7 Essential Traits of Top Building Materials Sales Producers
Any manufacturer of building materials must have a professional, high producing sales team. Nothing can be manufactured until a salesperson sells something. From all the applicants who think they can sell, how does a sales manager spot the relatively few that can become top building materials sales producers? What personal traits and skills do the leading sales people possess? The traits discussed here may be applicable to many sales teams, but the unique conditions of the building materials industry present its own challenges.
There are many studies by psychologists, marketing consultants, and others in academia on the characteristics of a successful salesperson. Opinions vary widely. In a study by Herbert Greenberg, out of nearly 20 million sales professionals, a mere 20% account for 80% of all sales. From conversations with customers, other industry professionals, and experience with manufacturers, only about 5% of all sales people are true professionals and top sales producers. The 20% are still an important part of a sales team, because they contribute to total sales, but the top 5% are the sales professionals that can generate consistently high sales volumes. (For further reading, “Secrets of Top Sales Achievers” is an interesting reference article discussing this top 5% group.)
After almost 40 years of operating a successful independent manufacturers’ representative business and having observed the selling characteristics of hundreds of independent reps as well as direct hire sales people, here are my seven most important traits and skills of top building materials sales producers.
Sales passion is tunnel vision focused on customers. Top producers have a passion to gain a total and clear understanding of the needs and problems their customers want resolved. They then initiate an action plan to provide a high value product and/or service to meet their customers’ needs within a specified time frame. A high degree of empathy as well as a highly-practiced skill of intensive listening are required.
When a top producer fails to close a sale, he feels he did not fully serve his customer. He did not explain the benefits clearly enough to build a sufficient value for his customer to make a positive buying decision. He evaluates the reasons why he failed, so he can improve his sales techniques and presentation skills.
- Positive Attitude and Self Image of Success
There is no place for negativity for a top building material sales producer. There is no challenge or need too difficult to meet. It is this trait that gives customers supreme confidence that the solution to their needs will be delivered as promised and any problems will be resolved promptly and fairly. Top building materials sales producers must have a certain level of ego as part of their personality. This ego is required to assure the customer that no one else can satisfy his needs as well or as efficiently.
The top sales producers do not need a nudge to get started each day. They are normally up early and work with a high level of energy throughout the day. Accomplishments are what count, not just activities. They are goal-oriented and highly organized with specific targets set for each day, month, and year. All targets and actions are aimed squarely at providing total customer satisfaction.
They work tirelessly to improve their presentation and sales techniques. They seek out coaching and feedback from their manager and peers. Top building materials sales producers never give up. They are persistent in serving current customers and in seeking out new ones to keep their customer base growing.
Never, ever compromise integrity. Although the internet and all the forms of social media can provide a customer with huge bundles of information and data to help him make decisions, customers still prefer to purchase from the salespeople with whom they have a strong personal relationship. A top producer develops these relationships by meeting a customer’s needs as well as creating personal bonds of friendship and mutual trust. It is the consistent exhibition of the highest levels of integrity that are the bases for strong personal relationships. These relationships create high value, so that price alone is not the deciding factor to purchase. These are continually nurtured. It becomes almost impossible for a competitor to steal any significant portion of business. The top producer does not exaggerate the value of products and services to be provided, nor does he sugarcoat answers to problems that arise from time to time. He tells the customer the truth even though this may not be what the customer would prefer to hear.
- Flexibility and Patience
Flexibility and patience are critical to success. Through intensive listening, negotiation, coordination with the factory, and follow-up after a sale, a top producer has his total focus on fully satisfying his customer’s needs; furthermore, he is always ready to accommodate order modifications such as changes in a delivery date or material quantities. Sometimes, these changes may not be well received by production or customer service management, but he works diligently and honestly with all parties to facilitate the modifications that are necessary to meet his customer’s requirements.
A salesperson may need to ask at least 5 times before a customer agrees to issue a final purchase order. In the construction industry, an even longer term outlook is required. From conception of a project to bidding, construction and commissioning may take years, but top building materials sales producers maintain the long term outlook that is required to stay with the sales process as long as it takes.
- Technical Mind
Building construction projects is a complicated and technical process. Top producers not only understand the features and benefits of their products and/or services, but they thoroughly understand how their products or services are incorporated into the complete construction process. A technical sales mind is required to fully explain the benefits and features important to each customer. This is the only way to develop high value in a customer’s mind. A casual understanding of benefits and features is never acceptable to the top producer.
- A Balanced Life
This rarely mentioned trait impacts all of the traits above. Particularly in construction, customers want their needs fulfilled “yesterday.” Since this is not possible, how does the top producer stay calm to deal with these demands and still fully satisfy his customers?
A person living a balanced life has responsibilities and interests beyond his life as a salesperson. It is these interests that make him a whole person. Other people want to develop friendships and strong business relationships with him. A person with a balanced life knows there are joys and reasons to reach beyond one’s self. It is part of what creates his passion to serve his customers. He understands that winning or losing any particular sale is not all that life is about.
Keeping the business side of life in proper perspective means the “whole” life, whatever that is for each individual, can be more fully cherished and enjoyed. It creates an inner peace, so the stresses that are part of operating in the construction industry can be kept at a healthy level, thus enabling him to better serve his customers.
Every sales team has unique characteristics, personality, and policies; however, no matter what they happen to be, every successful team must have an elite group of sales producers to continually drive sales volumes to their highest levels. Does your team have these critical sales people?