ASK THE EXPERT: February 2015

By / 2 years ago

Q: How does one find out the real reasons why a builder won’t do business with you?
Signed, Locked Out

Whether you have been in our business for one year or 100 years, know three things:

  1. you are not alone in being challenged by this sales question;
  2. you are to be congratulated for addressing, and hopefully learning from this issue, as opposed to simply giving up and moving on to another likely losing opportunity; and
  3. you can internally uncover this answer, as it has more to do with you and less to do with the builder. But isn’t the real question for every potential purchaser, including builders, what are they looking for? What will make them happy? What will prompt a purchase from them? Instead of executing an approach to sales that is proven to lead to success the majority of the time, many in our industry lead with prices (and their chins!), hoping to make a quick sale and earn success, only to find disappointment and failure. Find the answers to the questions above and, provided your company’s offering matches or exceeds the customer/builder’s needs, you will find sales success.

The sales approach I advocate is tried and true, but nothing new. It consists of four simple steps:

  1. Do your homework – Get in the field. Talk to the superintendent, other subs, building inspectors, etc. Find out first-hand what is working and why? What’s not working, and why not? Is there anything that separates this builder from others? What products do they use? What is their velocity? Also, find out via the marketplace (HBA association, members, friends) what make this builder tick? Hobbies? Interests? Favorite teams? Every bit of information you can uncover is important and will be helpful.
  2. Armed with all of this information you have uncovered, now ask yourself (and your company) if there is a fit?  Are there needs you can address? Is there a way you can add value to this relationship? Most importantly, is this the kind of builder you want to partner with for the long-term? Provided the answers to these questions are all yes, prepare a value-based presentation created on your research, as well as a number of probative questions you need the builder to answer.
  3. Call the builder and give them a reason to meet with you. Let them know up front that you have no interest in wasting their time nor yours, and what you have to share can be of great benefit to them. If necessary, be prepared to let them know the effort you have already made in preparation for this visit and, per their schedule, this meeting may be the best they have had in a long time. You’ve got something to offer. Be proud of it!
  4. Ask questions.  Here is where the rubber meets the road. You’ve done your homework. You have a great presentation. You are mano-a-mano and ready to burst with information. STOP! DO NOT jump in with all of the great things about your company and what you are going to offer the builder. Rather, tell your builder that while you do have a number of things to share, you’d first like to know a bit more about him and his company (remember our probative questions?) and make absolutely sure that the wants and needs you have discovered in your research, confirmed now in your probative questions/answer dialogue, will be a match for what you and your company have to offer. Now, you are ready to share the value you and your company are prepared to offer.

Again, finding out why a builder may not do business with you has less to do with them and more to do with you, your sales approach, and willingness to earn their business. Provided the operational blocking and tackling basics are in place, when dealers and sales reps consistently execute the proper approach to sales, the question won’t be why builders don’t do business with you. The answer
will be why you choose to do business with certain builders.

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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