I’ve worked in the construction sales industry for over a decade. Selling to contractors can be a challenge — particularly when it’s a cold call. Pulling up to a new job site is often intimidating because you don’t know with whom you’ll be speaking, what their mood is or even if they’re the decision maker. There are a few things I’ve learned on the way that can make the experience better, and potentially lead to a new sale.
Five Tips for a Better Sales Experience
Cold calling is often an awkward experience for both the contractor and the sales representative. Staying light and flexible during the experience takes the edge off.
- Leave the hubris at home — You may be the company’s top salesperson. Here, on the job, nobody cares. Your company may have broken their sales record last year or you won a bonus for window sales — nobody here cares. You’re in the contractor’s home territory, showing up uninvited. He or she has little time for sentences involving “I” or “We” past the introduction point. Unless asked specific questions, get on with your sales presentation. Economize on the words by getting straight to the points.
- Assess the stage of the construction — As you walk to the building project, determine what’s needed. If the home or business is already framed in, don’t try to sell framing lumber — you’re past that point and right now, on this job, you’re wasting their time. If rough flooring is down and you have a killer price on finished oak flooring, ask if they need a price. Are doors in place; are windows framed in but not on site? Ask about those and other things you know that will be needed as the job moves forward.
- Offer to help — If the crew is framing in a staircase, ask if the stair parts have been ordered. If not, offer to take the measurements and give a pricing estimate. You become valuable at that point. You’ll be doing a job for free that builder or one of the paid crew would have to do. This works the same for windows, interior doors, roofing and so on. It also gets you another visit to the site or a cell phone number to call back with the pricing.
- Know reliable sources — Contractors are like orchestra conductors — if the kettle drum guy doesn’t show, it ruins the concert. If the drywall guy has let the builder down by not showing up, it slows down the job. Offer the number of one you know who is reliable. Reliable is the operative word. Suggesting someone who cannot be relied upon will poison the well for you. Know sources for subs, hard-to-find materials and other ways to be helpful. Cater to the needs of the builder and they may cater to you with an order.
- Answer questions on the spot — If you have the authority to negotiate pricing, quote something on the spot. If it’s out of your realm, call and get the best price before leaving. If the contractor is ready to buy based on a delivery time, call and make sure the material will be there when he needs it. Never arbitrarily assume it will happen. One missed deadline will knock you out of future orders.
In outside contractor sales, you are either an asset or an annoyance to the contractor — there’s no in between. Make yourself an asset. Demonstrate dependability, honesty, usefulness and build trust. Be consistent and as your rapport with contractors grows, so will your sales.