The Missing Link in the Timber Sales Process

05/03/2019

Felix Choo

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As we meet the new year and move full steam ahead into 2019, our minds turn to what the year ahead has in store for us. Inevitably, the ever-changing landscape of the Australian Timber industry will have a few tricks up her sleeve, and it looks as though we are set for another year of changing environments. 

From a quick search on Yellow Pages, we can learn that the Timber industry has on average a ratio of 4.4 retail yards to every 1.0 wholesaler in the country, and this disparity has wholesalers fighting hand over fist for the same business.

While many factors lead us to this situation, these figures give us an indication of how competitive the timber industry truly is.

In any industry that fluctuates with supply and demand and the requirements of the ever-changing building industry environment, sales and repeat business are a must for growth. 

Having over 15 years of experience in the Australian Timber industry, I have written this article with the intention of providing you with ideas on how to differentiate your business and how you can utilise technology to help increase sales, without incurring any additional staff overheads, and enhance customer experience. 

The traditional Timber sales model

Before I outline recommendations, let's revisit the current sales model. In the Timber industry, the traditional sales model is still heavily reliant on face to face, fax or over the phone communication. 

To ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty, these are the primary factors that play a role in how we do business:

  • Customer Service

    • Relationships and quality of service

  • Products

    • Availability 

    • Differentiation 

    • Quality

  • Price

    • Differentiation and competitiveness 

These are all fundamental business drivers, and they will deliver sales. However, any enlightened business manager is aware of these key areas of customer service and competitive product delivery and when we're all working on the same wavelength, it becomes harder for us to stand out from the crowd and gain a competitive advantage. 

Through the use of technology, you can add a must-have element to this sales model and enhance your point of difference. 

Timber sales

Customer Experience

Utilising technology in the sales process will not only greatly benefit your business, but also importantly, provide your customers with a greatly enhanced experience when negotiating and buying from you.

But before you take a step towards customer service, it is essential that we identify the typical customer profile so that you can understand the importance of adding the element of customer experience into the mix. 

Timber Sales Process

Typical customer profile

Generally, we can define the average Timber customer by the following characteristics:

  1. Time poor – these are usually small family operations working hard to fulfil customer needs. In larger operations, simply because of their volume, even though staff numbers increase, this compounds the issue with your point of contact as they continuously juggle between the myriad of tasks daily within their own environment.

  2. Instant gratification – In these modern times, a piece of information is literally at the tip of your fingers through the availability of smart devices. As a result, customers will take to you much better and consider you to be more reliable if accurate information can be provided almost instantly. Not to mention the small window of opportunity to “Seal the deal” quickly. 

  3. Stock availability – the customer wants assurance they will receive their deliveries the next day, or at least within an agreed timeframe. Whilst there is some latitude in this, the customer generally will simply shop with whoever makes it easiest for them. 

A new sales model for the timber industry

The way we do business is changing. Traditionally, communication and sales in the Timber industry have been face-to-face or by fax or phone. However, with advancements in technology and the number of new systems that are regularly being released, we need to utilise these opportunities to move the Timber industry into the 21st century. 

The traditional sales model has changed and not just in the Timber industry. Consumers want more from their suppliers. With the advancement of technology and companies such as Amazon providing a completely online sales experience, consumers want a seamless digital purchasing experience. 

I hear all the time that my customers are happy with the current approach saying, “face to face sales and coming to my warehouse when they need something works for me”. To set the record straight, I believe that, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but by the same token, if you only utilise 50% of your sales potential, then you are missing 50% of opportunities. 

Using technology to improve your sales process will deliver a competitive advantage as you are adding more and more touchpoints from where customers can seamlessly purchase your products. Some people are busy and don’t want to speak over the phone or go back and forth over fax and email. They want to log on to your website and purchase your products.  

By utilising modern business management (ERP) products like TIMMSanywhereyou can enjoy features such as:

  1. Customer Portals – these enable B2B customers to view their accounts, pay their invoices, or simply check on the status of their order.

  2. Online Shop – B2B customers can also use an online shop that can only be accessed via a unique log-in. These customers will be able to see products at their contract prices and gain real-time information on stock availability. This also provides the facility for your customers to order during the hours when your sales office is closed or if someone is sick.

  3. Booking of Delivery Dates – this feature enables the customer to book in a preferred date and time for delivery of their goods. You can either choose to allow the purchaser to make their own reservation or simply use this feature to inform your warehouse of their preferred date/time to allow your despatch staff to plan deliveries effectively and in advance.

  4. Product Information – through the availability of an online shop and customer portal, information such as Installation Instructions, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), etc. are available immediately as and when required, rather than the customer emailing or calling someone from your business for assistance. 

  5. Upselling – you can also upsell complementary products or suggest alternatives through your online shop if the product the customer requires is not readily available.

Timber sales model

With the right technology, your customers would be able to access valuable information and make light work of enquiries that typically require a response from your sales staff. This also breaks the boundaries of being restricted to office hours because of staff availability.

In conclusion, there are many ways of achieving a solution to any given challenge that your business might be faced with. Technology can prove to be the primary differentiator in the short term, with longer-term benefits, if your company can embrace it.

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Felix Choo  MBA B.ENG – CEO,  TIMMSanywhere™

Having worked in national and senior roles in both Timber and Packaging Industries, Felix has gained significant experience and knowledge in a variety of businesses and business processes. Being a creative problem-solver, he is a great listener and seeks to understand a client’s challenges and difficulties, before strategising and proposing a solution.

Felix is a man of many talents, approaching challenges head on which assists his strategic decision making by turning ideas, thoughts, or even a bit of scribble on a post-it note, into massive action with excellent results. Felix is passionate about working side by side his clients as they grow and he works with them to achieve great things. 

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