How Virtual Sales Have Fueled a FrenzyJune 22nd, 2021 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor
The COVID-19 pandemic left most door and window dealers in a temporary juxtaposition. Locked behind closed doors, where they had plenty of time to ponder improvements, homeowners wanted their products more than ever. As a result, “We had to figure out how we could still do our jobs, while keeping everyone safe, but making it work for our customers,” Bob Shackford, president of Paramount Builders in Va. Beach, Va., told [DWM] at the height of the pandemic.
“We stumbled and tripped a little getting it all into place,” Shackford admitted. “But we figured it out.”
Since that time, remote sales have all but become the norm for some companies and tools such as Skype and Zoom have made a permanent mark on the industry.
“It was amazing the number of people who said, ‘Let’s just meet on a Zoom call and we’ll make our decision,’” says Jana Goodrich, president of Seaway Manufacturing Corp. “I thought going virtual with our in-home sales team would be a disaster,” Goodrich admits, “but I’m here to tell you that it was amazing. They would just sign a contract and mail it in—things that you thought would never happen.”
Post-pandemic, Goodrich says she expects her company to return to more in-person meetings, but, for now at least, customers continue to request that initial appointments be held over video conferencing. Salespeople deliver product samples, but often final deals are made remotely. Others aren’t so sure that homeowners will ever go back to allowing in-person sales tactics.
“I’m a shaking hands and kissing babies type,” says Michael Haines, president of New Beginnings Window and Door in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. And while remote sales go against his usual tendencies, “People decided they want to spend their money that way,” Haines adds. In the wake of a digital transformation, traditional sales tactics could be reserved for older customers who haven’t yet made the transition, he and others suggest. In the meantime, the latest craze for buying home improvements through virtual meetings could leave some door and window dealers in the lurch, if they refuse to meet customers through their preferred means.
“A lot of companies get stuck where they think they have to shake hands and use the same sales process, and that both decision makers have to be home at the same time,” Haines says. But these days, he adds, “We communicate with people the way they want to communicate with us.”
Greg Deathridge, president and CEO of Window World of DC, sees the turn to digital and remote selling as one that may have been overdue for the industry to begin with. “It forced us to get to this point—to sell home improvements in this way. And I don’t think we’re going back,” Deathridge says. “I thought this might be something temporary, but my goodness, I’m telling you, a huge portion of the business we’re doing now remains virtual.”
Virtual appointments allow salespeople to conserve the time they would otherwise spend traveling. For some, that’s led to increased production. Deathridge says that some of his company’s salespeople have increased sales to as much as $3 million per year—something that he suggests would be impossible without virtual appointments. For that reason, even as the pandemic subsides, “We’re still doing it this way,” Haines says about his company.
“Life is busy and we just found this new way to sell someone windows and doors, and are still building relationships, but we don’t have to come sit in your house for an hour doing a dog and pony show,” he adds. “We can make it work in 10 minutes and have learned that we can utilize our time much more efficiently.”