I met Gary in 1996. He was the number one salesman out of the 77-store Moore’s Lumber chain. He outsold the number two salesman by a factor of three and the number three salesman by a factor of four. I wanted to find out what made Gary so good, so I rode around with him for a day to prepare for a series of events for their annual sales meeting.
It quickly became apparent that Gary had become a critical part of his customers’ success. He became their project manager with his goal to keep the construction crew on site building, not running to the lumber yard or hardware store for supplies and tools.
He would meet with his contractors at the beginning of the project when he bid on the construction materials. After costing out the lumber package, he would hold on to the blueprints and use his construction experience to thoughtfully assemble a daily truck load to go out to the job site. He would consider the weekly weather forecast; if it was going to be clear, he would send out materials for outside construction. If it was predicted to be foul, he would send materials for inside construction.
He would always include everything that he could think of that the crew would need. If light fixtures were on the load, he would include light bulbs. If beams were on the load, he would include the lag screws to fasten them.
He arranged for a mobile tool repair truck to visit each job site once a week, performing preventative maintenance, sharpening saws, and tuning up pneumatic equipment so that the crew could keep working.
The results of his project management and focus on keeping the crew making daily progress meant that his contractors completed their home building projects and average of six weeks sooner, resulting in increased profits and more projects and fewer penalties for missing contract deadlines.
What did Gary charge for his services above and beyond just filling lumber orders? What I learned made my jaw drop. He didn’t charge a cent.
But he did required one liberty. His customers gave him signature authority on their checking accounts. He told me, “All that I ask is to be paid every day.” When he pulled open his lower right drawer, it was filled with customer check books.
When you can write yourself a check from your customer’s checking account, you are not just a trusted advisor, you’re a TRUSTED trusted advisor. And you’re certainly CompetitionProof.
How can you get to this level of trust and service with your customers? You might not believe this to be possible, yet Gary did it. But none of his fellow salesmen did.
One thing you can do is get deposits. The deposit shows customer commitment. You may wish to offer a discount to be paid in advance for the project. As Alan Weiss, colleague and author of Million Dollar Consulting points out, if you get paid in advance, they aren’t going to cancel the project. And many companies have policies to take any available discount, meaning you can get advance payment more often than you may think. You become CompetitionProof.
Coming Next: More of Gary’s secrets….