Customer Relations, Feature, Operations, V7I4

Customer Service Training for Shed Sales

(Photo courtesy of Olha Ruskykh from Pexels)

Supply and demand may lure some to buy a shed or other portable structure, but top-notch customer service keeps them coming back for more. 

Additionally, whether someone wants to invest in an outdoor structure or any of the materials or services it entails, the complex process may not always go smoothly due to weather and other factors beyond your control. 

With proper training and a positive attitude, early transactions can lead to repeat business and lasting relationships with referrals along the way.

And placing exceptional customer service at the forefront of a company, anyone in the shed business can exceed expectations and overcome any obstacles that are bound to come your way. 

For Derl Warren, territory sales manager for Heartland Capital Investments in Mayfield, Kentucky, a rent-to-own company for portable buildings, carports, and more, top-notch customer service means doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy. 

“The shed business has evolved to the point where everybody—to varying degrees—builds basically the same thing,” he says. “What are you going to do as a shed dealer to set yourself apart?

“If you get a reputation as the ones who are not going to fix something, pretty soon you’re known as the person not to call. A mad person will tell 10 people what happened, but a happy one will tell two people. You don’t want to be the guy that has 10 people talking about you; you want to have two.”

Neil Overfelt, a lumber trader with Plateau Forest Products in Bend, Oregon, says customer service requires empathy. 

“You have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes to know how it feels to be him,” he says. “We’ve all been customers. For the service to be top-notch, you have to take it to heart. If I’m the customer, what do I want to have?”

For instance, you have to be able to deliver the good news and the bad. 

“They might expect good news, but you have to not be afraid to give bad news. Some people hate to give bad news because they think they are going to disappoint someone, but news is news,” says Overfelt. “Hands down, a customer would rather hear bad news right up front, and quickly, rather than their crew be delayed.

“If there’s a problem, you want to know, even if you can’t fix it. It’s not a fun part, but it’s a very important part. If you have customer empathy, you naturally make that call. Just because it’s bad to you, it might not be bad for them. Customers become good friends and maybe even have vendor empathy.”

Charles Hutchins, Shed Coach and owner/operator of Shed-N-Carport Pro in Radcliff, Kentucky, where he sells Amish sheds, carports, and other structures, says exceptional customer service means taking care of your customer in the best fashion possible. 

“Mercedes-Benz and Marriott come to mind,” he says. “In the shed business, you have to be upfront and honest with your customers about the process and you have to be nice. 

“Some people may want to fudge two weeks when they know it can be four or even six to eight weeks now, but you should always try to paint the customer a picture from the beginning. It prepares them if there are weather delays.” 

For Dominic Menard, manager of Spring Hill Sheds in Spring Hill, Tennessee, a shed dealer selling products from Backyard Outfitters, first-rate customer service implies placing customer needs at the forefront and going above and beyond for the customer in the purchase process.


For an employee to offer exceptional customer service, certain qualities count. 

“Be square and honest with the customer so he knows you’re doing everything you can and have his best interests at heart,” says Overfelt. “You need honesty, integrity, and grit. You have to have thick enough skin to do any customer service job.”

Hutchins says employees need to greet everybody with a smile and have a good rapport. 

“The customer doesn’t care how busy you are. They want to be taken care of,” he says. “My dad works for me and he’s a natural-born people-person. He asks people where they’re from and we usually know somebody in their town. You can connect that way when you’re trying to connect with the customer.”

Listening skills make the list for Menard. 

“You need a listening ear and genuine concern for the customer’s needs and how you decide to meet the customer’s needs with your responsiveness,” he adds.  

For Warren, knowledge is power. He believes a successful salesperson knows that a certain percentage of your business comes from referrals, and word-of-mouth is the easiest sale you’ll ever make. 

Marketing materials can be a big expense, but the most cost-effective way to sell a building is to have someone talk about you in a good light. 

“If people consider you to be an awesome company that costs you nothing if they already think you’re great,” he says.


Some in the industry believe customer service is the same across the board, while others see a difference. 

According to Warren, “In the shed business or any other, great customer service is great customer service. It doesn’t matter what you do.”

Overfelt sees some variation. 

“The shed industry is a very family-style business. There are a lot of small businesses, and lumber, in general, is a handshake business, and the shed business is the same way,” he says. “It’s a smaller, more personal business. People that own shed businesses, even big ones, have hometown roots and that mentality and feel to them. That’s not as typical in retail, distribution, or a commodity buyer.

“It’s more intimate with very comfortable business dealings that are upfront and colloquial.” 

In many ways, Hutchins says the shed business is exactly the same as others, but in other ways, the biggest problem can be the delivery part. 

“People don’t like waiting on the weather. You can take the problem that causes customer angst and explain it. I have a ‘What to Expect’ sheet so there are no ‘aha’ moments,” he says. 

For Menard, it doesn’t really differ. 

“I learned from a mentor: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People buy from people they like. In any industry, you should have genuine care and concern,” he says.  

“A pleasant buying experience comes from being a likable salesperson. You have to care genuinely about the customers.” 


To effectively train employees, Warren says the company has to have a culture that believes in having great customer service. 

For instance, you can train people to perform certain tasks like answering a phone, but if you want them to go the extra mile with a smile you need to pick the right staff.

“It’s not so much a training issue; it’s a hiring issue,” he says. “You want to have that person that makes that person’s day.

“You need people who can handle upset customers. They have to know their No. 1 focus is to help that customer, even if you can’t resolve their problem right away. They have to at least believe that you cared enough to try to fix it.” 

They have to have the ability to apologize sincerely and to listen, he adds. The same applies to other areas of the industry like design and build.

As the last person the customer sees, delivery drivers are an important part of the process. 

“You don’t want a cranky driver to be their last impression,” Warren points out. “You want someone who will smile and ask if the customer is happy with the shed. That leaves your company in a favorable light.” 

For Overfelt, family values create a great foundation. 

“Growing up in a solid family unit, I was taught right from wrong and how people should be treated,” he says. “I don’t know if you can train someone for that. Either people get it or they don’t get it. They need a solid base from which to work.” 

For sales, you need customer empathy. 

“I’m a big proponent of the win/win/win,” Overfelt says. “For any relationship to last, all sides have to win over the long run. In this case, my customer (the shed builder), me (the stocking lumber distributor), and my producer (the lumber mill).  And you can add another layer to those that have to win: my customer’s customers. 

“In the long run, if someone in that chain isn’t happy, or winning, the chain will break down and the system will fail. If they’re not building sheds, I’m not selling lumber. 

“I also have to make sure that I’m making a deal with the mills, my suppliers, for the long haul. I check with them: are you guys doing okay? In a falling market, you can only counter your supplier so many times. They have to make money; you have to make money. It has to be a win/win/win in the long term, but not necessarily for every deal.” 

The whole system flows quite nicely as long as everybody treats everybody with respect and you want customers to win and they want you to win, he says.

When it comes to training, Hutchins asks himself: What do I want when I go to a business? Qualities like someone who knows how to smile, is enthusiastic, and has some fun. 

“To me, sometimes the subtle things are so important,” he says. “Don’t talk so much. Listen and ask good questions. Find out what they want, not what you want to sell them. Be personable and be happy.”

Hutchins adds that employees should be on an incentive plan and they should know they must take care of the customer. 

“Don’t try to sell them, try to help them and everything else will take care of itself,” he says. 

He also echoes Warren’s advice: Delivery drivers shouldn’t let customers frustrate them. 

“They should be humble and polite to calm the situation,” adds Hutchins. 

If you want people to get better every day, he suggests a personal development program with a monthly book to read. 

“People spend too much time on Netflix and Facebook,” he says. “I shifted what I spend my time on. I read a lot of John C. Maxwell and Zig Ziglar.”

Menard agrees that small business owners or managers of a small shop often find training in customer service to be largely a self-improvement approach where you might search out material online from sources like LinkedIn Learning. 

As he explains, Backyard Outfitters and other manufacturers often have dealer reps who will do customer service training for individual shed dealers. 

“For my own professional development, I also use online resources,” Menard shares.


“First you need a good product, and right behind that is excellent customer service,” Warren concludes. “You can solve problems by actually serving the customer. 

“Too many people just try to sell you a shed, but good salespeople go out and ask questions. Whether it’s a she-shed or a place to stick a lawnmower, you have to start by giving people what they want.

“You can’t effectively train someone if you don’t have a culture for leadership and customer service. The ones that have a truly great reputation are the ones that believe in building sheds and keeping people happy.” 

For customer service in general, Menard says you can look to other companies. 

“At Chick-Fil-A, it feels like they care,” he points out. “When it comes to customer service training within the shed industry, if I want a dealer to represent a brand like Backyard Outfitters, it still falls on the shed industry to provide customer service for the dealer.  

“Successful customer service training for local shed dealers begins and ends with the territory manager where you come on-site.” 

For Hutchins, communication is key. 

“You’d better call back if you say you’ll call back,” he shares. “I give customers my business card and tell them, ‘I work for you, you call me anytime.’” 

Attitude matters as well according to Hutchins’s dad, who likes the Zig Ziglar quote: “Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.” 

“It doesn’t always matter how smart you are,” he says. “People love to be around people with enthusiasm. I love what I do and I think people see that.” 

Relationships will come from your efforts. 

“What’s special? How you do it and who you do it with,” says Overfelt. “You need to find people in the business that you like. That comes full circle in customer service. You become friends in this business.”


Shed Haulers: Most Important Customer Service Reps?, Aug. 18, 2021

Customer Service Success, Oct. 24, 2018

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Current Issue