With a depressed housing market and high interest rates, most door and window fabricators are seeing softer demand these days. But with the first day of spring less than a week away, window fabricators are hopeful that the market for doors and windows will pick up as it usually does this time of year. During the last few years, demand has not been the issue, but rather supply was the major concern. Now it seems the pendulum has swung back in the other direction, and we are once again hoping for greater demand. So here are a few things we can do to influence our individual demand curves to help ensure that our businesses remain strong in this softer marketplace.

First, offer financing. There are 6-, 12-, 18- and even 24-month “same as cash” programs that may entice potential customers into buying sooner, especially if they expect to be getting a monetary boost right around the corner. There are also unsecured loan programs with zero percent interest all the way out to 60 months for as much as $30,000. These programs could entice homeowners into upgrading their doors and windows, as opposed to waiting until interest rates decline.

Oftentimes I talk to window dealers who say they do not offer financing because they simply don’t need to. They say that their customers just don’t ask them for it. But what they may be missing out on 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 indeed available. Sure, finance programs involve dealer fees. However, you can build these into the price of the window while offering discounts to other customers who are willing to pay with cash.

Secondly, consider offering insulating glass (IG) system upgrades that may appeal to the higher end of the market, which is still going strong. Just because your windows meet the requirements doesn’t mean you can’t sell glass that actually exceeds Energy Star standards. Indeed, if you have a window that is ready to meet Energy Star 7.0 now, then it currently exceeds today’s Energy Star requirements, because Version 7.0 does not roll out until later this year.

There is a certain percentage of the population that is willing to pay a premium for something that is above the standard. Now look at your current product line—is it 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 modest outlay of capital. Also, there are quite a few new low-E glass offerings available, 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 or even Krypton, can enable a manufacturer to add a higher end version of an existing window system to the market and grab sales that one might otherwise miss out on.

Thirdly, invest in sales training and tools. I shake my head when I sometimes hear a general manager say that he or she will budget for sales training or samples if and when sales figures rise. In other words, if sales take off, they can “afford” to add a sales meeting into their budget. To them I say, “Hold on! 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 know about your window and perceive that it is the best available. I have seen window manufacturers and dealers with mediocre window systems outsell otherwise superior products because their salespeople were simply better trained and better equipped!

So, don’t let the current downturn put a damper on your sales year. Use these three strategies to amp up your demand curve!

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