by Clark Halladay
Professionals in todays fenestration industry probably believe their products offer the best technology available. While a strong conviction is a good start, its not enough to sell successfully and consistently.
The first step is to identify and define your target markets. Decide which products you want to focus on and what services you want to offer. Then target the geographic region that will provide the volume your manufacturing plant is designed to handle. The average coverage
area is less than a 200-mile radius, although many successful manufacturers operate in markets within a single city or a few counties.
Remember, you must have the ability to produce what you sell within acceptable lead times or you stand to lose the customer. Adding window lines to sell at cost or loss under the premise of spreading overhead costs is a tricky proposition. Also, remember to review existing product lines for profitability. Make hard decisions about outdated lines, even those you carry for the benefit of a few customers. Use floor space for new products and educate customers about the benefits of the new line.
The next step is to listen to your customers. Find out what they expect in product offering, service and delivery. Offer profitable upgrade options with the latest technology in Low-E glass, warm-edge spacer systems and high-performance framing materials. Promote options such as contour grids, brass grids and hardware, and screen materials. A complete product line should include mulled and specialty units, special trim features such as no-rot materials, and jamb extensions. Your manufacturing facility must be capable of handling the just-in-time production nature of these customizable product lines to meet delivery requirements.
Although many manufacturers are tired of salespeople convoluting production schedules with complex options, it is the way of the future and this trend will only increase. To ease production changes, many window producers have begun using Low-E glass, Argon fills and warm-edge spacers as standard features rather than as upgrades.
Any sales strategy must include an accurate analysis of the competitors products and services. Evaluate the competitors design and material quality, including glass options, the glazing system for glass blocks, and interior-exterior wet and air seals. Look at the competitors thermal performance modeling; testing data; completeness of product offering; and service and delivery records and programs. This type of analysis identifies your advantages and opportunities for improvement.
Develop marketing and sales tools to educate your customers and take full advantage of the selling features and options built into your window lines. Educate yourself by obtaining the latest information about your products, including the field performance and failure rates and how they compare to industry averages. Enroll in NFRC labeling and testing programs to promote your performance data. Take advantage of new marketing mediums such as the internet. Provide your customers with camera-ready art and ask them to promote your products. Put your catalog and advertising materials on CD-ROM and develop CD-ROM training and promotional presentations. Leverage your suppliers to help with the costs.
The final step should focus on comprehensive sales training at all levels, including how to sell to the builder, the dealer, the contractor, the distributor and the consumer. Education, information and training is the way to sell effectively into the next millennium. Training helps motivate and motivation increases sales.
Clark Halladay is the sales and new business development manager for TruSeal Technologies, Inc. of Beachwood, OH.
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