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Behind the Product
Training is an Integral Part of Successful Sales and Marketing
by Alan B. Goldberg
The old cliché “knowledge is power” couldn’t be more evident when applied to educating building professionals about millwork products. Changing design specifications, increased consumer demand and more focus on aesthetics in a highly competitive market have added to the necessity of proper and effective training for dealers and distributors.
Fortunately, there are many exceptional training programs. Here is a description of a few of them.
InstallationMasters™ Training and Certification Program
The InstallationMasters™ Training and Certification Program is the culmination of four years of consultation with installers, manufacturers, suppliers and other industry experts. It was developed around the ASTM consensus standard practice E 2112 method for residential and light commercial construction in a range of materials and techniques, according to Dave Moyer, vice president of certification services for York, Pa.-based Architectural Testing Inc. (ATI), the program administrator.
Owned and managed by the InstallationMasters Institute, the program was initially developed by the American Architectural Manufactu-rers Association (AAMA) to establish and teach nationally recognized quality standards for the installation of exterior windows and doors. Topics include product installation techniques, safety, site inspection, material protection, product removal, codes, standards and specifications, components and materials and quality control. Attendees are taught by specially-trained instructors from certain areas of expertise. A 360-page comprehensive training manual is included with the program.
Eligible certification candidates who pass a final exam are nationally certified and receive a photo identification card as proof of their technical knowledge. They must qualify for accreditation through a rigorous train-the-trainer curriculum. As standard industry approved practices change, the program will be updated accordingly.
Window and door manufacturers, like the InstallationMasters Program, recognize that training is important.
For years, Hurd Millwork of Medford, Wis., has held sales and service training sessions for distributors. In March of this year the company introduced its new comprehensive training program called Hurd University.
“It is a training program concept that affirms our commitment to our distributor partners and their success in working with us,” said Brett Waldhart, communications/training coordinator.
According to Waldhart, Hurd University in its entirety is a progression of training sessions that will give attendees extensive knowledge about Hurd and its products.
Courses are introductory and advanced. In the basic training courses, topics include a history of Hurd, procedures, product features and benefits, best practices and effective competitive selling. Advanced courses are designed for every level of experience. The majority of the basic training is done off campus so “we can target more distributors, more often,” said Waldhart.
The company is also offering the AAMA InstallationMasters Program to builders and contractors who, upon completion, will be “industry” certified in installation practices. Web-based training capabilities and other advanced courses will be offered in the future.
This two-and-one-half-day program given by Tom Bychinski, corporate training development manager for Peachtree Doors & Windows of Norcross, Ga., combines a number of elements to make it entertaining and effective.
“I have a teaching background and I do whatever I can to make this an enjoyable and learning experience,” said Bychinski. “I make use of game shows—Jeopardy, Let’s Make A Deal, Family Feud—to teach product features and selling skills. We divide everyone into teams and have them give a sales presentation, which is critiqued for everyone’s benefit.”
Many topics are covered including products, product catalogs and electronic pricing. The sessions also include informal meetings with marketing, product and customer-service people and a tour of the plant.
“Our classes are on a one-to-one interactive [level] because we believe effective training (in basic skills) and establishing a level of expertise is essential if our distributors and dealers are going to be successful,” Bychinski said.
The average size of a class is 44-50.
“We fill these classes because everyone recognizes their value,” he added.
The company also offers Advanced Peachtree Academy, which covers advanced selling techniques and converting competitive products. Part of the training in the advanced class includes using a lap top to do exercises that involve actual field application.
The attendees are given blueprints from a home, which can include as many as 18 windows, and they have to establish estimates. According to Bychinski, the maximum class size is 34 because of the complexity of the subject.
Force 5 Program
Window and door manufacturers aren’t the only companies that know training is a vital part of business. Component manufacturers and software manufacturers also know the significance of training its customers.
Endura Products of Greensboro, N.C., has been delivering a simple message to its prehanger customers: a door of the highest quality, craftsmanship and beauty will not perform without the proper system specifications, components, assembly and installation.
Through its Force 5 program, the company provides extensive training on the assembly of high-performance doors, which includes critical issues such as improper closure, moisture, damage and air infiltration.
The training is a three-step process. The first is a meeting with purchasing managers and shop personnel to explain how various types of components impact the assembly of their unit, for example how one-piece mulls machined according to exact specifications will fit together perfectly in the shop to ensure proper assembly consistently.
In the second step, prehangers create entire door systems from a variety of Endura’s sills, frames, headers, astragals and weather seals. Custom door system specifications are created from basic information on the door panels—dimensions, composition and configuration. Specifications include exact dimensions for each component, correct margins between door panel and jamb, sill, header and astragal. Then the unit is built from these specifications and tested to verify that the intended performance levels are achieved.
In the third step, an Endura representative visits the prehanger to explain the correct method for assembling the unit. Using a door sample, a copy of the specs and printed assembly instructions, the representative performs shop training with the general manager, shop manager and employees.
“This is an on-going process,” said John Eagleton, Endura’s national account manager. “Our reps make quarterly visits to ensure that units continue to be assembled according to specs and to answer any questions.”
Software Training from WoodWare
For more than 20 years, WoodWare Systems has provided industry-specific software and technology solutions for the window, door and millwork industry. One of the keys to success for millwork distributors and manufacturers, according to Mike Owens, vice president of sales and marketing, is the emphasis on end-user training.
According to Owens, there is a lot of preparation before the initial training session. A company training team learns about the customer’s business needs through on-site visits. Classroom-style training is used to teach customers about the company’s unique Var-I-Frame™ Product Configurator approach to product record-building, which is customized to handle each individual account’s products. Each account begins the process of building its own records within its own version of the WoodWare System.
Trainers assist with remote access to customer systems using Internet capabilities. Further training sessions are held at the customer’s site, which include hands-on training for various business functions such as generating quotes, entering sales orders, creating purchase orders, creating statements and financial reports and many other day-to-day functions.
When the company “goes live,” trainers are at the user site to be sure there is a smooth transition. There are a number of add-on modules—the RF Barcode modules, the Warehouse Management System, WebConnect modules, DataView documents—that are held at the customer’s site.
Whether the company is a window, door, component or software manufacturer, their recognition that distributor and dealer training is critical is evident by the interest in and the number of programs that are available.
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