Talking to Prospective Customers About Post-Frame Buildings

• By Linda Schmid

How do you go about selling a post-frame building to a prospective customer? Do you start talking about posts and trusses and all the technical details in post-frame building? Do you immediately address the specifics the customer is looking for in their building? Your answer probably depends on whether this is a client who you have worked with before and how much they know about post-frame construction. Let’s consider the client who is not well-acquainted with post-frame.

When selling, you want to put your best foot forward. What does that mean when making a sales pitch? Listening to your client is the best way to find out what is important to them. You are trying to show them that you offer what they need. However, if they are vague or unsure, here are the advantages that industry experts deemed the generally most important to prospective clients. 

Turnaround Time. The amount of time it takes to go from bare ground to building erection is significantly less with post-frame. 

Mark Stover, President of Perma-Column said, “You can frame post-frame in a week. Metal frame has much more prep work.”

“Building shells are closed in much faster to get finish work out of the weather,” said Carl Althaus, a former Wisconsin Frame Building Board of Directors member. This, of course, helps maintain the integrity of the shell.

“Lead times are less than steel frame because the components required are more readily available,” Randy Chaffee, Source One Marketing said. “With post-frame, you can set the posts the first day, and the difference in completion time from other construction forms is huge.”

A Customized Design.  Post-frame construction lends itself easily to customization. If you want two-story ceilings in one area, post-frame will easily accommodate that. You don’t like the placement of the doors and windows? Move them. A wrap-around porch is easy to add on. And interior walls can be anywhere you want them — without intrusive poles holding up the roof — because there is no concern about load-bearing walls. 

Timber Frame Equestrian Barndo. Photo courtesy of S-5!

Jeff Bonebrake, President of Burrows Complete Post-Frame Solutions, said, “The post-frame industry allows for highly customizable design. Steel-frame has evolved to be pre-engineered.”

Cost Savings. Post-frame is generally less costly because it uses less material than other construction methods to create the shell, and it takes less time, which means lower labor costs.

Of course, there are many other advantages to post-frame building, so don’t despair if the client does not jump on the three benefits listed above. Find out what they are looking for. 

Althaus said that many people want energy efficient buildings, and post-frame shines in that respect. When building post-frame, you will have a thick wall because of the post; it is likely 6” wide, which can be filled with insulation. Today, it is common practice to use spray foam to get all the edges and nooks and crannies, commonly called picture framing, and supplement with other forms of insulation. A spray foam combo used with a house wrap barrier can make it easy to change a panel in the future. This much insulation is hard to beat. 

Bonebrake adds that people love how quiet their buildings are due to the thick walls and highly insulated roofs.

The clear spans that are common in post-frame are especially popular nowadays. Paul Zimmerman, General Manager at Hixwood said that people love the wide-open space and the natural light thtat can be achieved in post-frame buildings.

Ease of maintenance is often high on the wish list for new building buyers, and since the tradition in post-frame building is steel roofs with steel siding, this wish is easily ticked off the list. 

Althaus and Chaffee add that the post-frame builder can achieve just about any aesthetic the buyer desires with the variety of metal styles and colors, brick, stone, stone-coated shingles, batten siding, and so many other choices.

All of these benefits are easily relatable in the “lay person’s language,” said Zimmerman. “There’s no need to get very technical, unless a client asks you to.”

Listen. Find out what the customer needs and wants and then try to give them the best solution.

Bonebrake said, “If a client is set on a ‘Dallas style’, very steep roof pitch with lots of hips and valleys, maybe post-frame is not for them. Stick built is better suited to that type of roof.”

“Builders have to ascertain what is best for the building’s intended usage. For example, with post-frame you cannot go more than two or three stories high —tops,” Stover said. “You need to be fair to the industry and the client and sell them what they need.”

Photo Courtesy of Graber Post Buildings, Inc.

Stover advises that builders sell post-frame, laying out the advantages of this type of construction. “Don’t just say, “I have the lowest price,” he added.

A salesperson can follow up with their attitude about quality and customer service, but don’t throw another builder under the bus.

Roland Nairnsey, founder of New Home Sales Plus, said in his article, “How to Sell More Houses in 2024” that the way to sell new-construction homes is to “narrow down to one-of-a-kind.” Take the client out to a showcase home and show them what you mean, mentioning the ways they can alter it if need be to make it theirs. Or you can help them to build their “dream home” back in your office, on paper or on a design program. Once they have begun to “experience” their home, the possibility of price or interest rate changes can give a sense of urgency to act. While this model of sales is particularly applicable to selling barndos, it may work for other spaces like offices or commercial space as well.

Hixwood’s Paul Zimmerman said, “Don’t push clients into turning their post-frame home into a traditional home. The barn look with a few cupolas can be beautiful.”

Chaffee advised, “I think we need to guard against forcing any of our own perceptions onto the potential customer. If we present the facts, the specs, and the advantages as we see them, we can let the customer, with some guidance, make their own well-informed decision.”  

Stover said, “Offer upgrades. Think about somebody who builds a traditional post-frame building, and then after it is complete finds out that they could have built it on concrete footings. If you offer options, you might be surprised how often people will upgrade.”

Nairnsey said that ending the conversation with clients on their feet gives the impression that you are saying, “We’re done here; I know you are not going any farther.” 

Sit down at your desk with your client and recap the conversation and what next steps would look like. Even if you are not closing today, you are telling the client that you are there to help them get what they want, which is one step closer to closing the sale. FBN