ASK THE EXPERT: April 2015

By / 2 years ago

Scott Hartmann, a seasoned LBM industry veteran with a solid track record of success, provides thoughtful answers to readers’ questions.

Keeping Top Salespeople

“Our business is highly dependent on the relationship between my contractor salesmen and their customers. If a salesman leaves they will likely take their customers with them. Nobody in our market requires non-compete contracts, and I agree that those aren’t the right solution. My question is, how do you attract and keep the best salesmen?”

Signed, Looking Longterm

Dear Looking,
Before I provide you selling gold, let me first address the three statements you made in your question.

You stated: “Our business is highly dependent on the relationship between my contractor salesmen and their customers.” As I was a sales manager for most of my 36-year career and proudly often criticized as salesman’s champion, I recognize the importance of the sales staff within the company/customer relationship. However, never relinquish these customers from being yours. Unless a member of your sales staff brought a given account with them, I’ll provide tips to help you maintain and retain most—if not all—of your customers.

You also stated: “If a salesman leaves, they will likely take their customers with them.” Not true. Unless you let them. I’ll expand on this later.

Lastly, on the subject of non-competes, I agree with your disdain for their use but for different reasons. First, they are difficult to enforce. Secondly, I don’t think they are necessary if you do things right. Thirdly, you’ve got better things to do than open your checkbook for an attorney and compromise being the leader within your business.

So the $64,000 question is how to attract and retain good salespeople? The answer is security. No different than free agents in the NBA or NFL, good people want to join a winner. And they’ll stay typically as long as you want them.

And what you want, as an owner or senior manager, is the comfort of knowing day-in and day-out they are on your team. You want the peace of mind knowing your sales staff is always representing your company professionally and is extremely passionate about executing your mission statement and sales objectives security.

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Scott Hartmann

Scott Hartmann has spent the past 35 years leading established construction supply companies to greater levels of success. As the founder of Hartmann & Co., he now provides management consulting services to independent LBM dealers. He can be reached at or visit