Selling up

Apeer is a large manufacturer of residential doors, but the company’s foray into selling upmarket windows and doors under the Lumi brand has offered valuable lessons all round, according to MD Asa McGillian.

The UK home improvement industry offers a number of remarkable examples of what might be regarded as typical British behaviour. One of the most notable being the British homeowner’s penchant for spending often quite disproportionate sums of money on improving their homes; amounts that would make their mainland European counterparts quite breathless.

And yet, against these characteristics, is an extraordinary commitment to ‘the deal’; in other words, a discount no matter what. This causes otherwise extraordinarily streetsmart business owners to lead with knocking money off before they have even worked through the customer’s requirements and circumstances; and for homeowners to buy based upon getting an extra hundred quid off, irrespective of the specific details of the product.

Such behaviour is as old as selling itself but is it still appropriate? Surely it’s time to move on.

Apeer manufactures Lumi windows and doors, which are characterised by their external ‘frameless’ appearance. Distinctly upmarket in both appeal and price, the experience with marketing and selling Lumi has made me revisit the whole approach to selling windows and doors in Britain and Ireland.

When selling to what we might call average homeowners the assumption is that they are going to want a deal. But what we have learned in five years of selling Lumi, is that homeowners will spend an extraordinary amount of money on their homes and we should never pre-judge their limits. Offer an original idea, capture their imagination and the last thing on their mind is a few pounds off.

This is the experience of our distributors and it has played a great part in the decision to incorporate all of the company’s doors types and styles within the same website and catalogues, whereas previously Lumi was marketed separately.

Customers first look for what they perceive satisfies their needs, then price becomes a key issue. But when they are shown something different, that captures their imagination, then the desire to have something unique can be overwhelming. That gives them a real buzz, and a discount becomes irrelevant. From that point on it is difficult to go back and settle for mediocre.

Although we have less control over the sales methods used by the distributors of our composite doors, we take every opportunity to encourage installer partners to sell the customisation options that are available to their customer.

When homeowners go looking for a composite door they will have a set idea about their needs and desires, and for what they wish to pay. A good sales person, who fully understands what they are selling and the options open to them, can easily add 50% to 75% to the ultimate invoice value of the door.

Special styles, colours, glass, hardware – put them in front of the customer and create desire. I know this is an established sales concept but too few people know enough about the products they are selling and are unwilling to do anything about it.

When homeowners see a great product that is unusual – has a ‘wow’ factor – then the need to sell becomes far less prominent and, within reason, so does price.