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U.S. construction spending is at an all-time high. New housing starts and repair and remodeling are up. This is a remarkable and profitable time to be a Lumber and Building Materials Dealer.
Analysts predict this wave won’t crest until 2020. And, all the data indicates the greatest growth opportunities for LBM Dealers will come from driving PRO sales. (see 10 Ways to Drive Pro Sales below)
During a boom, PRO sales success feels relatively easy. They’re busy. You’re busy. As a result, everyone’s WINNING!
Dealers who consistently drive PRO sales, during and after a boom, do three things better than everyone else:
- Emotional Engagement: Understand exactly who their ideal PRO prospects are and what problems they need help solving
- Pre-Sales: Strategically generate qualified leads
- Post-Sales: Consistently nurture customers long after the sale
Partner Like a PRO
Effectively driving PRO sales takes consistency and empathy. The most successful dealer’s treat customers like partners. Helping them stay one step ahead of the ever-changing building industry. And, work smarter, not harder to achieve year over year growth.
Some PRO customers still go to big box stores, like Lowes or Home Depot, looking for cheap and fast. In a recent survey, their number one reason was actually convenience over price.
PROS who partner with a specialized LBM dealer are building something bigger. Structures, relationships, and a business that will stand the test of time.
As a result, Dealers that understand this go way beyond the product/service model. They’re building something bigger too. Long-term loyal partnerships that remain strong during and after a boom time.
Problem-solving over Product-selling
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole. -Theodore Levitt
Successful LBM Dealers create a sales culture around problem-solving over product-selling.
Wasting time on assumptions or beliefs about what keeps customers up at night? Never. They ask. Regularly. Curiosity and creativity are at the heart of their culture.
Also, they’re keenly aware that not all PRO builders, remodelers and contractors are the same. Therefore, driving PRO sales means understanding each segment and addressing their needs specifically.
One-size-fits-all does not apply here.
That’s why they never lump all remodelers, for example, into one category. Experienced Dealers recognize that their ideal remodeler PRO might be a full-service remodeler, replacement contractor, insurance restoration firm, or franchise operation.
Each one with their own unique set of challenges. The same rule applies to builders—are they package (turnkey), multi-family, a sponsor-builder? And contractors—small renovation, commercial GC, residential or design/build?
Do they specialize? Green-build, historic restoration, commercial regentrification, master-planned communities? These details matter. Above all, they demonstrate shared understanding and alignment.
Communicate Like a PRO
Obviously, messaging created for remodelers doesn’t have the same meaning for builders or contractors. And, so, less effective.
Take that a step further and by only focusing on facts, features, and benefits the chances of conversion go right out the window. (People make decisions rationally only 10% of the time.)
So, tapping into “decision-central” (90% of the time decisions are made based on emotion) means problem-solving first, selling second. Engaging instead of interrupting.
And, effectively connecting with PROs before and after the sale requires relevant segmented content that’s mapped to the buying cycle.
Pre and Post Sales Like a PRO
Profitable Dealers have the sales part down! It’s pre and post-sales they find challenging.
Consistent lead generation and post-sales nurturing require a strategic marketing and content strategy and the right amplifiers to stay engaged and top-of-mind.
Afterall, a website is only a speaker or amplifier. So, dated technology, irrelevant or weak content and low signal strength don’t make a pretty website easier to find, use or trust.
The majority of Dealers find developing compelling content and consistent communication a daunting task. Certainly, it doesn’t have to be.
Easy as 1-2-3
Dealers are good at talking about themselves. Their history and family, large fleet of trucks, monstrous square footage, and weekly deals. While these things are moderately interesting and important, they are not motivating.
Quality and customer service used to be the exception. They are now the expected.
To avoid becoming “the boring date who only ever talks about himself,” adopt a content strategy that will generate awareness, engagement, and loyalty.
Start by observing patterns across your audience segments. Then follow this 3-step model to improve your pre-sales lead generation and post-sales nurturing.
Identify, Create, Share
- Identify the top three challenges that builders, remodelers, and contractors have in common.
- Create content for solving each overarching problem. Then, break it down for each segment and address the nuances that impact each one.
- Break this content down further, into right-sized chunks. Engage at every touch point—online, in print and email, and in social media. (Install tracking analytics with each and measure your results.) Refine as needed throughout the year.
Understanding how each problem uniquely affects each PRO segment enables Dealers to walk the talk at every point in the customer journey. Solve problems and make sales easier.
“There isn’t any doubt that technology advancements have already improved construction tenfold. From mobile technologies to the cloud, the ability to connect with one another and communicate across multiple channels is vastly improved.” (Lorman)
Let’s drill down further and look at how technology impacts our audience(s).
New technology affecting PROs spans the gamut from chemical advancements in coatings and adhesives to mobile technologies and the cloud.
Virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, drones and self-driving vehicles. All impacting the construction industry in big ways.
Surviving and Thriving in the Digital Age
To thrive in a climate of unprecedented innovation, construction businesses must adapt. Adopting new technology is critical.
3D printing is just one example of emerging tech affecting construction. And, it is expected to triple to $21 billion by 2020.
Here’s a quick look at how to speak to its relevance for each segment:
Printable concrete — formed into structures that will dry to load-bearing-strength within an hour.
3D printing is remodeling the kitchen cabinet industry.
Faster than a good night’s sleep! In 24 hours you can create a 3D-printed house that will last 175 years.
People First, Customers Second
Afterall, PROs are human beings. They care about themselves more than they care about a Dealer and their array of products. PROs are on a mission to survive and thrive.
The Dealer who consistently equips and inspires them to succeed forges stronger bonds. Resulting in winning their loyalty in return.
Take a cue from an array of industry players and drive PRO sales in countless and meaningful ways.
Also, don’t wait for the post-boom dip to activate a new plan. Take control and start driving PRO sales while the going’s still easy.
10 Ways to Drive Pro Sales
Help PROs create new revenue streams with proprietary products they can’t get anywhere else. Like Hayward Healthy Home Toolbox. A system of products to help PROs build healthier homes.
Offer PROs complete turn-key framing services and pneumatic tool repair and rental, like National Lumber. Sell PROs the tools they need and ensure a lifetime of performance.
Go beyond PK meetings and provide employee training certification classes, like LumberTech, from Northwestern Lumber Association. Consequently, equip employees to better serve their PRO customers.
Through social media, Dealers can strengthen their PRO community by showcasing projects, PRO spotlights and important causes. Get social and give back to the community like Marcus Lumber.
Make it easier for PROs to specify your products and improve layouts with easy CAD and Revit downloads. Offer PROs software for the entire build, like Weyerhauser. Help them save money on materials and labor while increasing their satisfaction. Create apps so PROs can download and review your full library of product literature while on-the-go.
Design your yards with customers in mind, like Ganahl Lumber. From roller racks to yard flow, PROs get in and out faster. Less time in the yard and more time on the job site.
Provide dedicated marketing services to help PROs elevate their businesses. From logo design and signage to marketing materials and promo items, like Lansing Building Products.
Support PROs with a seemingly endless supply of plans, like 84 Lumber. Everything from kitchen and bath to outdoor living and playsets. Unsure what they need? So, have a project idea catalog at the ready.
Give a man a fish…or teach him to fish. Provide free hands-on training clinics by hosting an annual Katz Roadshow. From framing to finish carpentry, even the old guys learn something new. Make a day of it with vendor booths, demos, and BBQ. Stock up. You’ll sell out.
Create a PRO service team charged with helping PROs grow. Recognize internal efforts and successes, like Owens Corning and their Ignite Awards for the GET PINK Team.
As a result, take the wheel and drive PRO sales by getting to the heart of prospects and customers faster. With a connected strategy, meaningful content and outside-the-box experiences builders, remodelers and contractors can’t get anywhere else.
Effectively driving PRO sales? You could.