As the concept of cross-selling has become the mantra for LBM dealers, so too has the promotional tagline, the "one-stop shop." Such an astounding number of LBM dealers tout themselves this way that it's easy to wonder if the phrase has any brand equity at this point.
Truly selling multiple products must be more than words; it must be a series of quality actions that bring real value to the builder. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Well done is better than well said."
The real competition for an LBM dealer is not always another LBM dealer. The real competition can be a skilled specialist in a single product category. Consider the window business, a segment of the industry in which several thousand specialty dealers nationwide promote and successfully sell windows without so much as a stick of lumber in inventory.
The differences between a solid window-sales program and a mediocre one are easy to spot. A solid window dealer has effective methods for receiving, staging, delivering, and servicing individual product lines. The successful window- sales program includes specialists, sometimes inside-sales representatives, highly trained at quoting and ordering windows so that mistakes rarely occur in the field.
Conversely, many LBM salespeople are generalists who are uncomfortable and avoid detailed involvement with the builder when it comes to specialty products. What these salespeople fail to realize is that their competition is not a building material generalist working at a competing lumberyard, but a full-time window specialist who has made one product his career focus.
This is true of many product categories that an LBM dealer sells. If you want to succeed, become a credible product expert at everything you sell.
1. Read the Brochures. I recently started working with a products manufacturer, and the number of its salespeople complaining they were not receiving enough product training astounded me. During my travels in the field, I discovered these same salespeople were oblivious to information that they could have found easily in the product brochures. If you want to gain product expertise, become passionate in your studies. Read technical manuals, Web sites, and promotional brochures. Product education is your responsibility.
2. Heard It Before? They Haven't. As you learn more about various products, you may become complacent about much of the information you accumulate. Remember that things you may have learned months or years ago will be relevant to your clients. Teach them the basics of your product lines, and you will establish yourself as an expert in your field.
3. Success Is In The Details. The best way to keep a customer is to avoid mistakes. Sweat the details of every product, and you'll keep your customers happy. Treat each product as an individual sale and not merely as part of your bigger relationship. The moment you take an individual product sale for granted is the moment your relationship is in jeopardy.
Becoming a one-stop shop is a worthy mission, but don't do it just because it sounds good. You must earn each product sale. While I am one of a zillion industry advocates that believes in cross-selling (it's hardly a unique sales strategy at this stage of the game), I suggest you further those efforts with a tactical plan that involves outselling the competition in each category. "One-stop shop" should include "multiproduct sales specialization." Now that is a slogan your clients will hear.
Rick Davis is president of Building Leaders, Inc., a Chicago-based sales training organization.
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