Contractors are the Most Important Customer in Building Materials

by | Sep 13, 2016

Today we have a guest post from Mark Mitchel of Whizard Strategy.

3Icons-Salesexecution2-120x120Building materials companies frequently only see the customer who is directly in front of their nose. They are laser focused on selling a builder, an architect, a facilities manager or even a homeowner.

In every one of these cases there is someone standing right behind them that you may not see. That person is the contractor. More specifically, it is the installing contractor.

Time and time again, I see building materials companies, with a great product, think they have a made a sale to their primary customer, only to lose the sale because of a contractor.

It’s easy to assume that contractors are working for your primary customer so they will do what the customer wants. That is frequently not the case.

Here’s Why Contractors Resist Change

  • There is a shortage of labor so any good contractor is in demand and may turn work down or charge more, if it involves something new or different.
  • Contractors see new ideas and products as change and change represents risk. It usually does not represent opportunity to them.
  • Contractors can be very stubborn in their resistance to change. They and maybe even their Daddy has always used the same product and installed it the same way for years. Many of them also believe that buildings and homes are not built as well as they were in the past. To them, modern day construction practices and products are not necessarily better.
  • New products mean the contractor will lose money. The contractor looks at a new product as having many places where they are going to lose money, for example:
  1. They aren’t sure how to estimate the project so they can underestimate it and lose money or they can over estimate it and lose the job.
  2. Their installers will have to be trained and the cost of that training will fall on them.
  3. Installers will take a longer time on the first few jobs, reducing the contractor’s income.
  4. There is a higher likelihood of a callback on the first few jobs, once again costing the contractor.
  5. Dealing with a new supplier is also time consuming, when he probably isn’t having a problem with his current supplier.
  6. Fear of change, most contractors are smaller firms with fewer than 20 employees, they are frequently family businesses and the owner can feel responsible for the well-being of the entire family. Once again, the contractor sees change as risk.
  7. Don’t screw it up, the majority of contractors started as installers and not as business owners. If they have survived the first few years, something is working. They may not even know what it is that makes them successful, but the thing they do not want to do is to screw with success.
  8. Contractors honesty and sincerely want to do the right thing for their customers. If they don’t understand or believe in something or think it is unproven, they will let their customer know their opinion.
  9. The end result of change is the same as before. The contractor feels that as soon as other contractors have invested in the change that the market will keep their profit margins at the same level as before, so there is little reason to change.

How to Not Lose Sales Because of Contractors

The first and most important step is not to forget or ignore them. When selling your product to your primary customer, realize the importance of the contractor. Take some of your hard-to-find time and reach out to the contractor to identify his concerns and work to overcome them.

Take the list of contractor concerns from above and put yourself in the contractor’s shoes. Which of these are their biggest concern and how can you work to overcome them.

One last recommendation, most companies focus on the benefits of their product which may not mean a lot to the contractor. You should also develop a sales message for the contractor about the risks of them not making the change. Make the risk of not changing bigger than the risk of not changing.

About the Author

Mark Mitchell, from Whizard Strategy, is a leading building materials sales and marketing consultant and author of Building Materials Channel Marketing. He works with building materials companies to help them overcome sales barriers.

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