Selling, generosity and creativity ? the construction marketing challenge


Last night, we attended a party, ?Rock the Rideau?, a rather (appropriately) loud event sponsored by the ?Boone Flushers? in advance of the Sept. 10 ?Ride The Rideau? 100K bike ride in support of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital.

The evening had nothing, but everything, to do with construction marketing.

Boone Plumbing and Heating Supply Ltd., after all, sells a lot of plumbing and heating supplies to contractors in the Ottawa-area market.  Boone?s Claude Des Rosiers and Robert Merkley of Merkley Supply Ltd. (specializing in masonry supplies) obviously are in the business of selling building supply products.  They are appropriately, clients of our specialized regional construction newspaper, Ottawa Construction News.

But none of us were at the Lone Star to sell.  We didn?t have our eagle eyes open for ?business development?.  Our goal, simply put, is to support a worthy cause and (allowing for the potential negative effects from excessive alcohol consumption from those who wished to partake of the cash bar) improve our health.

This event and the associated community activities and involvement suggest some interesting and challenging nuances in marketing within the AEC community.  Could it be that the most effective approach to marketing and business development is NOT to market for our self interest, but to work in the interests of the community-at-large?  And, if that is the case, how do we evaluate and measure and set guidelines for effective contributions and community support.

I think about these issues as I review an invoice from a person we were considering for a sales position in our own organization.  We have a systematic recruiting and hiring process. Candidates must first succeed at an online ?sales test? and, if they are successful, we invite them to work with us for a few days with pay to see if they can sell.  The rules are simple ? they must  bring in at least one or two cash orders within their trial period, or provide some other tangible evidence that they?ve closed a worthy transaction with actual client commitment.  ?Maybes? and ?We?ll consider it? don?t count; nor do we really care how many people the prospective representative contacts.  We want results ? and fast!

This candidate showed some initial promise, so we extended the test.  But we knew things weren?t going well, when after the second week, sales volumes didn?t improve but the candidate wasted no time in making sure we received his invoice for services.  Of course, we?ll pay the proper amount and say goodbye.  Better a little short term cost than hiring someone who will drain our coffers and produce little but air, week after week.

But wait . . . I just described how the most effective sales and marketing results arise from forgetting about our own self-interest and focusing on the community.  Is it right to push a new sales representative to a test that demands immediate results, without looking at the deeper, long-range and selfless approaches truly required for long-term success?

I wish I had better answers.  In the ideal world, the candidate would show he or she can achieve great results by building relationships and community connections.  In fact, our most effective salesperson achieved quick results in his evaluation working test and started (right away) building bridges for long-range relationships which have, over the past few years, resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue (and the relationships continue to improve!)  We enjoy some exceptionally close connections with important construction associations and industry groups and our clients know we are truly ?connected? to their market.

In the end, I suppose, we can learn much from success.  Sure, in business, we need to get results and in marketing and sales, we need to encourage clients to purchase our products and services.  Yet, I expect, we will often sell more by focusing our ?selling? efforts on worthy causes and community needs.  We add to our trust, relationships, and comfort with each other.  It is much easier to say ?yes? to a business which (truly) cares about the community as much as the bottom line.

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