How has the construction market changed in recent years, since the crisis? What are the new variables and how can we adapt to changing behaviours, dynamics and attitudes within the market? Looking at those around us can be a great way to identify errors but also pick up on good ideas to help us develop and improve our approach to customers.
In recent years, many companies have changed a great deal about their structure and behaviour. They have focused on improving aspects that might have been efficient and effective in years gone by but have now been shown to be out of touch. In all probability, they will have chosen suppliers who guarantee better quality and service and found new customers, perhaps those who become loyal and come back again and again rather than looking around for the best offer.
Having said all that, this change hasn’t happened by chance or impulse. Observing the experience of these companies can inspire and influence your future action. Here are a few principles upon which to build your construction product sales strategy, in spite of the crisis.
1. Numbers are not all the same: cut costs, not resources
When your income drops, cutting costs becomes a necessity. There is a law in economics known as the Pareto Principle, which revolves around an 80-20 concept. It lends itself to myriad areas, but the ratio is always the same. In physical stores, for example, it is said that 80% of earnings is generated by 20% of resources. For a construction storehouse, the key here is the relationship between articles sold and revenues. If you need to reduce spending, it’s vital that you avoid cutting that 20% of products that generates the bulk of your revenue.
It is possible – necessary, in fact – to improve your product inventory by focusing on those products that generate the 80% of revenue. Try to increase that side of the product range and, at the same time, prudently reduce storeroom surpluses.
Cutting the amount of stock in your storeroom doesn’t have to be limited to low-selling products – you can adopt the same approach for products that generate a high amount of value. For example, if you have suppliers that can deliver quickly, why not let them act as your storeroom?
2. Stay ahead of construction product trends
Keep yourself up to date on new developments in the construction market, particularly construction techniques and new materials and products. This information is a vital resource as it allows you to request information from suppliers or find alternatives before it becomes an issue. This way, you won’t be caught unprepared and – instead – will be able to offer innovative solutions before the rest of your competitors.
All of this is less complicated than it might seem. When we talk about getting ahead of market trends, we often think about flashes of intuition and revolutionary ideas, often dreamt up by people with unique talents bordering on the genius. However, experience shows that true innovation is nothing more than taking a combination of elements already available on the market and giving them a new meaning.
Keep tabs on the leading companies and suppliers in the sector, check their websites regularly (not just to download technical information), sign up to their newsletters and visit their social media profiles. All of these activities are highly useful and – crucially – absolutely free. You could even visit trade fairs and ask if you can visit suppliers at their headquarters, where you might be able to see new solutions first hand and glean precious clues as to potential new markets and how you should tweak your range of products and services.
3. Don’t focus on price alone
A race to the bottom is a dangerous game. You might nail a sale, but what about profit margin? And if you get stung with an unexpected cost (damaged goods, costly transport, unpaid invoices etc.), this type of sales approach quickly turns into a risky financial game. At the end of the day, we all want customers that pay regularly and don’t haggle on price. Is that wishful thinking? Absolutely not – let’s find out how to find them!
Become an expert in what you do. If your competitors sell concrete guttering, make sure you’re selling the plastic kind too. Not because it costs less, but because it offers key benefits. You need to be able to sell a solution to a problem, to show the value in what you do. A salesperson who can’t add something to what the customer already knows is a bad salesperson. Customers should come to you because you’re good at what you do and because you’re the one person who can solve their problems.
Offer services that set your company apart from others, but make sure you choose the best partners to guarantee an efficient service for the customer with the right conditions for you. Don’t offer a service just because other companies do – force yourself to offer something different. If you’re able to offer value, knowledge or an additional service, price doesn’t become such a deal-breaker. Just like in the Mastercard advert, some things are priceless. And that’s exactly the sales mentality you need to have.
Believe in what you’re selling. At the end of the day, a sale is not just about price, but myriad other factors too, including the added value that comes with that personal touch. You need to believe in the products and services you’re selling and work hard to convey your conviction to your team. Find reliable partners and suppliers that can meet your needs and support your business. Create a network that believes in you as you believe in them and their new proposals and offers. Together, this will become a vital weapon in your sales arsenal.
4. Increase marketing activities
How many times have you heard people say: “You can find anything on the internet!”? Well, can they find your company on the internet? Nowadays, it’s becoming more and more affordable to have a well-structured online presence, but it’s vital that you keep it alive. Update your site regularly, consider search engine optimisation and launch a profile on the most relevant social network for your industry. At the end of the day, if you invest real care in choosing which stock to buy, if you have your finger on the pulse of the market, if you’re selling innovative, niche products with high margins and if you’re offering new services… tell people about it! Working on youronline presence to promote construction materials will generate new potential clients.
5. Invest in training
Now more than ever before, it’s vital to undertake specific technical and commercial training about the products you deal with, learn new things and discover how to operate within a changed market characterised by new dynamics, new processes. Once upon a time, you went to experts and technicians for technical information about products, but nowadays everything is easily accessible online. The worst crime we can commit is to know less about a product than our customers!
What’s more, sales techniques have changed precisely because customers have changed also. What worked ten years ago just doesn’t work anymore, when it comes to sales. Make the most of training opportunities offered by public and private organisations and – why not? – your own suppliers.