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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Early rising

Yesterday, I had coffee with a successful sales representative, who has made the transition from the corporate world to a relatively small building supplies dealer.

He's always been actively connected in the community, and he knows the way to find business is to focus on the key elements in the decision-making and supply chain, while respecting and maintaining relationships.

He says he is amazed how representatives of building products manufacturers waste his time by "dropping in" on him at his office.

"I don't need to see these guys," he told me. "They could be much more helpful if they joined me or helped co-ordinate Lunch and Learns at local architects' offices."

Absolutely -- the vital thing in building products distribution (from the manufacturers) perspective, is to ensure your materials are in the project specifications; if you are fortunate and have a highly specific specification, you will get the business, no matter which general or sub-trade actually purchases the materials from the distributor or dealer.

So, when he isn't at architects' offices, how does he find business?

He gets up early, and heads to the construction offices with some Tim Hortons coffee or coffee gift cards. No one minds the "bribe" but everyone appreciates that he is on site at seven a.m.
And he writes up the orders -- often for emergency-needed materials. With these orders, he has new customers, and new business to serve.

I gave this successful representative a little "bribe" -- $50 in Tim Hortons coffee coupons. In return, he'll give me reports on the job sites he has visited, allowing me insights into whether they could be suitable for feature profiles in Ottawa Construction News. (His business also may receive another profile in a few months.)

"Let me know when you have a Lunch and Learn planned, where the architect and manufacturer wouldn't mind the publicity," I told him. "I'll come and write up a story which will give everyone even more publicity.

Then the sales representative reminded me: "If you are going on the sites in the morning, remember you need your safety gear, boots, hard hat and a safety vest?"

I said: "I know about the boots and hard hat -- I have them, but am not sure about the safety vest."

"No problem," he said. "I have some extra vests in my car, and I'll give you one." So now I have a bright green reflective safety vest in my collection of resources.

Meanwhile, we are both members of the local Construction Specifications Canada chapter Board of Directors and he is one of the first members of the Ottawa group of the Design and Construction Network.

Do you see how this type of relationship, connection, and community is a lot more effective than blind cold calls or "blast marketing"?

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