Release costs and cope with demand in the construction sector


  • Plan effectively, increase value by targeting new products at customer aspirations
  • Influence the right people at the right stage of a project
  • Develop sales teams effectively to protect margins
  • Identify big fish customers and develop a growth plan
  • Adopt a strategic view of the market

The construction industry has come through a period of considerable change of late, after surviving one of the longest recessions in memory it finds itself facing a sudden boom as large scale infrastructure projects get off the drawing board. Managing both famine and feast requires organisations to both flexible and resilient. Working with a number of construction organisations on strategic development and customer planning during this period, Star Commercial has identified key insights which have application across the sector.

In lean times, companies need to focus on cost control through efficiency and effectiveness. This means:

Plan more effectively - Organisations need to understand the value and potential of existing customers while targeting new projects. This means sales people need to use a customer management approach to maintaining customers while also increasing their efficiency and effectiveness through better business targeting.

Unpack the decision and influence upwards. Ensure proper access and added value at project development stage. If this is done properly, it moves customers to a position where they become part of the solution. This improves project conversion rates and holds margins at an acceptable level when competitors are focussed on cost reduction.

Develop the people. When the market looks dry as the Gobi desert, it’s tempting for sales people to revert to price and sacrifice margins. With this in mind, Star Commercial trained sales people to:

  • Challenge this mind-set and explore ways to add value
  • Positively influence the sales solution
  • Influence the choice of supplier

When business takes an upturn organisations who’ve successfully retained customers now face challenges around coping with demand. Success here depended on:

Customer Planning – identifying those ‘big fish’ customers within each region and developing a growth plan. This allows organisations to forecast demand, get the right kit in the right place and order additional kit to meet forecasted demand.

Business Planning - Adopting a strategic view of the market and understanding the key principles of business development:

  • Knowledge
    of available market and potential growth
  • Targeting key growth customers
  • Undertaking relevant research
  • Creating ‘go to’ plans with stakeholder maps
  • Developing the game changing proposition
  • Understanding the strength of the competition
  • Pitching the proposal with impact

The challenge for organisations was to ensure normal day to day operations were effective, while long term opportunities were kept strongly in mind.

Solution Based Sales – It was quickly evident that the best sales people had strong technical knowledge, established relationships and good communication skills. This provided credibility during problem-solving discussions. However, it also became clear that even the most skilled sales people turned wheeler dealer when it came to securing contracts – a risk to any organisation’s long term growth. Solution Based Sales offered a rigorous way to bring significant added value to projects by offering:

  • Proper targeting of key projects
  • Greater rigorous need qualification
  • Building a complete commercial argument
  • Using decision-making and influence planning
  • Structuring a proposal rather than a quotation
  • Presenting the proposal with impact

Evaluations from three separate Solution Based Programmes highlighted the following:

‘It was really different from the way I used to do this.’

‘Driving much more thought before I go sell.’

‘Requiring an internal sell before I go to the customer.’

‘Saves me loads of times as well as getting better result.’


Key points to make Solution selling effective are:

  • Active sponsorship from business leaders
  • A guiding coalition of branch and sales managers (alignment between operations and sales)
  • Ongoing investment in sales skills practice opportunities
  • A relaxed learning environment (off-site)
  • Simple, easy to use tools
  • Recognition of and rewards for achievement
  • Cross-functional involvement (help desk/call centre/branch/logistics)


Star Commercial Academy works with construction organisations involved in large scale infrastructure projects and suppliers to private developers.

If you want to find out more about this subject, please contact Mark Hollyoake

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Feb 26, 2015 | Posted by in News & Views, Views | 0 comments

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