April 10th, 2014
Bend Your Demand Curve
Many window manufacturers are reporting that sales this year are off to a slow start due to one of the worst winters we have seen in some time. Windows built in January and February piled up in warehouses as customers called to postpone installations. Installation crews were slowed down or some just postponed the job themselves. During my travels in the past few weeks, many window fabricators reported that they were finally getting caught up on delayed installs and demand was beginning to return to normal seasonal levels. But what happened to the portion of the demand that they would have enjoyed had we had a “seasonally normal” winter? Does it represent a pent up demand that will roll into the 2nd Quarter or will those door and window orders that failed to materialize due to the harsh winter be lost forever?
Well, some of orders in limbo were simply delayed by the weather, but a fair portion I am sorry to say may be lost as potential customers found something else to do with their money, like spending it on a “Got to Get Away Trip” to someplace warm or perhaps putting a down payment on a new car boat to boost one’s spirit otherwise dampened by those cold winter days. So, what can be done to Bend Your Demand Curve for the remainder of the year in an upward direction thereby making up for all those lost door and window orders. There are several things.
One – offer financing. There are 6, 12 and even 18 month “same as cash” programs that may entice potential customers into buying sooner especially if they expect to be coming into some money in the near future. There are also unsecured loan programs with zero percent interest all the way out to 60 months for as much as $24,000 that could entice homeowners into upgrading their doors and windows. Oftentimes I talk to window dealers who say they do not offer financing because they don’t need it. Their customers simply don’t ask them for it. What they are missing is the segment of the population that never called them in the first place because they were drawn to a competitor who is advertising that financing is available. Sure, finance programs involve dealer fees, but you can build these into the price of the window and offer discounts to customers willing to pay with cash.
Secondly, consider offering insulating glass (IG) system upgrades that may appeal to the higher end of the market. Just because your windows meet Energy Star doesn’t mean you can’t sell glass that actually exceeds Energy Star. There is a certain percentage of the population that is willing to pay a premium for something that is above the standard. Is your product line broad enough or are you stuck playing in the middle? Many manufacturers can run premium spacer systems on the same equipment they already own or add a smaller secondary IG line with a relatively small capital outlay. Also, there are quite a few new low-e glass offerings coming into play which can significantly improve thermal performance benefits and/or cut down on ultraviolet degradation. Employing these new glass coatings along with a premium Warm Edge spacer and argon can enable a manufacturer to add a higher end version of their existing window system to the market and grab sales that one might otherwise miss out on.
Thirdly, invest in sales training and tools. I have oftentimes heard sales manager’s comment that they will budget for sales training or samples if and when sales figures rise. In other words, if sales take off, we can add a sales meeting into our budget. To them I say, “Wait a minute, what comes first – the chicken or the egg?” The time to invest in sales training and sales aids is now in order to make the sales curve rise, not after it has already risen! One can have the best window system on the market, but customers are not going to buy it unless they A-know about your window and B-perceive that it is the best. I have seen window manufacturers and dealers with mediocre window systems outsell otherwise superior products because their sales people were simply better trained and more well equipped!
So, don’t let what was a temporary weather condition put a permanent frost on your sales year. Use these three strategies and bend your demand curve!