Growing in Tough Times

John G. Swanson
September 17, 2008
Meetings & Events | Management, Sales & Marketing

Baltimore—While many remodelers and replacement dealers are struggling in the current economic environment, some are growing. In conjunction with last week’s Remodeling Show here, Ply Gem Windows brought together a panel of Great Lakes window dealers that continue to see their sales increasing to share some of their keys to success.

“We decided we were not going to participate in the current economy,” said Vaughn McCourt of Penguin Windows, a replacement window specialist based in Mukilteo, Wash. Success and sales are all about “attitude,” he continued. Poor expectations can be “self-fulfilling.” If a salesperson gets a lead and thinks it’s bad, he won’t be successful. Some homeowners are struggling, but there are still plenty of potential buyers out there, and if they are pursued aggressively, they will buy.

Panelists included, from left to right, Doug Dousseau of Midwest Home Design, Penguin's Vaughn McCourt, Almenia Faux and Peter Fitzpatrick of P.J. Fitzpatrick. Ply Gem's Ralph Pfeiffer introduced the group.

Doug Dousseau of Midwest Home Design of Fort Wayne, Ind., shared the perspective that attitude is key. “We don’t try to sell windows to people who don’t have jobs,” he said, but he agreed, there’s plenty of opportunity out there in the market still. The key to his firm’s continued growth, he suggested, was when “I stopped working in my business, and started working on it.” Rather than getting involved in day-to-day activities, he explained, he now focuses on “systems and culture.” That has led to the creation of true selling systems that work. “We’re able to do more with less.”

“We’ve put the focus on efficiency,” noted Keith Smallwood of Creative Energy Exteriors in Richmond, Va. The company keeps close tabs on all its activities. “We have metrics in marketing. If we get poor results, we cut something out. Same for our salespeople,” he added. That has led to increased turnover in sales, but it has also meant the company is attracting talent and keeping it.

“It’s not one thing, but we’re trying to work smarter, said Peter Fitzpatrick, president of P.J. Fitzpatrick in New Castle, Del. A major goal of those efforts, he added, was to “elevate the customer experience.” Almena Faux, who directs marketing and events for the firm, agreed with other panelists on the importance of attitude, but also stressed “training, training, training.” The company spends hours and hours on regular training for all employees, whether they are involved in sales, installation or any other activity. Employees understand how important everything they do is when it comes to pleasing the customer, and in the end that translates to more referrals, which are by far the best leads.

That sentiment was echoed by Smallwood, who noted, “We have to make sure we fulfill the promise made at the table.” While the company uses numerous lead generation methods, satisfying existing customers and earning their referrals is key.