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7 Ways to Grow Your Outside Sales Business

An outside sale program can lead to a lucrative and reliable stream of revenue for your company. It’s likely a program you’ll build slowly over time as your sales representatives create long-term relationships with customers. Hardware Retailing gathered these tips from experts in outside sales who have years of experience building a successful sales team. Chad Andersen and Dave Hoglund share how they’ve helped grow outside sales at Builders. Bill Baldwin, who runs B2B Consulting Solutions, shares how he has helped Toole’s Ace Hardware develop a successful sales program.

Anticipate needs.

Hoglund is a vice president at Builders’ Kearney, Nebraska, location. The Builders company consists of two home improvement centers in Nebraska, a lumberyard in Denver and countertop and truss manufacturing facilities. He works alongside a team of about 20 salespeople. He says that the most effective salesperson helps customers solve problems. Customers who see you as their trusted adviser will give you more of their business. When you become a trusted adviser, you also begin to anticipate their needs and stay one step ahead of them as they start to talk about new projects they’re working on. 

“Anticipating a customer’s needs takes time to develop. You need to learn each customer’s preferences and spend a lot of time listening,” Hoglund says.

Talk about price later.

It can be tempting to get new customers by offering the lowest price. However, if you want to be in it for the long haul, sell value before you sell price. That’s Baldwin’s approach. His independent consulting firm is working with a team of sales representatives at Toole’s Ace Hardware, which has 11 locations in Florida. 

“The first thing every potential customer wants to ask is ‘How much can you save me?’ We shift the focus away from the price and tell them we want to educate ourselves on their business. Then, we can offer a pricing strategy that is best for them,” Baldwin says.

Be a product expert.

Andersen also works at Builders, as a vice president of the company. Sales representatives who want to be successful need to have a firm grasp of product knowledge, because that is how they will differentiate themselves from their competitors. 

“If you can walk onto a job site and show a potential customer all of the ways you can save them money and eliminate mistakes, then that experience and solid product knowledge can get you loyal customers pretty quickly,” Andersen says. 

Start small.

Don’t walk away from a small sale, because it could eventually turn into a larger customer. Focus on value and long-term potential rather than short-term success. 

“Look for small wins to start and grow your B2B sales. Most retailers who focus on big dollar transactions to start have lower success rates,” Baldwin says. 

Share ideas.

Whether it’s reading an article in a trade publication, attending a roundtable discussion or chatting with a fellow retailer at a wholesaler market, take every advantage to build your knowledge of outside sales. 

Learn from your peers in the industry. Ask questions. Establish a network of people who are willing to share ideas and best practices. Those conversations will make your business stronger. 

Refine your elevator pitch.

Before approaching a new customer, learn as much as you can about them. Then, when you have the opportunity to talk to them for the first time, you can show them you understand their needs.

“You have to spend a lot of time with new accounts and learn what they need because every company is different,” Andersen says. “Then, once you get them dialed in, you’ll spend less time because you understand what they want.”

Hire a consultant.

If you want personalized, professional advice in starting up your own outside sales team, look for an outside consultant to help. Bill Baldwin is an independent sales consultant who helps retailers find the right B2B sales solutions for their business. To learn more, contact him at 386-588-9900, or b2bconsultingsolutionsllc@gmail.com. 


About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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