Trusses are a solution, not a product

My mentor is a truss salesman, not a designer.  Always he says of his selling mentality, “my trusses are free – you pay for my information!” This is more than superficially true, as I have noticed him time and time again convince builders to use prefabricated components who would have avoided them had he not provided what’s more than a quote and a business card: an aptitude for spotting and solving their building-related problems, and the spike of confidence he injects while doing so.

Consider that “building-related problems” are not specific to engineered components – a building is a complex organism with many related parts.  It is only natural for a component designer or salesman to settle into the groove of the same tired record, thinking only of the trusses being sold or designed, thinking in terms of pitches and heel heights and thin margins.

Question: Imagine yourself in the customer’s place; what does he want more badly than cheap trusses?

Answer: a good building built swiftly, with no errors and no hassle from the inspector. solution

Consider what you have to offer from your position in the industry. You almost certainly deal with information and design, and the components you design have a severe impact upon the efficiency of the buildings you consult on. Do you aim to sell your product, or do you aim higher: to provide solutions? You are in a position to provide insight and key knowledge to busy and frazzled builders who worry at night.  Do you sell trusses, or do you actually sell information? Do you solve their headaches, simplify their lives, reduce their cycle time, help their drywall subs, get them their next draw, reduce chatter and confusion on the job site, decrease the risk of framing errors, lower their hardware material costs?

The best products to sell are those with no overhead: information and insight.

So get information, get insight, and sell them – sell them like its 2008. Do not waste time learning how to specify trusses; learn to how to build buildings. Learn how to restrain horizontal loads, control moisture, insulate efficiently, install plumbing, locate the best place for return ductwork and frame odd details in creative and code compliant ways.  The best truss just slides into the space between other, tangentially related issues. Put your knowledge to work in other areas, provide it freely, and you will have a loyal customer. Make their problems your problems. Again, they will be only tangentially related to pre-engineered components; no one wants to buy trusses any more than they want to visit the urologist; they want to build a building. So help them figure out the building, spot the difficult bits, help them fix problems before they happen, and put the fuzzy bits together in their mind’s eye. If you can sell some product doing it, so much the better. You will have done more than most material suppliers, and as a reward you will almost definitely hear from that customer next time they want to buy truss….I mean, build a building!

Jonathon Landell