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How Home Depot Sees the Future of the Industry

Hear from Home Depot's top pro salesman on how they launched their pro-focused sector, what they see for the building materials industry in 2019 and beyond, and how digital is changing the way they service pros.

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Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

Joey Gilkey joins the show to share how he became the top pro salesperson at Home Depot and where he thinks the residential construction industry is headed in 2019 and beyond.

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 Joey Gilkey, Pro Sales Manager at Home Depot.

Joey shares how to build partnerships with the nation’s biggest builders and how building materials manufacturers can find new opportunities.


How Joey Became Home Depot’s Top Salesperson

Coming from a family of builders in South Florida, Joey started off his career building hundreds of houses a year until his business was wiped out overnight by a hurricane. In an effort to reinvent his career, Joey decided to go back to school and finish his degree. At the same time, he got a job with The Home Depot in the building materials department.

The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus asked Joey what he wanted to do during a store visit. Joey wasn’t sure, but he was encouraged by Bernie’s remark that the store’s goal was to grow people from a dream to what they want to do within the company. From that point, Joey decided to put his efforts into growing with Home Depot and became a store manager in just four years.

After a bad car accident, however, Joey began to reevaluate what he wanted to do with his life. Rather than working towards an executive position, he decided to get back into the building world and moved to the newly established Pro Division. He thought there must be a bigger business out there so the team decided to do a pilot in the Atlanta area. They bulked up using a “stack it high and watch it fly” mentality. Once they did, they started seeing large contractors come in and buy from Home Depot instead of from wholesalers.

Based on the results of that test run, Home Depot hired 200 Pro Sales Managers across the nation. They grew from $4 million in sales that first year to $20 million the next year. Today, Pro Sales accounts for 22% of the company’s business.

Some of the nation’s largest investors purchase from Home Depot, and they now have merchants that deal with customers as well as direct ship programs. There has been a major shift from focusing solely on homeowners and DIYers to working with large investor builder clients.

Economic Outlook for 2019


Joey anticipates the residential construction industry will continue growing, with 2019 being his highest volume year since he started in 2000. While a downturn may happen in some parts of the business, large customers don’t seem to be slowing down. He aptly says that when you walk into Home Depot and smell fresh cut lumber, that’s the foundation of a strong economy.

Joey’s team partners with merchants and buyers to look at homebuilding forecasts throughout the U.S., which they call the heatmap. If there’s a bubble the size of a penny in New York, for example, that means there are 200 homes being built there. The bigger the bubble, the more homes are being built and right now, the entire U.S. is covered in bubbles.

Today, residential construction growth is even across the nation. Joe works with top investors in the residential single-family industry, and they’re working in every state. Bottom line: Joey thinks it’s going to be a great year for the industry.

Industry Changes in an Online World


The industry has changed a lot between 2000 and 2019. Large contractors don’t need to come into stores anymore. Instead, they can order online or directly through the Home Depot Pro app. Home Depot has also brought on outside delivery services to make the process as easy as possible. After all, everyone has an Amazon Prime account, and it’s important to stay up to speed.

Another advantage that comes with online ordering is the electronic paper trail. From an accounting standpoint, this makes it easier to keep track of expenses and avoid losing track of paper receipts.

Home Depot recently invested $1.2 billion in its supply chain to make it easier for people to buy building materials products. At the same time, old school sales are never going to go away. It’s all about relationships, and instead of just being a vendor, you need to figure out how you can be a partner.

Focus on Relationships


Everything is about partnerships right now. As a building material manufacturer, you simply can’t drive around and drop off samples anymore. Instead, reach out directly to large retailers’ pro sales teams. They already know the customers and what they need. Get outside with a partner or pro sales associate by doing a ride along.

Everything is about trust and building relationships. Listen to your partners so that they trust you enough to share information and help you set course in the right direction.

Have questions or thoughts on this week’s podcast? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at [email protected].