By Jerome Zenoby
The way vinyl siding is sold today is vastly different than the way we did it 10-15 years ago. And yet, the core of this activity remains the same. It all boils down to human-to-human interaction. As sales trainer Brian Tracy once said, "Approach each customer with the idea of helping him or her solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product or service." How can we apply this to siding? And what kinds of tools can we use to do this most effectively? A careful blend of traditional approaches combined with new digital “cool tools” will not only help you sell more vinyl siding, but ensure you have happier customers too.
Cool Tools in the Digital Age
We’re starting to see a shift where homeowners are “self-educating” using today’s digital tools. Many times, before they even talk to us, they’ve already been influenced by information they’ve found on websites, in discussion forums, via apps, and even through social media. For siding buyers, whether they’re homeowners, builders, contractors, this is a reversal of mindset. Buyers today know they can self-serve the information they need to narrow down the selection process, without being dependent on salespeople to give them preliminary information. Often, by the time a customer calls you, they’ve already decided (or are pretty close to deciding) what they want. When selling vinyl siding, you could be in or out of the selection process without even knowing about it. To make sure you’re in the game, rely on your siding manufacturer to give you the ammunition you need.
Most manufacturers now offer ingenious tools like online visualizing software. Heartland Siding by ProVia has a Visualizer on our website that allows people to virtually remodel their homes, without spending a penny or swinging a hammer!
We also have our ProVia Designer Collections lookbook, a 52-page photographic catalog that features groupings of complementary color choices for vinyl siding, entry doors and manufactured stone. By showing various combinations of harmonious color options for exterior building products, the lookbook provides creative idea-starters for contractors and dealers to use with their customers. It’s available in a print version and also online and helps people “become a designer” by empowering them with professionally-chosen color palettes. Tools like visualizers and lookbooks help take the guesswork and risk out of making siding choices, helping ensure a satisfied customer.
Old is Still Gold
As I’ve worked in the siding business I’ve developed relationships with people and organizations across our industry, including other vinyl siding manufacturers. We all agree, “old school” is still working, and there’s a need for it. Sure, we have great digital tools that help to educate, and influence the final purchase. However, that final purchase is usually not made without the buyer actually holding a product sample in their hands, or looking at it in-person on an installed home. So, in the final stages, decisions are not being made without seeing, touching and feeling the actual product. Digital tools add some desirable sizzle that makes the process exciting for the buyer. But the final decision is a human-to-human interaction.
As a siding brand manager I get a close-up view of what salespeople are using. At Heartland Siding we still see heavy ordering of traditional tools like hand sample boards, color fan decks, brochures and showroom display materials. So today we blend old and new approaches to selling vinyl siding.
I know here at ProVia we have a conscious focus on avoiding “gimmicks.” We put a lot of thought into everything we do with our marketing and sales tools, such as our literature, website, visualizer, and lookbook. Our goal is simply to help solve a problem or achieve a goal. You can’t go wrong if you do everything you can to simply provide quality tools, old school and digital, that help everyone have a successful outcome. Long before digital tools were available, Tom Hopkins, another great sales trainer, coined the phrase “getting people happily involved with your product.” Keep that as your focus, and you’ll sell a lot of vinyl siding.
This article first appeared in Building Products Digest.