BOB HEIDENREICH: Knowing Your Products

By / 2 years ago

Product training from manufacturers is a powerful tool. Here are tips for making sure that your team gets the most value.


Most of the columns that I have written for LBM Journal allude to one thing: how to make the final decking sale. This might include the aesthetics of your store, your appearance at home shows, the breadth of product you offer or how knowledgeable your sales people are on the products they sell.

But product knowledge isn’t always easy to obtain. That’s why when a manufacturer offers a training program or opportunity to learn more about what it is you’re selling—you should jump on it immediately. As a deck builder and lumberyard, the most successful products we have sold have been when manufacturers invest time and training into the products they offer. Simply offering a product for sale in our store is just the first step. The second, critical step is to ensure that my team understands what makes it a great product.

I’ll never forget a presentation by a manufacturer’s salesperson. It was so interesting and delivered so effectively, that I took in just about every word. Our business is what is considered a “hard house”—meaning it is very difficult for a vendor salesperson to get their product into our line of offerings, but when they do, we sell a high volume of product and are very loyal to them. Therefore, when salespeople come in to present a new product, they have to deliver information that is new to us. In this case, we were able to learn exciting, new information about the product during the presentation—and the best part is that the salesperson was enthusiastic about the product as well. After that, every time I went to sell that merchandise, I thought back to the original presentation— regurgitated everything that was said—and our operation received a lot of success due to that product.

While this happened to be a very effective presentation, there are mistakes that a salesperson can make to instantly lose our business. Again, the most important tactic that a salesperson can use during a product training session is to do research. If they do not know the details of the product they’re presenting, such as what it’s made from, the manufacturing process, or specifics on code approvals, they will lose our attention. Also, if the person hasn’t done their research on cost, this can also kill the appointment, too.

The salesperson might tell me that I’m getting a deal by purchasing the product through them, but if I can look online and buy it for less, they’re obviously not committed to our business. The main thing dealers want to know during these training sessions is: how is this product going to make me money? It’s the salesperson’s job to know this answer. To add on, as every dealer might know, the shorter and more accurate the presentation, the better. It’s also best to plan appointments ahead; I quickly lose patience with unannounced and unhelpful appointments. Also, we’ve found webinars provide solid product training. During slow seasons, this can be an effective tool to ensure that employees are loaded with the right knowledge to make a sale. However, when things start to get a bit busier, this type of training is typically put on the shelf. The same rings true for when a manufacturer would like to meet in the store during the busy season. Because our number one concern is to focus on current customers, we do not always have time to learn details about a product.

On the other hand, a salesperson doesn’t always have to come in just to update our product knowledge. Just stopping in to say hello helps build a solid relationship with the company. And when the time is right, making an appointment and exhibiting a well thought-out presentation can be equally effective.

For my next column, I will discuss the specific details a manufacturer can do to grab a dealer’s attention. If you have anything you would like to share on what manufacturers do well—or not so well— during product training, drop me a note at

Bob Heidenreich

Bob Heidenreich is the owner of the 30- employee The Deckstore, in Apple Valley, MN. He has been selling decking and home improvement projects for 29 years. Follow the Deckstore: