Volume 11, Issue 4 - May 2010


The Sales Revolution
Window Dealers Must Evolve with Changing Market Trends

by Al Alfieri and Tom Orr

Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, once said: “During a paradigm shift, everyone goes back to zero, and the first one to understand the new reality becomes the giant. The race is on.”

The fenestration industry is no exception. We all can agree that change has been the only constant over the past three to five years, and most companies have gone back to basics to develop new strategies to retain their competiveness. Suppliers, manufacturers and dealers alike are getting creative to find differentiation points and new efficiencies.

There have been two significant shifts affecting the fenestration industry in recent years that remain top-of-mind for all of us:

1. The Green Movement; and

2. The Great Recession.

The common thread between these two game-changers is that both have changed consumer buying habits. According to a 2009 study titled “The Green Revolution” conducted by Grail Research, about two-thirds of respondents changed their green purchase behavior because of the recession, but nearly 80 percent of those who changed stuck with green products. Seventy-four percent of these green purchasers responded that energy efficiency is either top-of-mind or a consideration when making a purchase.

Additionally, today’s consumers also have more information at their fingertips and are researching online for higher-performing products that will provide the best value.

In fenestration terms, just 5 to 10 years ago, homeowners knew nothing about windows and were “dazzled” easily by anything that had two panes. Today, consumers are looking for more value in their window purchases—they know more and they expect more. They require and deserve the entire package: service, energy savings, tax credit assistance and lifetime warranties.

The race is on for window dealers to meet the needs of the “new” homeowner. Outlined here are some best practices for providing the best value and selling energy-efficiency in the home.

Training Camp
Homeowners are now savvier and they will ask the hard questions. Will your salesperson be prepared to respond?

Ongoing sales training programs have become increasingly important. Products and available technologies are changing constantly and, when homeowners know more than your salesperson, the situation quickly can become embarrassing. Additionally, training and group discussions will help foster relationships among your sales teams and encourage them to share stories and best practices for meeting the changing needs of homeowners.

Ongoing talking points for sales discussions could include:
• Energy Star® changes;

• Industry and state/local energy efficiency standards;

• Tax credit requirements;

• Third-party testing;

• Manufacturer product updates;

• Window components and how each affect energy efficiency;

• Recent trade magazine articles and e-communications; and

• First-hand stories about challenges and opportunities when giving sales presentations.

Approaching the Starting Block
Advertising always has been a key element in any window dealer’s marketing plan, whether it is yellow page and newspaper print ads, or radio and television spots. Even in a weak economy, keeping your name out there is equally as important.

Of late, the tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements has been front and center in advertising—and has proven effective in most markets. Homeowners are highly driven by cost-savings, whether it comes in the form of tax credits or reduced energy bills. Most often homeowners are researching online first for information on the tax credit, so now more than ever, window dealers must keep their sites up-to-date and offer useful information on tax credit requirements and processes.

It is important to note, however, that in today’s economy many window dealers are not seeing the same results using passive marketing in which they sit and wait for the phone to ring. Many are becoming more proactive and reaching out directly to consumers via telemarketing, asking them “do you have aluminum windows in your home?” and “are your windows single-pane?” By asking these questions, you can assess their situations quickly and begin talking about the energy-saving benefits of today’s high-performance windows, as well as the available tax credit.

Once the lead is qualified, it is time to prepare for what remains the most important part of the sale—the in-home presentation.

Because homeowners are more educated, you must be prepared for any situation and bring supporting materials to the table, including:
• Brochures about your company, your mission and what makes you stand apart from the competition, including your mission statement and service standards;

• Brochures from the window manufacturer that outline the options you can provide;

• Product samples (i.e., cross sections); and

• Samples of components that go into the window, including the spacer.

Component samples have become important to the sale. On the outside, windows can appear to be the same, but it’s what’s inside that helps you truly sell energy efficiency.

Don’t be afraid to get technical; talk about the performance differences between foam versus metal spacers, as well as low-emissivity coatings, differences in glass, gas filling and other materials that contribute to window energy performance and durability. Teach them about U-values and solar heat gain coefficients and provide credible third-party data to back your claims.

Crossing the Finish Line?
In the fenestration industry, there is no finish line. You must always strive to do better, anticipate trends and adjust your selling practices accordingly.

Homeowners will continue to demand better efficiencies, and we all must be prepared to deliver.

Energy efficiency will continue to be a big business well into the future. So, stay close to your suppliers, push them to continue innovative product development and continue to learn as new technologies emerge. But, most of all keep your service standards high and remember that word-of-mouth is still the most effective marketing available. Offering the full package to today’s homeowners—exceptional service, support and products—certainly will help you keep one step ahead in the race.

Al Alfieri is vice president of American Vision Windows Inc. in Simi Valley, Calif., and Tom Orr is the founder and CEO of Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based Northwest Exteriors Inc. Both primarily sell Anlin Windows containing the Super Spacer® warm-edge spacer system.


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