Building Builder Relationships
Access to Clients One Project at a Time
By Janet Pinkerton
For C-tailers, growing the builder business means negotiating a myriad of issues: What type of builder is the best fit? How do you approach them? Do you pay the builder a commission? Do you require an exclusivity contract? How do you bill to best circumnavigate homebuyer sticker shock?
C-tailers who are experiencing success within the builder channel say that the most successful strategy boils down to the relationship thing: committing the necessary time and resources—from the initial sales call through the completion of each project—to understanding and catering to each builder's needs.
SPEND TIME, MAKE MONEY
Eric Ward, a custom sales manager at Definitive Audio in the Seattle area, has worked for six years to grow Definitive's builder business. "Establishing relationships—that's what being a custom sales guy is all about," he says. "You can call the owner of the construction company, or you can connect on a grass roots level with site supervisors or project managers. But ultimately, you want the builder's client. You're going to sell the builder services-pre-wiring the house, for example. But the owner who's building the house...that's the person who going to buy the plasmas, the distributed audio systems."
In the early days, Ward made a lot of cold calls. "I just said, 'Let me do one house for you and see how your experience is. That's the only way you can build these relationships is one house, one client at a time." But Ward continues, "You have to invest as much time as it takes for each and every project to make it right. Each time you start a project, it's a new proving ground."
Jon Robbins, chief operating officer of Hifi House in Broomall, PA, makes it a point to hire people from the construction industry to be job coordinators at Hifi House locations in Jenkintown and Broomall, Penn., and Wilmington, Del.