay fair margins for your efforts.

Rick Davis is the president of Building Leaders, a training organization devoted exclusively to the sale of building materials. His next book, “The Sales Secret,” is now available. To order it, go to, 773.769.4409, or contact Rick at