How to Grow Your Lumber and Building Materials Business Bottom Line

  • Categories:

    Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    April 02, 2019

How to Grow Your Lumber and Building Materials Business Bottom Line

Marketing Insights

How can dealers in the construction or lumber and building materials business boost sales, productivity and profitability? After 11 years with national homebuilder Pulte Homes, Bradley Hartmann founded the training and consulting firm, Behind Your Back Sales Co., to support companies and pros in this complex, fluctuating industry. Hartmann is also a podcast host and the author of six books. We talked with Hartmann about growing sales, building trust and what it means to have a hand in building America.

How can large lumber and building materials dealers build a culture of trust with customers and prospects?

BH: Consistent preparation is one of the easiest ways to build trust. Come up with specific questions to pinpoint your customers’ challenges or ways you want to grow and improve.

In this business, I think it’s also important to be digitally savvy — that builds an initial layer of trust. We’re all using our smartphones to shop on Amazon or call an Uber, but there’s a big gap between what we know how to do in our personal life and what we do on the job. When I worked for Pulte and received calls, I always turned to Google or LinkedIn to see why (or why not) you were worth my time.

At my company, we did a study of more than 800 sales pros to learn how much they leverage LinkedIn. We found that 40 percent of them don’t even use LinkedIn, and only 1 percent categorized their usage as very good. Most admitted their LinkedIn presence wouldn’t establish them as an expert.

While social media and technology are becoming more prevalent in this business, most relationships still rely on face-to-face and/or phone conversations. That hasn’t changed in 100 years.

So, how do you build trust? Here’s the difference between the best sales pros and marketers and everyone else: when they land a face-to-face meeting or phone call, they’ve already done research that allows them to separate themselves and cut through the meandering conversations that often happen at the beginning of a relationship.

Today, there’s so much info online, you should be able to come into that meeting with an understanding of the company, its salespeople and their competition. Don’t talk about yourself 75 percent of the time. Come armed with insightful questions that allow prospects to talk candidly about what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it.

This creates opportunities for you to understand your prospects and directly address their pain points and challenges or opportunities for growth. It builds trust out of the gate.

How can lumber and building materials companies improve leadership performance and organizational culture?

BH: Employees love hearing directly from their leaders on a regular basis. Everyone is working really hard, often in different directions, so consistent messaging can really improve performance and culture.

I’m a strong supporter of podcasts. I recently spoke with a lumber client on the East Coast that has produced a weekly internal podcast for the past two years. The president and vice president cover topics such as strategy and purpose. You could say they speak right from the horse’s mouth about what they’re trying to do, how they’re doing it and progress they’re making.

How do performance and culture contribute to the bottom line?

BH: Rework is one of the greatest sources of frustration in the construction industry. Sometimes, despite everyone’s best effort, it’s necessary. But rework can often be avoided if individuals and departments avoid working in silos. Instead, make sure you’re 100 percent clear and consistent and in step with everyone else.

What makes the home category unique or different?

BH: Here’s what I see frequently and why I love working with builders and clients who serve builders: we wear many different hats. As a builder, you may work with a framing carpenter, a building official and a homeowner on a given day. Each requires a different social skill. That means you have to be prepared to really understand the right vocabulary that will persuade, motivate or influence different folks.

To be successful in the building industry, you have to love dealing with people. If you don’t, you’re going to have a tough time. You have to build strong relationships and have strong communication skills.

Otherwise, of course, it’s also important to try to build unique things and make products that withstand weather and overcome a complicated supply chain.

Do you love what you do?

BH: I do. Every day.

I often hear, especially when I’m traveling to recruit younger people, that lumber and building materials just aren’t sexy. And it’s harder to find young folks who want to get involved.

Whether we’re building single-family homes — knowing it will be their owners’ pride and joy and create special memories — or condos and high-rises, sometimes we forget our work is a critical element of building America. That we can point to something special and say, “Hey, I was a part of that.” That we’re creating things that will stand for a long time. Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees.

In the lumber and building materials industry, we’re lucky that we can point to a tangible product that took a lot of coordination and teamwork. We need to do a better job of pointing to that — that you can have a great career while making an impact and changing lives.

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