PODCASTS

Sales and Marketing Best Practices for Building Materials

Sales and Marketing Best Practices for Building Materials

 

Bobby has a great philosophy around marketing and sales and goes over simple yet powerful best practices for applying sales/marketing for reaching out (and winning business!) to homeowners and commercial buyers alike.

 

 


 

 

Podcast Participants:

Graham: Product Director Concora
Kip Rapp: CEO Concora
Bobby Vickers: Marketing and Sales Leader of Brennan Enterprises

 

Kip:

Thanks for joining. Bobby, I appreciate it. I know we talked a few days ago was looking forward to the just marketing side of it. And you had an awesome story around the use of technology. To that I think our audience would love to hear with the digital stack that you have in the Salesforce and your use of it. I do talk a lot of people, Bobby, and it’s kind of here and there sales and marketing and the processes they use. And I was very excited about talking today because it’s rare how you guys are applying those best practices, but would love to… How we start is introduce who you are, what you do and what your company does?


Bobby Vickers:

Absolutely. Well, Kip, thanks for having me on your podcast. Happy to talk, all things, sales, marketing, and operations related to the AEC industry. I’ve spent 10 years working my way up the marketing ranks at our regional remodeling company in Dallas, Texas. We work across the state and ship products outside of Texas as well. We’ve helped homeowners and architects, builders, national multi-contractors facilitate the construction of homes, apartment complexes and condo. So happy to be on the podcast with you.


Kip:

Oh, thanks. Thanks again, Bobby. And just so for our audience, so you make and sell, is it both on the commercial residential side? Could you walk us through the actual products and building materials that you sell?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah, so we supply windows and doors from manufacturers to the retail trades homeowners as well as the industry trades, where typically we’re working with either a general contractor, an architect or a developer.


Kip:

Okay. And you make your products or is it a mix?


Bobby Vickers:

We do not make our products. We buy products from the manufacturer and then resell them to those parties. And windows and doors specifically, a lot of manufacturers won’t work with end clients or the end user. They’re going to want to go through almost like a safekeeping or safeguarding. So we act as that liaison for the manufacturer and rep those products and help promote them as best we can.


Kip:

Gotcha. And so you’ll represent a multitude of manufacturers across windows and doors, and you’ll be essentially their sales and marketing arm from what I can tell?


Bobby Vickers:

That’s exactly right. Now, depending on the brand equity behind the manufacturer, sometimes they’ll present opportunities to us. Companies like Andersen or Sierra Pacific are widely known. And so they may have an outreach department or an architect, a builder may contact them looking for a specific product and installation. And then based on territory they’ll pass that contact to us. And then it’s up to us to carry that ball across the goal line.


Kip:

Gotcha. Yeah. No, that’s interesting in itself because I’ve talked to some other folks and it’s a wide spectrum of what maybe the distributor, the reseller, wholesaler does and it’s anywhere from generating their own business to taking leads from the manufacturer to being really integrated into the design process and selling process. So is it a mixed for you or do you kind of have an emphasis one way or the other?


Bobby Vickers:

It is. So when it comes to commercial projects those are usually run through the commercial side of the manufacturer. So for example, we recently landed the largest apartment complex building in Texas for Andersen and that property, that project, came through Andersen’s architectural division who then handed it off to the statewide representative for commercial projects, who then contacted us. They worked with our general manager and sales manager for two years to bring that project through. And so there were a lot of people, lots of steps, lots of time involved and here we are now getting ready to deliver our first set of product to storage containers on the ground this month.


Kip:

Oh, that’s awesome. That sounds great. And so can you walk us through a little bit about what you do specifically. It’s all marketing. Right? As far as your role or do you have other sales related types of responsibilities?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah, so I’m responsible for bringing in and closing new business from a process, procedure and technology standpoint. So that’s going to encompass marketing, but it’s also going to encompass sales, enablement and operations. So whether I’m designing a contract for our reps to use or I’m implementing an automation in Salesforce or I’m creating an inbound marketing campaign to generate awareness, I’m responsible for all of that.


Kip:

Okay. And that’s quite exciting because it appears that you have a lot of. And then responsibilities for bringing the business in and from enablement to the marketing, to the operations for delivery, I guess. Right?


Bobby Vickers:

Right?


Kip:

The logistics of all that too.


Bobby Vickers:

Right.


Kip:

And do you then have a separate sales organization or is that part of what you do?


Bobby Vickers:

So it’s all under one umbrella. So it’s under one umbrella, but there are two sides to that. Right? So marketing is built really to bring it in. And then sales is once it’s in, we facilitate it from a closed one or closed loss stage. So you can’t have one without the other, obviously. But both of them require a lot of work.


Kip:

Okay. Gotcha. Yeah. So if we maybe start with marketing and maybe we can then get into the sales enablement sales and the operation side. So in our kind of prep call, Bobby, you said a few great that I thought were awesome. Right? Before I got into marketing, I’m not an expert, I would say, but I learned here and there it’s like, what is marketing? Right? What’s really important? Right? Especially for building materials. So if you could kind of walk us through what’s important to you? What is marketing to you and how has that applied to building materials in your customers?


Bobby Vickers:

Right. So and I’m going to treat marketing for architects, builders and contractors the same as I do homeowners. Because for me, they’re going to buy the same way. One might take a little longer or have more people involved. But for me, it all boils down to trust. So from marketing. Right? You have this message of who you are? What you can do and why you’re good at it? Customers don’t necessarily care about that because I don’t think that they see your marketing as the gospel. Right? They’re saying, hey, this is like a first date. Right? This person’s coming to me with their shoes polished, their hair combed, and their teeth brushed. That’s great. And that’s the beginning of it, but that’s definitely not all of it.

So for me, it’s all about trust. And the way that I think of trust is can I trust but verify. So you’re telling me all of these things as a company, so that I call you. Right? I enter in a conversation with you. But what I want to do is verify that you are who you say you are. And the internet’s the great equalizer. It’s really challenging today to make claims that are false because it’s so easy to confirm or deny whether that’s true.

And so for me we try to preach trust that we’ve done the thing that you need done. We’ve done it before. We’ve done it well. We’ve done it for a long period of time. And I think the challenge is as a business is that you don’t want to downplay what that person is going through. So if you’re a general contractor for a 300-unit apartment complex buying windows or doors for you is challenging. It’s complicated. It’s time-consuming because there’s a financial stake in that, but for us, that’s just what we do every day. We eat, sleep and breathe windows and doors.

And so we have to walk this tightrope of saying yes, for us, it’s simple. It’s what we do but for you, it’s so complex and complicated, let us help you make a decision to buy. And we treat homeowners the same way. It’s not every day that they’re going to replace windows and doors. Our deal sizes are on the residential side 10 to 15,000 on the commercial, they’re typically six figures. And so that’s not pocket change. And so regardless of how much money someone’s bringing to the table, we just want to put them at ease that we’ve done it before. You can trust us to do it again. And let the chips fall where they may.


Kip:

That’s great. And I trust, but verify, I don’t know what book I read that or what YouTube video that I saw, but I definitely believe in that. And you put it into a context I haven’t thought about it before, which is from that shopper, that browser, that early part of the sales cycle where you want to gain trust either traditionally or digitally.

From what I’m hearing from you, you want to give that potential customer the ability to verify themselves. Is that what you mean by verify?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. And so a lot of it just thinking about the review ecosystem that we live in today. So you can review product, you can review services in the building industry, you can actually go and look at permit pools. Right? To see that this person has actually pulled a bunch of permits in an area. And so I think from a marketing standpoint and sales your ideas to just say, you’re a type of buyer that we’ve worked with before with success. Think about it like you’re hiring an employee. Right? You don’t want to hire an inexperienced employee and give them a critical role and job. Ideally, you want somebody that has success doing what you’re asking them to do at 1, 2, 3 companies and has done it above and beyond.

And so whenever people are buying building materials or they’re doing construction, they’re hiring you to do a job. And so the best and financial people will tell you that past performance is not an indicator of future success, but in construction, it kind of is. Right? If you can consistently do this thing well then the thing that we’re going to do for you is not so different. So we’ll probably do well at that too. And that’s how our reps in the field are working. That’s how our sales manager works. That’s just kind of the overall message that we want to convey is we’ve been there, done that and happy to do it again.


Kip:

How I’m interpreting what you say is the trust… We’ve done it before, we can do it again and we want to be able to not only show you our marketing efforts, but we want to show you through the people that are engaging with use is what I’m hearing with sales reps. So what would you say are the three things around trust, let’s say on the commercial side. And you said it was kind of similar to the residential side, but what I’m guessing certainly that, hey, if I want to work with your company, Bobby, I want to make sure you’ve done this a million times and it’s consistent and meets my needs as far as quality and service and conscientiousness, but what are those three or four things that equals trust in your business?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So I think one is who endorses you kind of your network or your connections. And so whenever especially in the industry. Right? So whenever somebody from the trade comes in, if we get an endorsement from a manufacturer that says something. So whenever you’re talking about Andersen, a billion dollar corporation, the largest window and door manufacturer on the residential light commercial side, that’s a big deal.

So all of a sudden vendors, general contractors, looking for someone they can trust and they get this ringing endorsement from a vendor. So that’s one. Right? I think that direct relationship is valuable. Two, what’s the internet say? Right?
So if I work with Brennan Enterprises out of Dallas and I just do a quick search, can I find them, are they easy to find? If I want to go see somebody, can I go see them? If I want to touch something, they have a showroom that I can go touch?

So to me, again, it’s that direct connection from the vendor. And then two, it’s easy to confirm that we are who we say we are and we do what we say we do. And then I think third is just how trustworthy and how well does that person communicate that you finally get in touch with. Because at the end of the day, people buy from people. And so whether you’re a, again, a 300-unit development, there’s a procurement manager that’s responsible for finalizing that deal. So that person is going to have to work with the person at Brennan to facilitate that transaction.

And so in every transaction, are we doing the best that we can? Are we honoring what we say? And are we just doing everything that we say we’ll do? So to me, it’s those three things. If you can’t do those three things, well, it doesn’t matter your price because especially from the trade, you’re looking at repeat deals. So price is important, but you’re going to want to leave that business with a thought or with this idea that man, I really want to work with Bobby again. That was easy. He was responsive. He didn’t sell me anything I didn’t need. He tried to actually actively tell me things I didn’t need. And so I think those three things, a couple of those together, and you’ve got a strong business to business approach to building materials.


Kip:

Gotcha. And the themes that I’m hearing with the trust is around performance, reliability, past performance. Are there other sides to that from, I guess, from a cultural, from service, from… Are there other things that are also important from that that are less about you can deliver it? You mentioned all the things around the endorsements and other things, but is there more of a softer side to that as far as what matters to them from a relationship, from a timeliness, other things like what you stand for as a company? Do you find those things are also important with your customers?


Bobby Vickers:

To a point. Right? So I think it really depends on what the other side is going through. And so if you just take a step back and look at the human element of it, let’s say that a procurement manager was just hired and you’re his first project. Working through that deal is going to be different than working through the guy that knows he’s getting another job in three weeks and doesn’t care. And so what I would like to say is that, oh yeah, all of these soft things are super important, but I would say that it’s only a portion of it because you don’t control the guy on the other end. Right? Is the guy or gal on the other end, if they get this project done well, are they going to get a raise or promotion? Or like I said, are they already out the door?

And so I think because especially in that level of development and in the trade, depending on if you’re working with a smaller, big shop, there’s a lot of turnover. And so sometimes you don’t even have a chance to build that relationship. You’re simply fulfilling requests. It’s an in out input, output relationship. I need X within Y timeframe. We’ll deliver that. We can do that. And then you might not hear anything. And then all of a sudden you find out that person’s gone and they’re working for a new firm or a new company.

So you just never know what the other person’s going through. And I would say this, especially custom home builders, that business is different because you’re typically working with the owner. If you’re building five or seven homes a year in Dallas, Texas area, you may not have a procurement manager. So you’re working one-on-one with the home builder. We are, again, if you get up to a national development company, that’s just a guy or gal, that’s got a job. And so it all depends on what they have, how much skin they have in the game. I think that’s whenever the softer side of the business starts to matter more. So that’s how I would approach that.


Kip:

Gotcha. And just from another angle on marketing, traditional marketing, digital marketing messaging. Could you walk us through some of the things that are important to your business what’s been working?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So I think we’ve always tried to be an educator and to present information as best we can and help people make a buying decision and align with what they’re trying to do rather than convince them to do this. So rather than convince, we want to educate. A lot of that has to do with pricing. A lot of it has to do with product options and style. So what we do is we just put all the information out there. So if you want to know what the best product to achieve a certain style is, you might find us from an organic standpoint. If you’re looking for technical specifications for products to see if it meets your needs, we’ll have that on our website also.

Our goal is to where you can find all the information that you need to answer your questions on our site. That way you don’t have to go back to a manufacturer or a different vendor. So from a marketing standpoint, we just try to write what our customers are asking about. We constantly are polling our people in the field, sales and operations. Hey, what are you hearing? What requests are you getting from your customer or from your prospect so we can help educate them before they call us?

And so for us, I think, we’re constantly gathering information. We’re always trying to run that information through this framework that says, okay, that’s what you’re seeing, let me go check my technical stuff to see if that aligns. Right? Is that search volume there? Are those queries there? Are people asking those questions in forums? And so again, research, putting that through this feedback system and then if those two things align, we’ll start creating content for it. That’s just inbound. Right?

So in addition to that, we do paid search to where we can align with what people are looking for in the space along different intents. If they’re looking to compare. If they’re looking for the best. If they’re looking to buy. We just try to show up where we think it makes sense and avoid showing up where it doesn’t. We don’t do any newspaper, radio. We don’t do any interruptive advertising. Traditionally they would say that was outbound. I actually liked some outbound techniques. We just don’t do them.

And part of that is because we’re fortunate in that almost 60% percent of our business is repeat in previous customers. So I don’t have to try as hard to get so much new business. I can be selective and get the business that makes sense for us in terms of what we want to pay. If a private equity company came in and bought us, they could just spend and throttled revenue up as high as they want. Where for us, we are a family-owned business, so we want profitable growth. And so our approach to marketing has always been a little different than what some of our competition does.


Kip:

Oh, that’s cool. So it’s definitely, as you mentioned, it sounds very evidence-based too. Thinking back to your trust and verify, if you’re getting feedback and you’re trying to write about what’s important to your audience on their buyer journeys, and then you verify that with, hey, are other people talking about that too? And if they are okay, let’s write some content, let’s do some inbound. Right? Paid or whatever it is. And so that’s great. And then is that more… When you write content, is that a myriad of, could it be blogs? Could it be just website updates? Is is it a mix of that or?


Bobby Vickers:

Great question. And I don’t remember where I heard this too. Probably somewhere LinkedIn, but the idea is to show, not tell. Right? So blog posts are great because you’re telling. Right? There is an element to show and tell that you have to tell. And so we look at blog posts is just getting the word out. Right? So give us a microphone, a megaphone, we’ll talk into it. And we’ll do that. What we’re working on now is actually creating a database of all of our job sites along with pricing information, product information and photos. So that we can actually not just tell you what we think about the industry, but we’re actually introducing a search environment and a mapping environment that says, hey, you can look across the state of Texas to find out where we’ve done jobs, how many we’ve? What the size of those deals are? What product was included as well as before, after an installation videos?

So I think taking blog content is great. It’s everybody does blog content, which is great, but that’s only going to serve one purpose. Right? Bringing your projects to life is going to serve a different purpose. And so for us, we’re doing our best to showcase our work as best as possible so that people have a clear expectation of what they’re getting and also better understand price, better understand before and after, and what goes into a project.

The other thing that we recently did was we launched a video library, essentially, it’s our own YouTube channel that all the videos are self-hosted on our video hosting platform instead of YouTube. So the reason that we did that was we didn’t want somebody to leave our site to go look for video content somewhere else.

So Kip, let’s say we have 10 years of blog content that has been written and published. We’re now starting to go and create videos that align with each of those blog posts. So let’s say that you’re a video learner and you don’t care to read blog posts, but you just want to watch videos. Well, now you can go look at installation videos, client testimonial videos, product review videos. And what is that doing? It’s showing not telling. And so I think you have to do both. And so from our standpoint, we want to make sure we have a good mix of both.


Kip:

Oh, that’s great. I like the phrasing of what you say is memorable. Trust and verify, show and tell, but chose well. Right? And when you have these because they certainly sound intuitive in the right way to go.

How do you measure if they’re working? Right? Does it always have to point to closed projects? And I know maybe this gets into Salesforce later, but there’s things the early measures of awareness and engagement and traffic and conversions, but what’s your kind of view on all that and how that the things that you’re doing are the right investments and you know where you can invest more in?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So there are people that probably have a more stringent answer, but for me, it’s kind of a gut thing. Right? So like I’ll answer the technical side, but I just want to say kind of off the cuff that if I was buying this product, these are the things that I would want. Also, if I buy product X, let’s say a car, or let’s say I buy a house. That buying experience is different than buying building materials. Right?

So whenever I go to buy a house or a car, I can get all the information ahead of time. I don’t have to talk to anybody. I can figure it all out. By the time I call, I know what I want. I know roughly what it’s going to cost. So for me, I think the things that we’re trying to do or to bring that into windows and doors. Right? What’s a $20,000 door look like, oh, here’s a picture and a list, a directory of 20 jobs where we’ve installed $20,000 doors. This is what it looks like. This is what you can expect.

So part of it is just doing what I think I would want as a buyer of the product. So that’s one, but two, of course, when you’re dealing with anything online, you can track it. So there’s a few ways specifically, you can go to Google Analytics and look at entrance pages, views, or landing page views to identify whether these pages or these elements are creating inbound traffic on their own. Right? Super valuable. The other thing you can do is set up assisted conversions and see if people go to different parts of the site, does it help them or are they more likely to convert if they go there?

So you can also do with Wister, you can do video plays. I can see how many people are watching the videos, where they’re watching them. We always look at form conversion rates. We look at phone calls. We have it set up to where we know what page somebody is on when they make a phone call or when they submit a form. So gosh, tracking and analytics it’s like this planet that exists where you can spin galaxies and so much time there as well as just from a pure product and module development of like stuff that you need. And so you can track it all but just think about yourself if you’re trying to buy something. Why it is hard, eliminate the hard and make it easy for the person that wants to buy something to give you their money. Right? I think in our research will say that like 70% of the buying decision is complete before they call you. So just don’t make it hard. I don’t know. Don’t make it hard.


Kip:

Well, it appears you have one this high intuition on because it sounds like you’ve kind of discerned this to a really accurate level for yourself. Go on what people want when they buy specially in building materials. You have a great ear towards the customer and trying to intuit or empathize to what they want to make a buying decision. And you put that together to have exactly what you came out with these stories, enabling that decision-making digitally. Right? As a self-service and trying to educate them as much as they can.

So the actual selling part of that is almost less substantial. Right? They’re just there, oh, I trust these guys, I got ratings, I got reviews. I know how to buy. I know what they’re doing. And there’s a consistent, and they’d say, oh, I can just click the button now I can…


Bobby Vickers:

You got it.


Kip:

Yeah. That’s really cool. And do you have, I’m guessing. Right? Because I don’t know your business too much, but if I’m a building owner, a GC, is there a dozen of people I can choose from Bobby? Like your company? How does that the competition work? Right? And then beyond that, just from an educational space, what makes you different versus your competition?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So the first question was asking about, how do we align or match the incoming request with our skill set of folks that we have.


Kip:

Yeah. I think for me, I was trying to understand the level of competition. So your thesis of how you do sales and marketing, what’s important. Because you said most of it is 60% repeat business. Do you have a lot of competitors and how do they do it? Right? And is there a lot of competitors one or is it a little more constraint?


Bobby Vickers:

So I’m weird, dude. I don’t pay attention to what the competition does it all. Right? So it doesn’t matter because the pie is large and it gets larger every year and we continue to do new work every day, every week, every month. So I don’t look at the competition and say, well, they’re better at X or better at Y. We simply are running our own race. And if that’s good enough, at the end of the year, into the month, into the quarter, we’ll know. And if it’s not, I’m probably not the right guy. Right?

So I’ve been here 10 years. Right? So every quarter we did better than expected. And so if I like to think that I’m the guy pushing the organization forward. Right? Because I’m not good with status quo. I’m not good what happened last year, last month, last quarter. So for me again, the competition… There’s tons of competition. Right? We’re in a multi-billion dollar industry. Dallas is one of the hottest markets in the country in terms of new construction stats,

real estate sales, remodeling activity. We’re at the top of all of that. Right? Great. Again, we try to do what works for one customer and hope that it scales and up to this point, it absolutely has.


Kip:

I really like your word view of what you do in the sales and marketing and what your customers want and kind of fulfilling that. And then I was just thinking about, how’s that different from your competitors? What are those things that? Because obviously things are working independent of how you compare it, but what is different? Are they more tactical? Is there less of them? That’s what I was trying to understand.


Bobby Vickers:

Right on. So I would say that, like any business. Right? There’s high, middle and low. Most of the people are in low because it’s easier to sell a cheap product than it is an expensive product. So our business is no different. We have a couple of big players that market differently. They advertise differently because they command a different price point. Right? So I think those guys that are in traditional media typically are more expensive or they have a scale that they can be less expensive because they’re doing it across the country.

So the way that our business is structured to be in Dallas and operate throughout the state. Our approach is just a little different because of the way that we serve clients in the region that we cover. We also aren’t necessarily looking for every opportunity. And the other thing I would say is our sales approach is different. Right? So we’re consultative sales. It takes on average 30 to 40 days to close a deal with us where a lot of companies will try to facilitate and close that deal at the first interaction because they’re moving on to the next one. Right?

And so for us, our sales approach is less pressure it’s more educational. So I would say two things, one is just scale of the company. That’s going to dictate how they market. If you can run a national TV ad, you’re going to get lower ad costs, which makes it affordable to do it in all these markets. Same thing with newspaper mailers or Hulu at TV advertising.

And then I would say, the second thing is 10 years ago, we adopted digital only. Right? We cut out yellow pages, we cut out yellow book, we cut out pretty much everything that was not digital. We were one of the first, I think our HubSpot ID starts with a thousand, which are, it’s like 10 something, something, something, something. So it starts with a hundred thousand. We joined HubSpot in 2010 before they were public, before they were valued at 24, 25 billion, whatever it is today. And we just didn’t quit. Right?

So I think part of it is just like we stayed the course and have been staying the course for 10 years. I think it’s 90% of companies don’t make it five years. We’ve been doing just this one marketing channel for 10, not to mention the fact that we’ve been around for 41. So I think just consistency over time. Right? So I like to say that in consistency lies the power. And so I think we’ve been consistent and we’ve stayed on top of it. We’ve kept pushing where the competition may be is trying to do too much or they’re simply just not adopting digital first.

And I think you’ve said this before, whenever you say marketing or digital marketing, to me, there’s just one. It’s digital, nothing else. It’s just digital. And so that’s just a mindset that we’ve operated with because it’s worked. If I was a startup founder or if I was a national player, sure, maybe something else makes sense, but for us being in Texas that’s just kind of what we’ve done and it’s been so successful we haven’t gotten away from it.


Kip:

That’s cool. So when you say the one marketing channel you’re referring to digital marketing?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So for me, digital is everything. So it’s inbound. It’s paid search. It’s video. We don’t dabble in social media marketing for us. That’s more of a communications channel than it is a revenue generating channel. And I know there are people out there making money, hand over fist. That’s just not who we are and the way that we’ve operated today. So for us, it’s digital. I think we have a few channels where they send out these print publications to high net worth individuals that’s been somewhat successful, but the cost of that is locked into a cost of acquisition percentage.

So it’s almost they’re charging it’s digital when it’s print. And so we can get behind that. We’re not losing sticks in the mud, we’ll try anything and we’ll give everything a chance. And if it works great, if not we’ll just reallocate those funds somewhere else.


Kip:

When you say we, is that your team or a marketing agency or both?


Bobby Vickers:

I say we as a company because I don’t like to talk about myself because there’s a lot of people that go into what we do. So when I say we… I mean, as an organization, they’ve entrusted this to me. And so I don’t ever like to say me, but we approach it a certain way. And up to this point that’s been good and we know things are changing. Right? And we’re trying to change with it.


Kip:

That’s cool. Yeah. And so I wanted to switch a little bit to the Salesforce side and it’s something that I really admired about what you said in our prep was the ability to track marketing sales, sales funnel, the deals that you win. And then it sounds like you’re also tracking the fulfillment through Salesforce. So maybe walk us through the beginning part of that because that’s the biggest hurdle I see with a lot of companies is that, one, they don’t have CRM.

That’s their biggest. We use Excel or something and it’s like, okay, but then, I mean, how do you adopt the culture? Because garbage in, garbage out. If you’re having big gaps of things in your worldview of data then it’s hard to make any decisions or understanding from that. So how did you get to where you are today?


Bobby Vickers:

I guess we created the culture that we wanted. Right? We were a small team. I mean, I think there’s 20 of us now in the office and there’s a few more out. I think we just knew that we wanted to be the best. Right? And so what we did was… We said, okay, what’s the best widget. Right? Not the best for us in construction because there’s a lot of segments of any tool. Right? So whenever you talk to CRM or you talk e-signature or you talk CMS for a website, there’s a lot of dumb down tools that say, oh, we’re the best for a plumber. We’re the best for an HVC company. We’re the best for our garage door company. Great. But what’s the best of best. Right? It’s probably not that.

So we leaned into Salesforce six years ago, 2015. And I remember having a conversation with our former GM who thought that the best approach was to build our own CRM. And I think it took two or three years and the maintenance costs. And so this is like 2010, 11, 12. Right? So we’re building this thing. We call it Blink. I don’t even know what Blink is. Blink is about how… The uptime was Blink. Right? It was up and down, up and down, up and down.

And so he said we don’t need Salesforce. It’s too much. We just need to build this thing. Well, whenever we took a step back and said, okay, 2015, how do we manage a thousand jobs a year with 10 people? We couldn’t. Right? It was Excel. I remember our form submissions were coming into four different emails. And then somebody was going to put them in a spreadsheet. And then they were putting comments as they were calling them.

And so 2015 we said, or 2014, we said, listen, we bought a new building. We got a new logo. We’re building a new website now’s the time. And so the way we looked at it was what’s the best CRM available to us regardless of cost.


Kip:

And HubSpot, I guess didn’t have their CRM back then?


Bobby Vickers:

Okay. So good question. Technology is funny. Right? So you could look at HubSpot and Salesforce and look at them as competitors, but it wasn’t that way to begin with. So originally there was HubSpot, there was Marketo, there was Eloqua, there was Pardot. Right? You’re talking about the big marketing automations. They were all coming of age at around the same time. HubSpot says, oh, we’re marketing automation. We’ll add a CRM later. Salesforce said, hey, we’re a CRM, but we have so much coin we’ll just buy Pardot. So they bought Pardot, integrated Pardot. They created their own marketing channel, their own marketing suite. For us, when we looked at the equation, we simply wanted CRM. We already had marketing automation from HubSpot from 2010 up to this point.

We still have HubSpot for marketing automation. So we went Salesforce. Right? So the way we looked at Salesforce at the time was, let’s say that our investment was $40,000 annually. We said, okay, what $40,000 employee can be this productive. And the answer to that is a big fat zero. Nobody. Nobody can know all of that. Nobody has that recall. Nobody works 24-7-365. Nobody has that much uptime. Nobody takes the zero days off.

So for us, if we just looked at it instead of, hey, this is an expense and said, okay, this is a hire. Right? We have a job to do. We’re hiring Salesforce to do said job. It made the biggest difference, Kip. Our top salesperson in a year would do 1.1, 1.2, 1.3. Literally the first year we get Salesforce, we talk about templates and deal tracking and updates. We’re looking at over 2 million the first year that it’s fully implemented. Which I think it’s over a 70% increase from 1.2 to two. Right? So it’s just, I don’t know, it was a no-brainer.

But we made the decision because we wanted the best, not the best for us. We don’t look at the home improvement industry as the place to get ideas, to get better. We look at the Fortune 100, give me the NASDAQ. Right? Give me the S&P, give me BlackRock, give me Salesforce, give me Gong, give me… And I know Gong still private.

But give me Calendly that’s still private. Right? Give me HubSpot. I mean, we were trying to mimic HubSpot and Salesforce and IBM, 10 years ago, instead of trying to find the best construction company in Dallas or the best construction company in Atlanta, because we wanted the best. Not the best of a really small portion. So our outlook has just been a little different, I think, from the onset, at least since I’ve been here in 2010.


Kip:

No. It makes sense. It’s like, why reinvent the wheel? I mean, you have, I guess, some personalities that just want to build everything. Maybe it’s like, wait, you can do it. It only takes a week to do it. But then you have these best in class software at a universal level as you’re talking about that we should adopt those. Right? They should work for building materials. And so with Salesforce, where, as you mentioned, you had a chance to define the culture of how you adopt technologies from HubSpot. I guess, Salesforce was probably one of those that was one of the early softwares to really have participation in. Is based on our prep that we had is, for that to be really valuable, people have to use it correctly and use it consistently.

So that’s kind of where if you can talk to about the important elements of participation and then how you got people to participate. And I know in our prep, you actually document all the way down to close to opportunities to fulfillment. It sounds like so.


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So I think with salespeople, it’s easier because there’s a carrot and there’s a stick. The carrot is coin, shackles, Benjamins, and the stick is not. Right? No salesperson wants to hear crickets. Right? They don’t want to make no money. So I know that’s not proper English, but no, I think from the sales-

 

Kip:

No money.


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So from a sales perspective, we said, listen, we did this to help organize the next 10, 20, 30 years of the company into a way that’s a manageable, scalable growth. If you do these things, Salesforce has case studies that these things will help. Right? It will improve your close rate. It’ll improve your deal size. It’ll make it easier for you to go home and be with your kids and not have to work from 7:00 to 10:00 at night and on the weekends. And so if you, again. Right? If you just take a step back and close your eyes and you say, what type of life do I want? It’s I want control of my time and I want money. Right?

And so Salesforce gave them back time and more money. So from a salesperson perspective, that’s not a hard sell. Our sales folks were a little different in that some of them were in their sixties or late fifties when this happened. So we’re teaching 50, 60-year-olds how do you Salesforce, when Salesforce wasn’t even adopted in some ad agencies and manufacturers that were multiples more than we were. Right? But we just made the investment. We said, here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll do monthly trainings. We’ll do independent trainings. We had a great, great Salesforce consultant, shout out Jeff Althouse who helped us set it up, did all the trainings.

So from a sales perspective, we knew that we were on the right path. When it comes to office staff, it’s different. Right?  And it’s different because, again, if you just look at them as people, our office staff is, we don’t require a lot of experience. We’re paying typically hourly wages or lower salary because the thing that we do, it’s not that it’s not hard, but it’s a little mundane and it’s repeated.

And so we wanted to make sure that we had a system that we could teach to anyone and make it simple. And again, Jeff Althouse helped us with training and documentation. So when we would hire somebody, we would just say, hey, there’s only one way, it’s this way. And so a lot of those folks were new. 2015 to 2021, I don’t know that we, gosh, I would say almost every key position is different now. And so anybody that came on after 2015, they only learned one way and they’re still here. And so they had to work.

So we didn’t really allow the garbage in because we would catch it. Right? We would have monthly meetings to where we would say, okay, here’s the stuff that we saw that was wrong. This is how we want to fix it and why next month let’s do it differently. And so just by doing that over time, we’ve gotten better results. And so we can predict really closely to how much revenue we’re going to have 2, 3, 4 months from now based on revenue pipelines, based on deals in the hopper, based on lead count and lead forecasting a year-over-year, we have a pretty good idea where our year’s going to end up, our quarters going to end up. And that’s been super helpful in terms of planning for new hires. When is it time to hire sales? When is it time to hire operations?

So in terms of getting everybody on board, yes, sales, they had to because that’s how they did their job. Internal office. They had to, because that’s how we train them for day one. And we actually use Salesforce to manage our business as much as our salespeople use it to sell. So we created a couple of unique objects. We created a project details object that aligns our product style, quantity, distribution center, installation, order information, and job costs all into one unique object.

We also created a commission bank. We call it the Brennan Bank where art guys can check their commission status is in real time and see inflows and outflows of what’s coming their way. So in addition to just operationally, we also wanted it as a tool to hire and say, hey, listen, talk to me about how much money you’re making. Let me back up. Whenever we’re interviewing a potential sales rep, we say, hey, how is your money managed? How do you know your deals? How do you know your commissions? What do you know your net looks like for the next 30, 60 days?

A lot of times they have no idea. They have to call in, get a spreadsheet, take whatever the person tells them on the other end is the gospel. And then they get whatever check is coming their way or for us, we wanted them to self-serve and say, hey, you can see your commissions over the last… For as long as you’ve worked here, you can see your commissions. If you want to initiate a draw, you can.

And so we just wanted to make it, again, it’s kind of the eyeball test. If you close your eyes and think about a perfect world and I’m a salesperson, I always want to know how much money I’m owed. I want to know how much I’ve been paid. And I want to know what I stand to earn. And so we tried to do the same thing with Salesforce that we do with marketing and sales and just make it helpful to the people that need it and just think about it in such a simple framework. What do you want? Can we do the thing you want? We’ll do it or no, it doesn’t make sense based on what we’re in the middle of right now, but we always try to be accommodating to our team.


Kip:

Yeah. No, that’s great. Sorry. So the Salesforce… So the way I’m kind of thinking about what you’re doing is that HubSpot brings in a lot of the leads. You’re a hundred percent digital. So I think a lot of it might go through HubSpot, eventually hit Salesforce, and then your salespeople then track the opportunities. And you mentioned something else that when they’re out there talking to people, trying to win business, and I assume all that tries to get into Salesforce. And is there a point where the salespeople lose visibility and then they got the bed and then you have all these kind of things that might be happening that you mentioned at some point that other people like your office staff are entering. Are they also helping supporting the funnel, the sales funnel, providing clarity and information into Salesforce, along with the salespeople?


Bobby Vickers:

The office staff does not support sales. So sales, once it’s in the deal-making stage that sales, sales can talk to management to figure out if they need something, are they looking for a particular case study? Are they looking for a specific set of photos to support that request? Are they looking for a testimonial from somebody that’s had that product before?

So that’s really the involvement that anybody outside of that particular rep will have with a deal. Operations deals with it after. Right? So like our production department, installation department, until it becomes a deal, there’s no visibility because there’s no need. On the front end of that customer service is taking the contact information from HubSpot. It’s automatically integrated in Salesforce.

We’re reaching out. And then once we hand the deal off, the front of the business customer service done. So really the rep is on an island and we trust them to do their jobs and we evaluate and monitor that by deal sizes, close rates and profitability per job.


Kip:

Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s great. So in that case, if I’m a sales rep, I’m on my island and I’m caring and feeding Salesforce based on the leads that I have, the opportunities I have. And then I’m not as familiar with the whole pipeline in the stages and building materials, but is that the general ideas, then they’re tracking where that is in the pipeline. So if it’s out the bid, if it’s with these GCs, if you have proper coverage to make sure you win the business for whatever project that’s on, is that what you try to get into Salesforce?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. So if I’m a rep, I’m getting an opportunity once an appointment has been set. Right? So my opportunity stage is appointments that. For mayor, what I want to do is I want to get that into a pending opportunity stage and then we have a subset underpinning, a why is it pending? And so what we want to see is pending quote supplied or pending awaiting decision.

So depending on their conversations, they’re updating that if it’s, let’s say it’s Friday night and I send out a proposal, it’s going to be pending quote supplied. Let’s say Tuesday morning, they call me back and I need to rework or make some modifications, then I’ll go and update my opportunity stage pending reason maybe to rework required or additional information requested. So that’s how we ask our reps to do it because we… And I forget the number but salespeople spend most of their time doing administrative work, not selling. Now administrative work is part of it, but it’s not the part that makes them money. It’s the part that gives us visibility and insight. Right?

So I think we’ve always limited what we ask our reps to do because we want them to be out talking product knowledge, helping people, identifying problems, providing solutions, being creative, adding notes to Salesforce, or adding a task to Salesforce. So what we realized though, is there’s a pattern. The best reps in our organization in terms of win rates and average deal size, they’re more active in Salesforce than everyone else.

And so while we don’t keep our thumbs down on them, a hundred percent of the time, we try to recommend and encourage them to use it because the reps that use it, they have better pay stubs at the end of the year.


Kip:

Oh, that’s great. I kind of see it as to be a successful salesperson there’s a science to it, and there’s an art and the science in your case is Salesforce. And your high caliber reps will know that both of that’s needed and they’ll participate more.


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah. And I don’t want to present myself as an expert on sales enablement or operations. I’ve done a high-level job of it, but there are folks out there that take everything to another level that have the cadence is down, the right verbiage, if you don’t respond to an email, they’re sending you a message on LinkedIn and they’re following you on Facebook and they’re tweeting at you. And I think that there’s a place for that but in B2C that’s hard because that almost becomes invasive. B2B it’s different if you’re working with a national general contractor or an architect that’s different.

But B2C you had to be very careful about how invasive you are because a lot of those folks may or may not know that that technology exists or that level of insight and outreach is there. And so there’s a line. There’s just a line that we try to pay attention to.


Kip:

Yeah. Awesome. I know we’re a little towards the end of our session here, and I wanted to thank you again for the time and really enjoyed the journey from the elements of marketing the trust and verify and then moving through that across your team and the culture. And this balance that you have, the gut feel that you have plus listening to the customers and just walking in their shoes. Right? Because that’s kind of a common theme that I hear from you is, you just try to figure out what they need to make a buying decision and support that where it’s a lot about the showing side, not the telling side of what you do.

And just kind of that culture you have with the not the HubSpot, but the Salesforce. That’s really cool too. And you certainly have a great set of team there where you’re able to have them adopt this type of style that it’s like, you’re out, let’s say you’re on a football team or basketball team, oh yeah, there is a playbook here. And it’s not a hundred pages long, but it’s certainly there that we can try to make sure that everyone does this in a way, and everyone will win out of it. But I really appreciate your time today, Bobby, if people needed to reach out to your company or you, how could they do that?


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah, Kip, thanks for having me. It’s been a joy. I’ve enjoyed the interaction with you and hopefully the folks listening have picked up one or two things that helps them do something in their job to get them the next promotion that lets them take a week off at their family or take every other Friday off whatever that looks like for them.

So for me, our company is Brennan Enterprises. We are at brennancorp.com. And if they wanted to reach out to me personally, my email is just info@bobbyvickers.com. I do from time to time help other businesses with marketing and sales. I always love to chat with smart, curious people about what it is that I’ve done and love to learn more about those folks as well. So thanks again for having me.

 

Kip:

Oh, awesome, Bobby. Yeah, it was a joy talking to you and looking forward to talking to you again sometime.


Bobby Vickers:

Sounds good, Kip. Thanks dude.


Kip:

All right. Thanks. You’ll be…


Bobby Vickers:

Yeah.


Kip:

I wanted to thank everyone again for listening to our podcast. And if you’re interested in knowing more about Concora, we help building product manufacturers get specified and purchase more by providing a great web experience that’s bolted onto your website. It makes it easy for your architects, engineers, and contractors to do business online with you. We sum it up as three things. It’s providing a good web experience, good content and good tools. And we have some great tools such as metals, sustainability, project showcases, or anything else needed by our design community to specify and purchase products. We’d be more than happy to show you a quick demo and you can go to concora.com, to learn more. Read case studies and see how other customers have grown sales with our partnership.


Graham:

All right, folks that wraps us up for today’s show. So you can find our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and SoundCloud by searching for the kind of Concora Corner. And if you’d like to, we’d love a rating and a short review if you listen on Apple. Any feedback is appreciated on any of our shows that are coming out and, or just the show in general, or if you just want to say hello. You can find out more about Concora and our services at www.concora.com. We’re on Facebook at facebook.com/concoraLLC. We are on Twitter @Concora and you can find us on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/Concora. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

 

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