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The Top 3 Home Depot Sales Lessons

After listening in last week on American Airlines’ Top Two Sales Lessons, we returned again to Columbia Business School where Bill Lennie, Executive Vice President of Outside Sales & Service at The Home Depot gave his top three Home Depot sales lessons. Before we dive in, a little more about Bill. He’s been in the merchandising and retail industries for over fifteen years. Prior to becoming an EVP at The Home Depot, he served as Senior Vice President of Merchandising and then as President of the Canadian division. Today, Bill manages roughly 16,000 sales associates in Home Depot’s B2B division. Here are his top three Home Depot sales lessons for developing the most effective sales force:

1. Offer Large Opportunities For Growth. Bill started at The Home Depot as a merchant. The company’s EVP for global store operations started as a cashier. The president for the Northeastern division started as an hourly associate. The message? “Develop within.” Bill firmly believes that the strongest sales and management organizations reward hard-work. “Leadership development is a huge, huge, huge part of our business” and Home Depot is dedicated in investing in its employees. Even call center representatives undergo 6-8 weeks of training and are offered continuing education and training programs to make them even more of an expert in their field. As employees learn and grow at The Home Depot, they become more invested in the company and more willing to perform at their best.

2. Serve Your Customers. “Home Depot has always had a different approach than the traditional ‘how do we maximize profitability’ goal.” Instead of focusing largely on the bottom line, The Home Depot makes its decisions as though it’s “a lawyer for the customer.” “We understand the value chain, and look for win-win deals.” In sourcing goods to sell, The Home Depot seeks out goods that, even though they might not be as profitable, are what’s best for the customer. This customer-first strategy is highly important to Bill, who explained,“The best gift our founders ever gave us was our culture.” If you asked our CFO, “he would tell you that he’s spent his entire career at Home Depot working his way to the bottom.” The reason? Home Depot’s model is an “inverted pyramid.” “[We] put our customers first, our front-line associates second, and our executives at the bottom.” “Take care of your customers and your front-line associates, and everything else takes care of itself.” 

3. Tailor Customer Experience. In tandem with its focus on serving customers, The Home Depot is dedicated to tailoring its customer-facing side in order to most effectively market. “Say you’re watching Monday night football, same neighborhood, two next-door neighbors,” Home Depot’s marketing strategy is so sophisticated that they’re able to “deliver two different TV commercials at the same time.” One could be for a standard consumer: “we might be talking about the holidays and gift buying.” But, if the next-door neighbor is recognized as a PRO customer, “we could be more hard-hitting. We’d be [advertising] different tools that were more geared towards [that] professional customer.” Along the same lines of customization, The Home Depot has begun personalizing it’s websites so that after a PRO customer creates an account, over time, “we’ll tailor your website directly to you and your business… We’ll personalize your experience.”

At the end of the day, Bill’s recommendation to new sales professionals was, “If you have a high say-do factor you’ll always win.” The Home Depot’s emphasis on employee growth and on most effectively serving its customers should be considered by companies of all sizes as they look to build more effective sales teams.

If you liked “The Top 3 Home Depot Sales Lessons” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog. Special thanks to Robbie Linck for his help with this post.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown
Michael is a Founder & Managing Partner at Bowery Capital based in New York. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown was a Co-Founder and General Partner at AOL Ventures. Before AOL Ventures, Brown worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. He began his career at Morgan Stanley as an equity research analyst. Outside of his professional life, Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and the Columbia College Alumni Association. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University.