05 Jul Product manufacturers are the best friends you didn’t know you had

downloadFirst published in Builders’ Merchant Journal August 2016

Mark Gill, director of construction marketing agency DGR Marcomms, explains why building product manufacturers’ sales teams offer so much more than new products.

We’re bombarded with marketing messages in every area of our lives, from huge billboards and prime time TV ads, to product placement in Instagram posts. With demands on our time and money placed on us from the moment we open our eyes, it’s easy to add sales teams to our mental list of people not to engage with.

But when it comes to the complex world of building product manufacturing and the myriad rules, regulations and legislation that change on a regular basis, the frontline sales teams take on a whole new persona.

In the building merchant’s world, they are the experts you can rely on for free technical advice; they’re the product specialists who can demonstrate the latest innovations; the events and promotions teams who can engage your target market; and, most importantly, the people who can keep your customers coming back.

Building product manufacturers keep up to date with regulations because they have to, and they develop products that not only take changes into account, but make lives better for those in the building trade. Manufacturers invest a huge amount of resources into research and development, and are the best placed people to explain why the products they create are needed, how they meet all regulations and how they work.

When their sales teams approach you with these products, they don’t just want to secure a quick sale. They want to give you the information you need in order to advise your customers on the best possible tools for their job. Happy customers equal regular customers, and if you can pass on expert advice along with a product that works well, you’ll be the first port of call when it comes to sourcing supplies for the next job.

The technical support that comes with new or existing products is a free resource that gives you added value when it comes to advising your own customers. Most manufacturers offer detailed face-to-face or telephone support that helps you to help customers make informed choices. Armed with this reputation, you’ll be seen as so much more than a retailer: “Stan put me onto these roof clips and they’re so much better than nails – have a word with him, he’ll be able to help you out.”

Word of mouth recommendations are invaluable for customer engagement, but so are in-store promotions. The building product manufacturer can provide you with promotional materials, information leaflets and even stage in-store events, all at no cost to you, to help inform and engage your customers – and it’s you who’ll be seen as the expert.

The conversation that promotions and events prompt are valuable opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling. If you’re fully aware of why the new thermostat you’re selling was developed, you can engage your customer while they’re there in store and explain which of your other products will help keep the boilers they’re fitting in full working order.

The manufacturers’ sales teams don’t only promote to your own customer base. When a new product is developed, or an old one improved, they promote it direct to customers. If you’re one of five merchants in a town but the only one selling the product, those customers will be coming through your door.

And they’re not just selling to the end user: manufacturers are contacting architects, engineers and housebuilders to educate them about specifications, uses and benefits. When this information filters down, the end customer will be looking for an expert supplier, and that expert supplier will be you.

As a merchant, you don’t need to be pro-active about looking for sales opportunities. Running a successful retail operation is difficult enough without the added pressure of sourcing product information or reading every leaflet or brochure that comes through your door.

But if a sales team gets in touch, don’t automatically assume it’s a hard sell. Making time for a conversation can elevate you to expert level in the eyes of your customers, and keep them coming back.