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Scott Lau


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I recently read an interesting article about working efficiently in the construction industry. Although it is written pertaining to management of construction projects, the principles apply to selling building materials, selling and operations of subcontractors and other business functions as well. It ties in well with a blog I posted on time management.
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Sales Power of Manufacturers Reps

For small manufacturers or startups in the building materials industry, an independent manufacturers’ representative team is an excellent alternative to a direct hire sales force. Sales costs or these teams are more controllable and normally lower. They provide an excellent way to gain quick entry into key markets and build sales with key customers.
Sales Costs - are directly tied to sales volume. Since a rep is only paid commission on products sold, there are no fixed costs of salary, fringe benefits, travel, or other sales expenses. If sales volume decreases, commissions also decrease.
Long term personal relationships - are a key to the success of any business. Individual reps normally operate in smaller geographical territories for the life of the organization. Personal relationships are built over decades. Sales coverage is also continuous over the same period.
The benefits of a manufacturers’ representative sales team normally outweigh the benefits of a direct hire sales team. Many manufacturers still continue to depend on a direct hire sales team, because they are not familiar with managing a manufacturers’ rep team, and/or their management prefers having 100% control of their sales team.
Another alternative for manufactures to consider is a hybrid organization comprised of direct hire regional managers combined with manufacturers’ representatives.
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Disruptive Marketing in the Construction Industry

In a study done in 2015 that was discussed in Forbes Magazine 25 companies were listed as being marketing disrupters in their particular industry. Not one of them was associated with the building materials industry or any other part of the overall construction industry. The impact of these companies due to disruptive marketing in their particular industry is indicative of what will happen in the construction industry. Who will be among the first companies in the construction industry to learn what their customers want in new products and services and launch disruptive marketing campaigns? They will become the new leaders in their field.
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Time Management and Your GPS
Time is a sales representative’s major asset. Wasted time means less time cultivating relationships and closing sales. Advances in technology in the last two decades have helped sales people better manage their time when on the road.
While driving between appointments between two states over two days I wondered how sales people managed their time on such a trip 20 years ago before the GPS and Map Quest. We had to sit with maps to figure how much driving time there was between appointments; then plan our days to optimize our time management and at the same time give excellent service to our customers. Working with the maps to figure out the best route to take between appointments was time consuming and you could never know accurately if you would arrive at each appointment at the time you promised your customer.
Top sales producers are always seeking ways to operate more efficiently. What technological breakthroughs in the next 10 years will help us move to another level?
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Do You Have a Digital Marketing Plan?

Do you have a well-designed, mobile friendly and active website? It is the first requirement for an effective digital marketing plan. How many general contractors and subcontractors, particularly small and medium sized firms, are using digital marketing to increase their market visibility and generate sales leads?
I read an interesting article by Zach Williams that discusses digital marketing and its benefits. If your firm is not thinking seriously about digital marketing you
are probably falling behind your competition. More important you are missing out on sales opportunities.
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Responsive Customer Service Helps Build Sales

Many architectural product manufacturers do not realize the sales benefits of an efficient friendly customer service team. The outside sales force depends on them to help forge the long term personal relationships that are critical for growing sales. Here are some suggested guidelines for customer service teams:
1. Hire friendly people who have a commitment to serve customers
2. Fully train them with product knowledge as well as order processing
3. Use the telephone as much as possible to build relationships. Use email to support telephone contacts.
4. Measure their performance and reward them as the critical part of the sales team that they are.
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Marketing to Architects – Hints for Getting an Appoint

When an architectural product representative calls an architect for an appointment, how can he increase his chances of the architect saying, “yes, please come in to see me”?

1. Become a “trusted advisor”. This does not happen overnight. It takes long term collaboration by the product representative with the architect answering questions honestly and in a timely manner, helping with design details and specifications, and developing a strong personal relationship.

2. Take the CDT exam and become certified. A product representative with CSI, CDT behind his name demonstrates to architects that you have a complete understanding of the construction industry and how the design process works. Architects are confident an appointment with you will be time well spent.

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Are You A Good Listener?

To clearly understand his customers, the professional sales person must

Are You A Good Listener?

To clearly understand his customers, the professional sales person must listen. To develop and strengthen strong personal relationships, careful, attentive listening is critical. listen. Sales people love to talk, but while talking, one cannot listen. Learning good listening skills is important; honing them is even more critical.

There are hundreds of books and published articles to read online about what it takes to become a better listener. If you are interested in what I have learned about listening after 40 years as an independent manufacturers’ representative, see my blog, Communication Begins with Listening.
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If you missed a recent article by Christine Chmura of Chmura Economics and Analytics it is worth reading. She is optimistic about the Trump economic plans. Reduced corporate and personal income taxes and reduced regulations combined with increased spending on the military and infrastructure should be very good for building material manufactures and the construction industry. I have read other analyses that come to a similar conclusion. Are you optimistic about 2017?
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Maintaining a sense of humor and laughing is important to be successful in any business, large or small. This first post of the year hopefully gives you something to laugh about. If you have not seen Dave Barry’s column reviewing the events of 2016 it is worth the read. The link is
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