Top Tips for Selling Timber
As we launch our Essential Foundations of Sales Management training course, as part of ourwider training programme, expert members of the Federation around the country share their top tips for getting the best from the fastest-selling categories of timber and wood products.
Sawmillers have spent the last decade adding value to what was once considered a commodity product. We asked Kevin Hayes, Managing Director of AKZ Timber, to give us his top tip for selling today’s sawn products:
“Make sure you are selling a product that’s fit for purpose, either graded specifically for the end purpose such as C16 or C24, or if it’s treated timber, that its treatment is suitable for the application, whether that’s to Use Class 2, 3 or 4. Sawn products are much more advanced than in the past: they have greater value to the merchant and should be treated accordingly. Customers value good presentation, uniformity and consistent quality: they also value on-time delivery, so remember to keep your promises.”
Planed square edge timber is one of the staples of the merchant trade, and is used by a myriad of building trades. Plumbers for example buy PSEs to help box in pipework, so having at least some signage towards the PSEs in the plumbing department, if not some actual product, is useful for cross-selling.
What else matters in selling this basic product profitably? We asked Phil Jones, Northern Regional Director at Snows Timber to give us his top tip:
“If you only have a small space then keep 1-inch, 2-inch, 75 x 75mm,100 x 100mm, 38 x 150mm and 38 x 225mm as a smaller stock range. If you have more space, then stocking a bigger range will enhance your sales and enable you to service a larger variety of customers.
“Labelling the products with their quality also helps,” Snows’ Phil Jones continues. “People can then appreciate the difference in what they’re buying. Fifths Redwood PSEs are a good quality, but where a higher quality finish is required then Unsorted timber should be recommended to give more of a joinery grade end result. Remember that perception is everything. If a builder sees dirty or damaged stock in the racks it’s off-putting. Check your stock regularly for damaged pieces.”
Much depends on the size of your merchant branch as to the depth of range you can display in solid timber mouldings, but what else matters in selling these products today? We asked Jason Dodd, Sales Manager at Setra Wood Products UK, for his top tip:
“Know your customer base: analysing your sales is the best way to determine whether your customers are likely to buy on price or quality. Also look around at the age of the housing stock nearby as that will help determine the selection of profiles that might give you good stock-turn. Ask your supplier’s advice if you’re reviewing your range: TTF members like Setra Wood Products are here to help.”
Although carcassing can fly out of the yard when the building season is at its height, it doesn’t mean it should be left uncared for, if you want to reap its full value. Keith Ainslie, Sales Manager for Carcassing at James Jones & Sons and chairman of the TTF’s National Softwood Division, gives us his top tip:
“Packs of carcassing aren’t like packs of bricks: they need just a tiny bit of care and attention for you to be able to sell every stick profitably. Staple an old batten to the wrap on the pack and at the end of each day re-cover the pack to give it a bit of protection from the elements. If you don’t there’s a chance that the timber could deteriorate over time if left totally uncovered.”
There is a wide variety in the qualities and types of plywoods available today. Selling them properly and profitably starts with understanding the builder’s intended end use of the product and being confident that you are selling the right product for the right purpose. We asked David Siggins, Commercial Director at panel products specialists Meyer Timber, for his top sales tip:
“Builders merchants would sell more plywood if their staff were more knowledgeable about the products and the standards that apply to them,” he says.
“To sell higher quality plywoods, and thus increase your reputation and margin opportunities, you need to be able to explain to the customer why they should be buying one product over another. There are many variable factors, from the plywood face to the core material, glue bond, and so on. That’s why at Meyer Timber we’re launching our own plywood training programme, available to all our merchant customers.”
Timber cladding for heights up to 18m on buildings is fashionable and much in demand. For selling this more technical product, John Dowd, Specialised Product Category Director at International Timber, gives us his top tip:
“Suppliers are an integral part of the supply chain, but it is merchants who must work hand in hand with their builder customers to define where and how the timber cladding will be used. We may be able to offer merchants a fire-retardant treatment for cladding, but the environment in which the cladding is to be used is vitally important, as is the backing structure. One of the key factors is whether the test data for the fire retardant treatment is appropriate for the situation in which the cladding will be used.”
With many merchants now installing kitchen showrooms in branches, augmenting the offering with timber flooring adds further value to kitchen sales for the merchant. But what’s the best way to present it? We asked Tom Dee, Flooring Manager at Brooks Brothers, for his top tip:
“Having a good selection of product options on display is essential. These needn’t take up huge amounts of space. At Brooks Brothers we make flooring display panels for our merchant customers that they can hang on the wall. Demand for these has increased substantially and we now have a waiting list for making them, so it must be proving a successful sales technique for merchants.”
With more extreme weather events occurring as climate change takes hold, fencing sales should be a key constituent of the merchant product range. We asked Martin Batts, Timber Sales Director at Balcas, for his top tip on fencing:
“Any fencing installation is only as good as the fence posts that support it. Understanding what makes a good fence post and the benefits it provides to the customer are essential.
“Any softwood fence post that comes into ground contact should be prepared and treated to a Use Class 4 ground contact specification. In the case of our Balcas Permapost Incised Rounds and Square Sawn posts, they are kiln dried and then incised at the critical ground contact level, to ensure a deep penetration of the Tanalith wood preservative. The result is a product that gives the customer a post with a 15 year service life, and is backed by the Balcas 15 year performance guarantee. This year marks over 45 years since we first introduced our Permapost range of agricultural fencing, so our fencing expertise has been relied upon for a generation.”
It’s over 20 years since the BBC’s Ground Force programme introduced the concept of decking to the nation’s gardeners. For selling today’s fast-moving landscaping products, we asked for Phil Taylor, Regional Sales Director at International Timber, to give us his top tip:
“Keep some decking samples to hand at the trade counter, especially products like anti-slip decking. When you get an enquiry, while you’re working out what decking the customer needs, ask a bit more about the installation. Do they have any steps or entrances where some anti-slip would be beneficial? Are they sure they want softwood? Can you present some hardwood and composite alternatives for them to think about? Never miss an opportunity train your staff so they’re ready to spot an opening to up-sell different, added value decking products and accessories.”