Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Building material dealers, aka lumberyards, have largely withstood the effects of the internet over the last 20 years. While Amazon relegated bookstores to novelty operations and other product and service providers took their offerings online, lumberyards’ operations have largely remained unchanged. The internet has improved communication with vendors and clients and certainly improved ordering capabilities (anyone remember ordering items off microfiche?). However, the day to day of salespeople chasing builders and other customers around asking for jobs to quote is still pretty much status quo.
The internet has enabled the builder to often times possess more product knowledge than the lumberyard’s salesperson. Builders (and DIY-ers) have a 24-hour endless source of information for building materials accessible on their smart phones, tablets, and home computers. If they have a question they can crowdsource an answer on Facebook or any number of internet message boards frequented by every town’s resident know-it-all looking hunting for attention. The point is, the local lumberyard is no longer the authority on building material knowledge in their local markets and anything they’ve learned is located somewhere on the internet!
So, what value does the local lumberyard, and by extension, their salesperson, provide?
The cold hard truth: not much. At least on the front end of the sale. Sure, every salesperson from here to China will argue their value, but in reality, most are glorified babysitters coaxing orders out of customers that could more efficiently do the same thing online with much greater accuracy, saving time and money for both sides. They are leftover from legacy methods of business. Now don't get me wrong, there are capable salespeople who can up-sell, cross sell and provide value to their customers, but they are not the norm in material supply today/ (AKA my ‘get out of jail free’ card for any salespeople reading this post! You're the best buddy, you're the best!).Where lumberyards provide their greatest value is on the back end of the sale: maintaining adequate stock of merchandise, breaking down large quantities, coordinating deliveries, identifying special orders and processing returns. Don’t believe me? Look at how Home Depot and Lowe's operate and tell me they aren’t consciously conceding product knowledge for product depth and winning because of it. (Sorry Mr. Blank and Mr. Lowe, or whoever owns those companies for the truth bomb, if you're upset about it I'm sure you can find me to yell at me.)
Obviously, there is a portion of the lumberyard’s value proposition that is ripe for disruption. Many people, specifically millennials, prefer to order online and cringe at the thought of answering their phone from an “unknown” number. They certainly don’t want to waste time visiting a storefront talking face to face, especially if its not right around the corner. So, what’s the answer to serving these types of customers in the future? Online solutions are key, but there’s also a limit to how many websites people will visit looking for the shop the same product. Those online solutions that do exist are looking to cut out the middleman. In this case, the lumberyard is the middleman! Where does that leave the lumberyard? Well, thankfully Amazon hasn’t figure out how to deliver 2x4s via drone, nor have they figured out how to deliver bulky items in jobsite specific quantities. But that day will surely come if lumberyards don’t do something to adapt sooner, rather than later.
LBMSupply.com is that solution. It includes lumberyards in the solution while offering value to builders and other building material customers. We allow material dealers to compete on merit based metrics like stock levels, delivery times, on-time and in full metrics, and return policies while eliminating much of the gamesmanship of manipulating quote quantities and salespeople begging for orders. LBM reduces lumberyard overhead through streamlining sales processes and eliminating redundant estimating procedures, allowing material dealers to expand sales without adding headcounts or to streamline expenses with a positive bottom line impact.
If you would like to talk more about LBM’s value proposition and how it can help lumberyards, feel free to reach out, we would love to talk to you!