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If You’re Looking for New and Better OSRs, Do This First

Updated: Jan 18

“Mission defines strategy, and strategy defines structure”.—Peter Drucker 


In this year of shrinking gross margin dollars and declining sales, the first impulse of many dealer CEOs is to declare "We need more salespeople.” Human Resources then gets charged with finding Outside Sales Reps who shoot with a silver bullet: People who will save the LBM ranch through their mastery of products, construction, architecture, estimating, take-offs, teamwork, legal loopholes, time management, golf, etiquette, and marital relations. 

As every HR leader in LBM knows, there’s an awfully shallow talent pool for salespeople capable of filling this job description and who are motivated to leave their current role. With supply so low and demand so high, many average OSRs get overcompensated and capable OSRs get highly overcompensated. And this is in a world where LBM leaders estimate it takes three to five years to grow and OSR and only one out of three candidate will be a success. That's a painfully low return on investment.

The talent pool isn’t going to deepen, given that people with the required broad range of skills, competencies, and resiliency can make more money and in easier roles outside the industry. It will take time, but ultimately you can improve your OSR ROI. The key is how you structure the role, recruit, and train.


Sales Managers: Before you seek out more sales reps, we believe you should find (or develop internally) Sales Managers who thrive in three main areas: organizational structure, recruiting, and teaching the next generations.

Organizational Structure: A good Sales Manager can break down and redefine the traditional OSR job into achievable roles and expectations while creating a development career path. This manager can create teams of specialists to support the OSR’s sales and project management duties. Sales Managers know best practices for centralized estimating, EWP design, and inside sales support. They create Project Manager roles to handle job site logistics and inventory flow. They identify product Sales Specialists who can manage windows, millwork, truss, and components elements in the company. This then helps elevate their product and construction science knowledge needed to be successful in the role. Good Sales Managers lead Business Development initiatives focused on targeting new accounts, making introductions, and servicing offerings as a common practice.


Recruiting: Effective Sales Managers must be excellent at attracting 25-year-old professionals to the team. They know how to share a company vision and how each person can achieve their personal and professional goals as a team member. The best leaders never stop recruiting, it’s almost a lifestyle. I have enjoyed stories of recruiting their favorite baristas, bartenders, and golf caddies turning them into top sales professionals.  

Training and Development: Ideally, Sales Managers are collectors of excellent sales training resources. Their library of books, videos, templates, presentations, and gurus is a fun study. Their sales training programs are clearly defined and constantly being revised with new material. As passionate and purposeful teachers, they continuously look for new approaches to increase engagement and spark learning. 

The industry does have a solid pool of Sales Manager candidates: professionals who want to shape the company structure with an opportunity to build a team with clear rewards. Look for behavioral patterns in their career path of team leadership over individual achievement. Dig into their personal activities, as true leaders often serve in leadership roles at church, youth sports, and charitable organizations.

There’s an acute need to find great salespeople in our industry. As you look, start with the leaders. Check out our case studies page to define your possible.

Hire Smarter™– Tony Misura. 

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