August 20, 2012

A Cup of Tea in the Morning

By Paul Bieber

I always have a cup of tea in the morning. Since I enjoy different flavors of tea, I have about 30 boxes of tea in the cupboard. I look at the boxes and then, depending on my mood, make my decision for which tea I will have.

Do you give your customers the same kind of choices?  If not, you are losing business in the retail part of your glass company, as a glazing contractor and even as a fabricator.

Let’s look at retail first.

  • You should offer three kinds of replacement windows: aluminum, vinyl and wood.  Within each category, offer many flavors: good, better, best and I-just-hit-a-home-run selling mahogany windows.
  • Show framed mirrors in many styles and shapes.  You are not competing with the discount houses here.  These are impulse sales, and if a customer likes what they see, price is a secondary concern.  Show rectangles, ovals and circles, each in a different frame style.  Put up a sign that says, “many more framed mirrors are available—just ask us!”
  • Show tabletops in clear float, Starphire™ by PPG, and acid-etched glass.  Show different thicknesses and shapes.  All should be on different bases, but definitely push the all glass bases. Bevel one top, make another flat polished, another with an OG edge, and one with a rounded edge.  Don’t try competing with the big box store who has stock sizes.  Stress that you custom-manufacture each top; also mention that you can make glass to a pattern, to fit Aunt Lizzie’s 100-year-old coffee table.
  • Everything you have in your shop should be for sale.  For instance, sell tubes of silicone; sell glass gloves with a sign that says, “The world’s best gardening glove;” sell mirror clips and screws, glass cutters and razor blades.

What can a glazing contractor do to increase sales?

  • Sell more expensive glass, duh!  Higher efficiency low-E, spectrally selective tints, heat-strengthened rather than annealed units should all be a part of your showroom display or in pictures in your offices.  Colors of aluminum, thermally broken aluminum and heavy-gauge metals all create better sales and better margins.
  • But that isn’t what the customer spec called for.  So, introduce new ideas.  Many customers just want what they had before it needed replacement.  You are not using a hard sell, just offering ideas.  Bring samples to your first meeting with a client, bring pictures and catalogs.  Explain how the higher upfront costs will actually save money due to energy savings. 
  • After a successful job completion, ask your customer which of his business acquaintances could use your services.
  • All of these are pro-active.  That’s how you increase sales.  You can’t wait for sales to come to you if you are a glazing contractor.  Yes, you can read all the building permits and the Dodge reports; that’s the best place to start a sale.  But when you are face-to-face, that’s the best place to increase a sale.

How can a fabricator increase sales?  I can write a book about this one, but here are some key points:

  • Service, quality and price come first.  Easier to say than do.
  • Expanding the product offerings you have for your wholesale customers does bring in additional revenue, and in most cases does not increase inventory or delivery costs.  The first place to start is in basic supplies.  All the gear you have in your storage closets for safety can be sold easily.  Some of your basic tools as well.  Remember, you are not competing with CRL, but you are offering next-day delivery with their glass orders already going out on your truck.  Your prices can and should be higher.
  • Do you have a good business in shower doors?  Are you selling hinges?   CRL and others will give fabricators/distributors great deals with quantity purchases.  With these in house, customers can come to you for one-stop shopping when they have a shower door order.  Don’t think of it as a nuisance, but as a tool that will help you sell more glass and please more customers.
  • Also you can sell services … do your customers need help in designing shower door systems?  If you have an experienced person, you can sell a couple of hours of their time to the glass shop owners that are not computer-literate.
  • One of my best-sellers was suction cups.  Glass shops are always one cup short and would run in to buy one from us.  Buy a hundred cups; you’ll get great pricing and can make a good buck.  Just Google suction cups for glass to find some sources, or look up the names you already know.
  • Every fabricator/distributor should be selling screen wire in basic sizes and colors.  When the baseball goes through the window, the glass shop is going to replace the screen and the IG unit. 
  • Do you charge extra for certain services, like job site deliveries to secure areas like airports, which take extra hours because of security needs?  How about a job site where you have to be at the site at 5 a.m.?  The extra overtime costs should be in your sales quote.

Bottom Line…The overall market for all types of glass products has shrunk in the last couple of years.  Your goal is to sell into different marketplaces than you had before.  Creativity in your approach to sales is the key to success here.