Tony Callahan, principal, Callahan Consulting Group

Dealers who want to serve big builders must provide quality, consistent service, but dealers also must take care to align themselves with builders who value such service, consultant Tony Callahan told dealers gathered in Las Vegas on  Jan. 21 at PROSALES' annual dealer breakfast during the International Builders' Show.

Callahan, a former procurement executive at Beazer Homes and NVR Homes who now runs the Callahan Consulting Group, set out eight criteria that big builders told him help make the difference in making a sale:

  • Locations close to their operations.
  • Flexible commodity pricing models.
  • Backlog protection.
  • Brand availability.
  • Consistency of products, services, and quality from one branch to another.
  • Sales representatives who know the features and benefits of the products they supply.
  • Being kept up to date on new products.
  • Help keeping costs under control.

The quality levels that builders expect aren't that surprising, Callahan said. They want lumber that's free of excessive wane, isn't dark from age, is trimmed to the proper lengths, and is bundled in a logical manner. The service basics that builders want are just as fundamental: On-time delivery, accurate quantities, a dedicated point of contact, same-day follow-up on calls, and accurate billing.
All units in a multi-unit building supply company need to meet these standards, Callahan told the group, declaring. "I know companies that are exceptional in one market and el stinko in another." Those differences also are apparent in the quality of sales reps, he added; in his experience as a builder, "it was rare" that a sales rep knew intimately the qualities of their products.

Callahan urged dealers to help dealers understand the value of the services they provide. But he also said later that there are some builders who only care about price. Run from them, he said, and "align yourself with builders who value the total cost of ownership."

Above all, he said, a dealer's job is to make life easier for the builder. "Look for ways to add value beyond your category," he said.