Last month, I read with great interest the DWM article entitled J.D. Power: Salespeople are Crucial to Customer Satisfaction. The J.D. Power 2017 Windows and Patio Doors Satisfaction Study found that customer satisfaction increases significantly when prospective customers get to talk to a sales rep who is confident in his or her product knowledge. This increasingly boosts not only customer satisfaction but also loyalty to the brand. It also rubs off when these happy customers in turn talk to other prospective customers, who in turn have the opportunity to become the next customers, and so on and so on.

So, this leads to a point that I have been professing for years — training your salespeople can pay off in terms of huge dividends. Conversely, not training your salespeople can sometimes be worse than having no salespeople at all.

I recently went into an electronic store and asked several “sales associates” about some features that I was seeking in a laptop. It soon became apparent that they had no clue what I was talking about. Then there was the time I was helping my wife pick out new tires for her car. We wanted a certain tire, which the store did not have. When I said that we would wait until the tires were again in stock, the salesman said, “I can offer you this other tire at a discounted price. After all, they are all made of the exact same rubber formulations.” After I informed him that I was once a polymer chemist at Firestone and that he was full of beans, he turned bright red and said simply, “Oh, I guess I’m busted!”

So, when a salesperson starts telling you things that you know are not true and you feel you have greater product knowledge than the people who are on the floor, does this not totally frustrate you and turn you off from ever wanting to return to that store or brand? This is definitely the case with me.

So, when it comes to doors and windows, which require a significant monetary investment and the customer is stuck with his or her decision for years to come, it is especially important to get it right. When it comes to replacing multiple doors and windows, customers are going to take their time and ask a lot of questions. They are not going to make hasty decisions.

During the process of investigating what is available and comparing to their wants and needs, they will also take the time to educate themselves via Google or some other search engine on the Internet. So, when the prospective customer starts talking to a salesperson, if he or she gets an answer that they clearly know is not correct based upon having done some of their own research, it can be a huge turn-off.

However, if the salesman solidifies what has been learned on the Internet and then takes it to the next level with additional product knowledge and perhaps some enlightening demos, then this boost the confidence level the customer may perceive in your brand. It adds to the product knowledge that the customer has already gained and gives them some clear-cut direction on which to base their buying decision. This makes the whole buying experience really rewarding to the customer.

When the customer feels good about their buying experience, they do a wonderful thing – they tell others. The positive interaction that one has experienced with your salesperson not only increases the customer’s chance of closing a deal with your company, but also carries on long after the sale is over. When it comes time to buy more windows and doors, they will again seek your brand as well as recommend you to others.  Indeed, the J.D. Power Study found that 79 percent of customers who rank as “delighted” say they “definitely will” recommend the brand to others, compared with the study average of 45 percent.  Also, among “delighted” customers (overall satisfaction scores of 901 and above), 73 percent say they “definitely will” repurchase the brand, compared with the study average of 41 percent. Yes, brand loyalty is a wonderful thing.

Brand loyalty is also contagious thanks to social media. Once your customer has confidence in the brand, he or she also tells other potential customers and there are a lot of potential sales down the road they can materialize due to personal recommendations which occur on the sidelines. A powerful wave can develop on social media. How often do you see someone on social media about to make a purchase and they reach out to all their friends saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about buying new windows. Does anyone have a recommendation?”  You will then see the comments, both good and bad, come pouring in, which are often viewable by friends and friends of friends.

Over the past 30 years in the door and window  industry, I have done a lot of training at the dealer level for manufacturers. They ask me to meet with their dealers and train them on how to promote the components that I sell to them as part of their systems.  I teach their salespeople how to gain sales leverage by fully promoting the features and benefits of the system and how to relate this information to the consumer. It is not a coincidence that the same customers who invest heavily in training their salespeople with seminars and quarterly meetings also have the highest growth rates at the end of the year.

But I have noticed one thing over the years. Due to the emphasis on Energy Star and window labeling, many dealers have backed off on training their salespeople, and they seem to rely on the window labels to sell the windows. Indeed, the J.D. Power Study found that only 61 percent of customers spoke with a salesperson at length regarding door and window products during the purchasing process. Perhaps this is because many dealers feel that all they need to do is get the product or literature in front of a customer and let the window label sell the window.

After all, doesn’t the window label tell the prospective customer everything he or she needs to know to make a decision? The answer to this is “of course not!” There are so many other features and benefits of a window other than a label and energy performance. There is the functionality of the window. How easy it is to open and close? What kind of air flow does it allow when both open and shut? (Read How Houses Were Cooled Before Air Conditioning.) Does it offer an expansive view or is it like looking out a window on a cruise ship? How easy it is to clean? How easy are the locks to operate, and are they reliable? What about egress? What are the aesthetics of the window itself? What colors and styles are available? Is wood grain an option? What is the warranty of the window and what is the track record of longevity in the field? What is the window manufacturer’s track record in handling any field issues which may develop? Is it a record of complete customer satisfaction or one of dodging the bullet?

How the company handles problems that may develop and how they respond to field issues are all things that a salesperson can talk about surrounding the window purchase. It helps provide the customer with confidence in the brand.

After the sale, service issues oftentimes go right back — to the salesperson. In many cases, if somebody has a problem with their windows during the first year, they will contact their salesperson first, especially if they had a very positive experience with them and he or she gained their trust. Their salesperson has bonded with them, and they will ask them to be the first person or point of contact to solve any customer-service issues with the window during that critical first year. And once again, if one of their friends is in the market for doors and iwndows, these satisfied customers will give out the name and number of that trusted sales professional, which results in more business down the road.

So, it seems that properly training and equipping your sales staff with up-to-date knowledge of your door and window systems is critical. You must also empower them with every necessary tool needed to fully delight the customer. It can really pay off in the long run.

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