I often hear this question: “Who is responsible for selling installed services?” There are probably a number of different answers to this seemingly simple query, but I think it's easiest to truly answer the question if you break it down into the two most common selling areas: retail and builders.

Installed sales for the retail sector. The consumer market is a completely separate business sector altogether for many of us. In most cases, we identify ourselves as “pro-oriented” dealers. But there are still some of you that have a large retail/ walk-in customer base, an area that's sometimes amplified if you offer installed sales. If your program's primary or even secondary focus is installing for the retail customer, you need to have a dedicated salesperson to address this market.

What many managers fail to understand is that it takes a different skill set to address consumers than it does to reach pros. Your salesperson must be able to relate to homeowners, understand their needs, and determine a fixed budget for an installed project. Not only that, but he or she must also understand the difficulties involved in remodeling an existing home, such as what to look for, what type of problems can arise, and how to communicate all of this to the installer.

In addition to all of the above, salespeople must be able to work during evening hours and on Saturdays, the times when retail customers are typically available.

Installed sales for pro customers. I am firmly convinced that if your company offers installation services for your pro customers and you already employ an outside sales force, in all probability you already have all the salespeople you need. The question now becomes “Are you using this resource wisely?”

I believe your outside sales reps should be your company's primary installed sales contacts because they already have solid relationships with your pro customers. There is no reason to complicate the process by bringing another salesperson into the mix. This also reduces your operational overhead.

But one problem is that most outside salespeople are already maxed-out on time. So how do you balance additional sales responsibility against the time constraints, along with a product category that your sales force may or may not be familiar with? One way to combat the problem is to have your installed sales manager and your vendor partners train your employees on new products and the benefits of installed sales. It's really not that difficult to bid most installed projects, all it takes is know-how and trust. Once they have the necessary knowledge, the sales staff is still selling to the same clients, but the reps are armed with an additional service that can benefit the buyer and themselves.

By taking the burden of selling away, you'll give your installed sales manager more time to manage the projects and jobs to provide the best customer service possible. After all, enhanced customer service is our primary reason for offering products installed in the first place. We're looking for ways to differentiate ourselves from the competition, not just be another “me-too” supplier. If the selling process is managed properly, your installed sales manager can become an even more valuable member of the supply chain, helping the builder to better manage the jobsite and adding valuable services to your overall offerings.

Mike Butts is director of installation services for United Building Centers. 507.457.8453. E-mail: mike.butts@unitedbuildingcenters.com.