Volume 8, Issue 7 - July/August 2007

Software Savvy

Guiding Future Growth
by Alan Holt

This year is proving to be a challenging one for our market. But, with these challenges come the opportunity for evolution and expansion. As a manufacturer of doors and windows, this is a season to assess your selling and marketing practices and arm your channels with technology that will keep you in step with the next generation of demand. 

Guiding Associates in the Store
Begin by looking across your selling front to determine what your sales team needs to become great. Technology should capture your selling best practices and provide even the newest salesperson in your network with the confidence they need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your customer and guide them to exactly the right product. It is this last mile of technology—the selling front—where yesterday’s homegrown quoting systems and engineering-focused configurators fall short. While these systems work well on a basic level, helping you get more orders right than the paper processes from which they evolved, they fail to inspire users (both salespeople and customers) with the knowledge, images and options that compel the sale. 

The best solutions are based on what is known as “guided selling” technology. They are flexible and consumer-centric in design and functionality. Customers select and customize products using a simple “click-the-picture” process. Containing both SKU and configurable content, these solutions guide the sale of products based on customer preferences and your selling best practices, keeping complex engineering rules intact but invisible to the user. 

Guiding Customers Online
It makes great business sense to view the storefront and web in the same context. Beyond just a branding billboard, customers are coming to expect more from your website than a few product photos in picturesque settings. Increasingly, they want to drill into their options online, customizing products and envisioning how they look on their own homes. If a product or option is not shown, the customer naturally assumes it is because you don’t offer it. As more and more buying decisions are made as a result of online research, it is increasingly important to provide full product data, and even the ability to guide the creation of a custom quote online. If offered, this can become a tremendous resource for lead generation. Leads or quotes captured online, both from your own website and from other sites your data enables, can be passed seamlessly to your retail or dealer channels for fulfillment. The right technology partner can ensure that the same product data (digital assets and marketing copy) needed to sell your products through large retail e-commerce sites also can be drawn upon to fuel your own websites, in-house data initiatives and even external browsing engines. 

Gaining Consumer Insight
Another intriguing aspect of today’s guided-selling solutions is the business insight that can be gleaned from customer interactions and used to improve your overall marketing and selling effectiveness. Fully deployed, these solutions can track actual customer behavior patterns across your channels and feed this information back to you in the form of periodic reports. This intelligence data goes beyond what is being purchased to show in which products your customers are most interested. Wouldn’t you like to know which color or product feature is most often viewed? Or which products are selling well in which regions? Or even how many quotes are not becoming orders because of a possible flaw in your offering? This is the intelligence data that can help you get a jump on the market and become a leader and trendsetter.

As you look to the future and to technology to support your business objectives, consider solutions that will harness your best practices, improve your selling across channels and provide new insight into customer demand. Through such innovation and insight, growth can occur even in toughest economic conditions, helping good companies, such as yours, emerge as great companies. 

Alan Holt is an account executive for Edgenet in Brenton, Tenn. He can be reached at aholt@edgenet.com. Mr. Holt’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.



DWM

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