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How to Grow Building Materials Sales Through Effective Sales Leadership

Ben Myers joins the show to offer insights on how building material manufacturers can lead their sales team to the next level of success.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

Ben Myers joins the show to offer insights on how building material manufacturers can lead their sales team to the next level of success.

More About This Show

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insight on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

In this episode, Zach and Beth talk to Ben Myers, Regional Sales Manager for the Eastern U.S. at Kwikset.

Ben gives proactive ways to develop your sales team and create effective sales tactics that are tailored to each new or existing customer you meet with.


How Ben Influences Kwikset’s Sales Culture

As Kwikset’s regional manager for the Eastern U.S., Ben, along with his sales team, calls on distributors and builders to provide them with as much value as possible. Ben has been with Kwikset for 15 years, and in that time has come to realize that real success comes with doing things that others simply won't do. He’s constantly keeping an eye open for creative solutions.

This is evident in his team’s motto: Never say, “It is what it is.” To them, that saying just means you don’t care enough to make a different outcome. Instead, they focus on the dedication it takes to make change happen. The ultimate goal is to provide value to their customer base, and Ben is always looking for innovative ways to reach that goal.

How to Shift Your Sales Pitch for Each Customer

Building material manufacturers need to stay ahead of the curve, both in terms of product and technology. This industry used to be one of the slowest changing industries out there, but change has started coming and it’s coming fast.

It’s also become increasingly important to stay current on where people work. With so many mergers and acquisitions, the industry landscape is continuously changing. People switch companies much more frequently, so you need to stay on top of relationships.

Technology is also critical. As a building material manufacturer, you need to have a digital footprint. Even big companies can act like small companies to ensure every customer interaction is meaningful. It’s also important to provide employee training to make sure employees are giving customers the proper tools to be successful.

People are the most important asset to any company.

At the end of the day, people do business with people they like. If you’re not hiring the right team members and putting them in a position to win, you’ll ultimately fail. People are the most important asset to any company.

What does this look like for your sales team? Make sure they are thoroughly researching prospective, and current, customers. It’s essential to know more than you need to about the person you are meeting with. It’s always better to have more information than not enough.

You can research customers by setting up Google news alerts, finding them on LinkedIn or other relevant industry sites, or contacting mutual connections. It’s important to not only understand their business but also their preferred method of conduct.

You shouldn’t treat everyone the same, and it’s best to realize that early on in the sales process.

Building the Right Sales Team

Ben is hands-on when it comes to hiring because he looks for different things than a standard sales manager typically does. Here are some “outside the box” tactics he recommends using when it comes time to build your sales team.

First, consider hiring people outside the industry. When reviewing resumes, look for the applicant’s attention to detail. The resume shouldn’t just list everything they’ve ever done in their career, look outdated or have any grammatical errors. Look for resumes that stand apart from the others.

During phone conversations and live interviews, look for happy people. Happy people will help make work as enjoyable as possible for everyone on your team. Also consider how articulate the candidate is, what kind of body language they portray and whether they seem like they’re going to be able to succeed in the role.

Customers are shifting back to preferring a human touch, despite the expectation for automation. Take care in your hiring habits to make sure the people on your team are representative of your company’s culture and values.

Relating to Dealers and Distributors With Research and Personality

Research is extremely important when talking to dealers or distributors at all stages of the sales pitch. You need to do more research than you could possibly need in a meeting. You never want the customer to think you are unprepared. Even if you don’t use 98% of what you research, you’ll still be much more prepared for the meeting and that research could serve you well farther down the road.

You should also read people’s behavior and body language to inform your sales strategy. Pay close attention in meetings and observe the habits of those in the room. Once you discover what makes your audience tick, you can then make the right move at the right time to be successful.

When formulating your overall sales strategy, you probably already have templates for your meetings and research methods. But the way to be successful year over year is to have long-term strategic plans in place. Try building your plans to be broad and cover one, three and five year periods.

From there, you can build out tactics and strategies with your team. Make sure they’re very specific, taking as many pages as necessary.

Once you get to that point, you can break down those strategies into territories and sub-territories. In addition to creating specific plans for each area, also figure out how those plans add up to your company’s bigger picture.

Implementing Day-to-Day Sales Leadership

Strong sales leadership depends on caring about your people and training them to help them succeed. Designate different leaders for different categories in your business and incorporate weekly touchpoints with those leaders. During those calls or meetings, you can talk about your weekly goals and make sure everyone know about any upcoming changes during the week.

Ben also suggests implementing a sniper call. These are quick, 30-minute calls that feature a guest from someone else in your organization to talk about their business and how your sales team can help them be more successful in their role. These meetings give your team a much wider perspective of your company’s overall business, which also helps them better understand the customers they meet with.

Biggest Opportunities for Building Material Manufacturers in 2019

Make sure you start to coordinate your e-commerce business. If you don’t have a team focused on e-commerce, there’s still time to get in the game.

Your plans for 2019 should also include looking for other markets you can disrupt. It doesn’t always have to be the exact product line you're selling. Kwikset, for example, has partnered with companies that had nothing to do with their product line but still created value for their distributors or builders. These partnerships resulted in long-term business opportunities, so think about how you can go outside the norm and find new potential markets.

For building material manufacturers focused on B2B sales, we know there’s a constant struggle to make sure you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes. But there’s no way around e-commerce. Do your best to communicate on both sides of the aisle and find a way to work together that’s mutually beneficial.

New Initiatives to Consider for Your Sales Team

Training and planning should be two of your biggest focus areas for your sales team. Many people don’t put in the time to pre-plan before meetings. Instead, you need to try and change the game by thinking about ways you can alter the path you’re currently on.

Ben offers customer summits as an example. Two years ago, Kwikset brought in important customers that really had a feel of what their brand was doing right and wrong. The team came out of the meeting with a few hundred ideas on how to improve the customer experience.

Obviously, you can’t execute on that many improvements. But if you can narrow down that list to the top 20 places to start to impact, you can then select three to really execute on at a high level. It’s an excellent way to get fresh ideas while also engaging some of your best customers and making them feel heard.

Also, make sure you are going the extra mile for your customers. This can be anything from sending a handwritten thank you letter to finding a common thread between you and customer. You should also provide exceptional service, such as driving your product to a job site over the weekend to help a builder stay on schedule. All of these things leave lasting impressions so that your customer will continually turn away your competition and stick with you because they know you have their back.

Developing Your Sales Team

As a sales team leader, do your best to put your team’s interest above your own. Make an effort to develop your staff personally and professionally. Conduct check-in meetings and ask how you can help your employees achieve their life goals.

Try to make work fun. For instance, his team recently joined an app called Voxer, which offers different ways to message each other. It’s fun, casual and lets the team see a different side of people outside conference calls. It has the added bonus of helping his sales team help each other. They don’t have to wait until they get home to send an email when they run into a problem. Now they can easily and quickly send a video via Voxer and get a quick response with advice from a fellow team member. The team gets to have fun and be more productive.

No matter what tactics you incorporate, creating a successful sales leadership style is all about acting genuine and finding ways to create a win-win scenario for everyone you interact with.

Want to learn more about marketing to dealers and builders? Check out our other podcasts, such as this one on How to Market to Dealers and Builders or How to to Use Customer Data to Increase Sales. Or if you have questions about today’s podcast, email us at [email protected].

Show Notes

Want to connect with Ben and talk more about sales leadership? You can find him on LinkedIn.