When you’re selling building materials, you know you need to get your product in front of the right people. But today, the building industry is more fragmented than ever. Your customers are segmented: by size, geography, target market, specialisms and more.
You also know that selling has changed. Traditional sales approaches may no longer be yielding results, but using your online presence to generate leads may feel overwhelming.
All this complexity makes getting in the door with builders feel harder than ever. But it’s worth investing the time to diversify your customer relationships, and to understand new strategies that can grow your business. Following these strategies can help you nurture new leads, make your first sales and create customer relationships that last.
Traditional selling methods focus on making one of two types of sales pitch: the better product or the better price.
However, starting with your product’s features and benefits, or pursuing an aggressive pricing policy, will likely miss the mark when trying to get in the door with a new builder.
Because it bypasses a critical step in developing a sales strategy: getting to know your customer.
In Chapter One of our Ultimate Guide on Marketing to Builders, we lay out the importance of understanding who you’re selling to. In a survey of builders we conducted, 43% of builders with purchasing power stated they’ve been in the business for 20+ years, and another 27% had between 11 and 20 years of experience. This means it’s crucial to know your customer and their business inside out before you begin selling.
There are many ways you can get to know your target customers better. Here are just a few ideas:
- Understand the stakeholders involved in making purchasing decisions. Who makes the decisions for your target customer? Who can you talk to so that you can learn more about what’s driving their business? You may be used to interacting primarily with purchasing departments, but don’t be afraid to reach out to your target customer’s construction and marketing teams, too. Also remember, there are other important stakeholders who have influence in purchasing decisions, such as subcontractors. If you can win over a subcontractor, they can be your advocate with the builders they work with.
- Use email nurturing and marketing automation to empower your sales team with information about who is visiting your website, how they’re engaging with your email, etc. This rich source of information can help your sales team craft targeted follow-up pitches based on what you already know your leads are interested in.
Personalize your pitch based on what you know about your target customer. Study the types of projects your target specializes in. Visit their construction projects and model homes, and get curious when talking to the foreperson or their sales team. Study their competitors. Gather as much information as you can, and then ditch the generic product pitch and sell your products based on how it can solve your customer’s problems and improve their sales.
When you line up a pitch meeting with a prospective client, it’s important that everyone on the sales team knows the product inside-out. One of the biggest complaints builders have is that salespeople don’t have enough knowledge about building materials products. In Chapter 2 of our Ultimate Guide, we cover the fundamentals of how to create a winning pitch by understanding what builders need to know and addressing the common questions that arise when selling to builders.
Part of building a solid relationship with builders for the long-term, rather than trying to make a quick sale, is to engage with honesty. If your product isn’t the right fit for a builder’s needs, be upfront about it. Your integrity will pay dividends in the long run, while trying to force something that won’t work will harm your reputation.
As the saying goes, seeing is believing. Builders love receiving free or reduced physical product samples that can be used in test homes.
Giving your product away may seem counter-intuitive, but consider this as an investment opportunity. Not only do you have the chance to win over the builder with your product, but you can get your product in front of a wider audience.
Serving residential and commercial markets, Solatube has invented industry-leading tubular daylighting devices that can literally bring sunlight down several stories to help illuminate warehouses, office towers and schools. They’ve found that offering their products for free through their seed program has helped them sell more product.
Michael Sather, Director of New Market Development at Solatube, explained how this is a successful marketing strategy in one of our recent podcast episodes: “One of the really unique things we do is we offer our distributors what we call a seed program. So we give them a bank of Solatube products every year that they're able to use at their discretion. Because we know once a customer sees it, they're going to want to do it on a larger scale.”
Clare is another example of a company that finds value in this type of marketing. Clare helps reduce the stresses of selecting the right paint colors by allowing customers to select and purchase large peel-and-stick color swatches to test for their projects. While there is a nominal fee for each swatch (just $2), they do ship for free and help make the decision-making process easier for project managers.
When making purchasing decisions, most of us like to get a sense of what we’re buying. We read product reviews, talk to people we know and seek reassurance before biting the bullet. Builders are no different: They want to be reassured that your product actually works.
There are various ways to prove your product’s record to buyers, from testimonials to performance statistics and metrics. Remember, your current customers may just be your most effective salespeople. A tool we (and buyers) especially love is case studies; if you need help getting started, our case study conversion formula template will help turn case studies into a powerful sales tool.
Kingspan is a great example of a company that uses case studies to demonstrate how their products are applied and used across many business sectors. Using photography, job specifications and background history, each case study details the needs and challenges for each project and showcases how Kingspan products provided a successful solution.
As we’ve seen, selling is all about relationship building. But as you grow, you may be developing relationships online, rather than through traditional in-person or phone-based interactions.
One mistake is to think that when you connect with builders through online channels (whether through your website or social media), you don’t need to invest in the same relationship building. This means thinking about how to move your leads through an effective funnel, taking them from cold to ready to convert.
One of the best ways to start warming up your leads? By building trust and providing valuable resources. This may mean blog posts, how-to videos, infographics, inspirational galleries, informative newsletters on industry topics, etc. If you can position yourself as a trusted go-to for answers to your potential customer’s questions, they’re more likely to consider buying from you in the future.
Nichiha Fiber Cement is known for having a strong online presence. Their Facebook page is very visual, informative and engaging, and often uses links and information from the company’s YouTube page and website to show the versatility of their products and how they can be used in many ways depending on the needs of the customer.
Brand Vaughan Lumber is another company that uses social media to successfully cultivate customer relationships. Their Instagram page features many facets of their business. From showing their employees hard at work to highlighting products and examples of their wood in finished projects, they keep their customers in tune with the latest home building trends.
So far, we’ve focused on how you can get your foot in the door with more builders. A proactive selling approach is always valuable.
But remember, you can also make it easy for builders to find you — and make it easy for them to buy from you once they have found you.
It also means making sure that when builders are ready to buy from you, they don’t face a headache doing so. Invest time in making sure it's as easy to do business with you as possible. Think about typical interactions a client will go through with you: ordering a sample, getting a quote, asking product questions, making a payment. How can you reduce the friction of these processes?
Changing how you market and sell your business can present challenges, especially in what feels like a constantly changing market. It can be tempting to stick to what you’ve done in the past and hope you don’t have to change at all. But if you want to grow your business and reach more builders, it is time to try something new.
And be sure to listen to our podcast for insightful and informative episodes every week from leaders in the industry.