Ask yourself these two questions; “Do I have a product or service that is needed in the building industry?” and “Do I have competition?” If the answer to the first question is YES and the answer to the more important second question is NO then you are in a very unique position to have all the business you can handle. But if you are like 99.9% of the other associate members you do have competition and your product and service is not unique.

The HBA offers you an advantage that only members receive and one that you may want to utilize. That advantage comes in two distinct forms. The first form is the business connections you are making. We talked before about building social capital with other associate members. Here is where you receive more returns on your HBA investment. By developing association friendships you are expanding your sales presence. Think about it for a moment; when one of your HBA friends is meeting with a customer wouldn’t it be great if they could refer you to the builder? They would only refer someone if they could depend on the person that they were recommending. That only comes from working side by side with someone in order to understand their professionalism as a volunteer and how that professionalism cold translate at the income generating level. This scenario can be multiplied by the amount of interaction you have with other members which in itself is worth the yearly membership and eliminates the dreaded cold calling.

Always remember, however, the laws of reciprocity. Don’t be known as a “taker” but do develop the reputation as a “giver.” It’s always better to give than receive but it will come back to you so make sure you do some unsolicited referring. Your HBA actively engaged membership can fast track this process which can save you years of developing relationships the old fashioned way; one at a time and very slowly.

The second advantage comes in the form of industry awareness. Again, going with the assumption that you do have competition, what do you have that stands out from them? A particular product? So does your competitor. Outstanding service? Well, we all have offered, that haven’t we? The only thing that you have that is different from your competitor is….. wait for it…….. YOU. Your professionalism and your “likeability” factor are the keys to separating yourself from the others. But it takes time to demonstrate that, doesn’t it? To gain new business you need to be given an opportunity and persistence with patience will reward you with that opportunity. In the meantime, when you are delivering product information and pricing why don’t you utilize something that can actually help the builder with his or her business? That something is at your finger tips on a sometimes daily, most times weekly, basis. That something is industry updates and information. Your HBA provides to you, its member, this information for your use. It helps you with your business planning and, by understanding how this information affects the building industry, you can then talk with your customers and potential customers about something other than product, price and service. You become the “go to sales rep” for industry knowledge. Not product knowledge, industry knowledge. This is a great way to distance yourself from your competitors while at the same time making you the “go to sales rep” for your company as well.

Through established business connections and your willingness to understand your industry, where you earn a living, and becoming a valuable source of information, your HBA membership can provide you with an impressive return on your yearly investment. These two advantages are there for you to utilize you just have to want to stand out.

Next week’s blog will talk about the “Right and the Wrong” ways to enjoy your HBA membership.

Submitted by: Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP
2011 NAHB Associate Members Committee Chair
Director of Trade Association Relations, ProBuild