The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently published a map showing how the states rank in the return to normal levels of housing production. As I glanced at the map, publishedRobert Denk 10 30 2014 p17 in the December-January issue of DWM, I said to myself, “Wow, what a challenge for my customers, and consequently for my business as well.”

I am playing in the “Red Zone.” By the Red Zone, I mean the area of the country representing the bottom 20 percent of the housing recovery, where housing activity represents the bottom 20 percent of normal production levels. These areas or states are shaded in red on NAHB’s map.

So what will it be like to play in the Red Zone, I asked myself. What will be the important factors to consider? I believe that replacement windows will continue to fuel the lion’s share of growth opportunities in the Red Zone. I also believe that the three most important factors leading to sales growth for a door and window company playing in the Red Zone will be product differentiation, lead generation and sales training.

When you are playing in the Red Zone, you don’t want to be lumped together with other door and window companies with products and services that potential consumers consider to be roughly the same. If this happens, then getting new business will be a coin toss. Product differentiation is essential here. You need to build a fenestration product that stands out in a dealer’s showroom and tells a unique story. Not only must your product offering be unique, but you must be adept at explaining how the unique features translate into unusual benefits that other windows do not offer. Marketing literature and advertising are also key here. Having a product that stands out is one thing, but you must also be able to communicate the story to the masses.

Lead generation is second key factor. There are a limited number of potential customers who will decide that they’ll be buying new windows and doors this year. Lead generation is the process of finding out who they are and where they are so that you can get your sales pitch in front of them before your competition even knows they exist. This is absolutely crucial.  An interested prospect is like a door itself. He or she opens their door for only a brief period. Lead generation enables you to see those open doors and to get your sales message through the door before it closes. Once that door closes, it’s not opening again for another 20 years. If you are playing in the Red Zone, you must do a superior job of finding these sales opportunities and acting on them first.   Milgard is sponsoring a seminar at the upcoming Fenestration Day 2015 entitled “What’s Working Now in Getting More Door and Window Leads.” This should be an interesting and worthwhile event to attend.

Sales training is the third critical element. You may have a great and unique product, and you may be getting the leads quicker than your competition, but you will not get the sale if you send in the clowns. You need to train your salespeople to represent your company and products in the most professional and convincing way. The homeowner must be saying, “You had me at how many….”

Technology is constantly evolving, and so are market dynamics. For example, a few years ago, if a potential customer asked you about the pros and cons of a hard coat low-e coating on surface No. 4, your salesperson might chuckle thinking the homeowner was misinformed. But now if he or she broaches this subject, your salesperson had better be ready to answer and defend your position. Are surface No. 4 coatings a practical and cost-effective way of achieving high-level energy performance or are they a shortcut with possible condensation issues during cold winter months? Shouldn’t the best warm edge spacer also be chosen when a surface 4 low-E is deployed to help offset condensation concerns and boost Condensation Index values back up?

Questions like these are par for the course these days because, thanks to the Internet, homeowners are better educated than ever before.

Also, be prepared to leave your sales staff with tools which they can carry out to the field which will help them win the battle. These tools might be new product samples, superior financing tools and programs, new sales strategies, sales aids, visually appealing yet simply devised literature sheets, feature & benefit comparison sheets, and product feature demo aids. The best-equipped players have a better chance of winning the Red Zone Battle!

So, just like in football, when it comes to winning the game, door and window companies must be prepared to step up their game in the Red Zone. They must operate at an entirely different level of intensity. By focusing on  product differentiation, lead generation and sales training, the market leaders will emerge as they will have what it takes to break into the end zone and score.

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