Many building materials companies planned on 2015 being a good year. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate in the first quarter, so many companies were off to a slow start. There are some factors, like the weather, that are out of your control, but there are also some controllable, overlooked ways that are slowing your sales growth.
In the last few months as we have been interviewing and traveling with salespeople and calling on customers, we have noticed a trend that is slowing sales growth.
Business is Good Enough
One of the downsides of a recovery is the memory of how bad things were. In the context of how bad things were, things today are pretty good. Compared to how hard you had to work to get business, it’s now much easier.
We first noticed this with building product dealers and builders. We have not seen this with lumber dealers who seem to still be very motivated by their competition.
With dealers, who tend to be small business people, we noticed that they are back to their personal income levels before the downturn. Business is good, they are happy with their income, and they don’t have to work as hard. They don’t feel threatened and they don’t see the need to do something like add a salesperson or work extra hours.
The manufacturers, who supply these dealers, are now being held back by the complacency of these dealers. There are also some dealers who are as gung-ho as ever. We were just surprised by the number of dealers who are quite happy with the status quo. In every case, we saw opportunities for these dealers that are being ignored or overlooked.
Your Own Salespeople May be Holding You Back
We have also noticed salespeople who are likely sandbagging their numbers, as they don’t seem in alignment with the potential. When we spend a day with a salesperson, we ask them a question like, “Who are the largest architects, remodelers, builders or contractors in their market?” We then ask which ones they don’t sell.
One excuse we hear is, “They’ll never buy from us, they always use the other guy” or “We had a problem in the past.” When we ask, “When was the last time, you called on them?” The response is always, “A long time ago.”
Are You Supporting Your Dealers?
Before you lay blame on slow sales on the dealer, be sure to ask them what you could do better. We frequently see a company with a great product but a problem like customer service or shipping that holds the dealer back. These problems can also provide an incentive for the dealer to shift business to a competitive brand. Sometimes it isn’t that he actively tries to switch the customer, it frequently is just that he stops pushing for your product.
This should be a good year for building materials manufacturers, that could be even better, if they look out for these issues.
You can reach Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org