-By Kathy Jonas –
Achieving success in post-frame sales is a lot like achieving success in life: it involves the critical skills of being prepared, listening, and adapting to the needs of others. One other relevant skill is working harder than the competitor. Although technology has certainly had an impact on the construction industry, the old-fashioned ability to relate to someone else is even more relevant today because of the fast-paced, impersonal environment created by social media.
NFBA staff talked with two successful professionals to glean their insights into post-frame sales and what they have learned about the importance of connecting with customers and building relationships.
“Be kind and treat all with respect” is the guiding sales philosophy of Willie Kimmons, a Wick Builder in Merrill, Wisconsin. “It is very important to listen to what your client is telling you. And it is very important to treat all genders the same when addressing their knowledge of a project,” Kimmons says.
Keith Pinkelman of Lynnman Construction in Morrice, Michigan, says that in today’s world it is rare to get excellent service. That motivates him to work 24/7 to go above and beyond what is expected, with the understanding that each customer is different, and thus each sale is different. “I listen to my customers and try to come up with something that is the most practical for their needs,” he says.
Finding the Post-Frame Customer
Pinkelman, who has been affiliated with Wick Buildings since 1997, stresses that customers are everywhere, and your approach to attracting them has to be targeted. Though Pinkelman is not trained specifically in marketing (both he and his partner, Tom Flynn, graduated from Michigan State University with bachelor’s degrees in building and construction management), Lynnman Construction staff make sure that everything from their Facebook page to the company website to their truck decals offer an integrated message that drives customers to the business.
Pinkelman attends as many shows as possible, including agricultural shows, trade shows and horse shows. He also realizes that 65 percent of his business comes from referrals. “We try to deliver a product that makes customers happy. That is as good as any advertisement,” he adds. Though photos of completed projects are an important part of any construction company’s website, having a prospective customer visit a happy customer is priceless, Pinkelman says.
Asking the right questions before the sale can help the process move more smoothly, according to Kimmons. During a site visit he evaluates where the customer is in the process, asking whether the customer owns the property, whether the site is ready and whether he or she has a floor plan in mind. He then helps the customer decide issues possibly not yet considered—how the building will fit on the lot, where doors should be located and what works best in the particular application. He then makes suggestions to help customers meet the goals they have in mind.
“Sometimes it helps to repeat what you think their question is to be sure you have interpreted it correctly before giving the answer,” says Kimmons, who has been a Wick Builder since 1999. He also carries samples with him to demonstrate product value, which differentiates his company from others.
Discussing the Advantages of Post Frame
Pinkelman still encounters the misconception that post frame is just a barn, not a highly engineered product with distinct benefits and advantages. Customers need to be educated about post frame’s energy efficiency, versatility and adaptability.
But a relatively recent explosion in commercial uses is helping fuel a demand for post frame, making educating the client about the benefits a somewhat lower priority. Currently, Pinkelman is working on a project housing one client’s pickle ball court and golf simulator and on building a 14,000-square-foot office and warehouse for another customer.
The low-maintenance feature of post-frame construction is a huge selling point, as is the relatively quick construction timetable in comparison to traditional forms of construction, Pinkelman says. The fact that structures can be erected in the winter is important in areas where snow and inclement weather often delay other construction systems.
Both post-frame professionals mentioned the value of their Wick affiliation, which reinforces quality, professionalism and customer service.
Closing the Sale
If you’ve done the preparation needed, closing the sale is not difficult, Pinkelman says. “There’s no secret closing method. I’m always selling and closing.”
He advocates preparing for a closing with meticulous written documents, including detailed drawings and specs. Doing research about the customer, being organized and responsive to the customer’s needs and solidifying what has been discussed previously—all are part of the process. He adds that a successful closing is not ultimately about the price, but rather about selling the customer exactly what he or she needs.
The work does not end after the sale, either. Kimmons says it is important to stay in contact with clients after the project is completed. “There is nothing better than a satisfied client. What I do is keep in contact with many of my clients by phone, a visit or an e-mail. I like to stay in front of them. Remember: you never know what lead or need may be in the future.”