My last blog was the first in a series of two related blogs on the topic of innovation. In that first installment we discussed tactics for innovation, including initiating a close collaboration with customers throughout the process. Let’s turn our attention to positioning products that respond to some of the macro-level drivers for new product development in the current market environment.

Most sales professionals consider the lowest-hanging fruit in driving new revenues to be had by selling additional products to existing customers. The relationship is already established and the trust is already there. The customer has already bought in, literally and figuratively, to your company’s value proposition. It should be a very straightforward process to add an additional product or feature to the lineup and realize immediate sales from among loyal customers. So what should those products or features include? Companies should look for new products and new ways of doing things that will be most impactful for their customers. Dealers and sales representatives expound on the ways in which their products are differentiated from those of competitors. The suppliers that give them additional points of differentiation will win the greatest attention from these critical links to the end customer.

Key areas of differentiation include enhanced energy efficiency. It’s important, though, not to simply tell them that your R-value is better. Telling isn’t selling. Try to dollarize the benefits to end customers. Take an average home and estimate—erring on the side of being conservative—the possible payback period for the enhanced features you’re selling. Have a few homeowners report their before and after utility bills. Give concrete examples that show a dollar benefit to put the most meaningful arrows in these sales reps’ quivers.

In areas such as security, don’t just say that your product makes it less likely that a home will be invaded. Remind consumers that the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates there are 2 million break-ins per year, or one every 13 seconds. Most break-ins occur during the summer so the security message should be an integral part of your summer sales ramp up.

Other key product areas that are gaining attention include electrochromic self-tinting windows and automated doors and windows. No one is suggesting that every company should be developing components with these characteristics. Rather, there are already component suppliers that have created these products. It is incumbent on door and window manufacturers to leverage the efforts of those companies to add these attractive characteristics to their products.  Technology-enabled features like these have that “wow” factor that leads to word-of-mouth sales. There is no better sales force than the neighbor that likes to brag about his latest gadget, who prompts the neighbor who has to keep up with the Joneses to contact a door or window dealer.

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