Excellence in Retail Program

Old Mission Showroom is Physical Manifestation of Company Itself
Ryan Self
October 1, 2008
FEATURE ARTICLE | Strategies & Practices
Old Mission sales staff demonstrate windows and doors installed in simulated house settings.

Jim Cesario, owner and president of Old Mission Windows, is a firm believer in the theory of “it takes a village” - at least when it comes to selling windows and doors.

Cesario’s company has designed a showroom that mimics a village home setting, with separate buildings housing different departments, painted floors, vaulted ceilings and well-lit pathways that might lead a visitor to ponder the famous yellow brick road of “The Wizard of Oz” fame. The golden path meanders through cutout sections of small pseudo-homes, walls of installed doors, and small walkthroughs that simulate what it might feel like to arrive home and walk through this very door, and look out this very window. Lest the illusion be broken and the buyer rudely awoken from the fantasy, the path is adorned with painted green “front yards,” and front porch lights adorning the door that light up upon arrival. One would be forgiven if they were step in, sit down, prop up their feet and call for some snacks and a cold one.

“This is not your typical sterile showroom,” Cesario says.

Old Mission, a Traverse City, Mich., company, has made its 6,000-square-foot showroom a central piece of its selling strategy; which hardly sounds like an innovative strategy. After all, what dealer doesn’t consider the showroom a vital cog in the selling machine? The devil is in the details, Cesario reports. It’s not just in how windows and doors are showcased, he says, but in the way the very core values of the company are put on display for all to see.

The dealer serves builders, architects and homeowners, and carries lines such as Weather Shield, Kolbe & Kolbe and Solaris International products.

The company’s mission statement - "Old Mission Windows is a biblically-based, growth-oriented sales and service organization committed to building long-term relationships and being wise stewards of our resources. We strive to provide quality products and services that exceed our customers' expectations while maintaining an enjoyable environment for success” – is prevalent throughout the showroom; posted on walls, spelled out in brochures (which have been placed in strategic areas so a salesman is never far from a chance to grab one for a customer) and, of course, on the lips of Old Mission staff. The omnipresence of that statement is no coincidence; Cesario says it’s all about educating customers on what stands behind the company’s products.

“The showroom tells the story of the company,” Cesario says. “It’s about stability; a company under the same ownership for 20 years. The credibility of years of service, and of several brands. The confidence that we can provide any service they need.”

Not surprisingly, Cesario has visited countless showrooms, and he’s taken particular note of what he doesn’t like to see.

“You’ll see outdated displays – we’re talking information that changed years ago, customers that are not greeted, understaffed showrooms, rollers on door displays that stick, missing screens,” Cesario says. “I think most competitors know the importance of a showroom; they’re just not willing to make the investment. All of these things can preclude making a sale.”

To Cesario and the entire Old Mission team, the showroom is about more than windows and doors, it is a physical manifestation of the company itself. “We have sheets up showing where our sales are, where our calls are, what our service department is doing that week,” Cesario says. “It’s not just showing the product, but showing them how we’re set up. We want people to know what we are, which brings some trust and credence that we can perform.”

Visitors are not corralled through a preselected series of displays. The showroom is set up to encourage browsing.

That also means knowing that the showroom experience will never be the same for any two visitors – particularly when an architect, a builder and a homebuyer might be visiting on any given day. The company has a different way of handling visitors with different backgrounds. Architects are treated to presentations from various vendors offering new products. Builders are invited to sit down with sales staff to collect information and make up printed and laminated blueprints with rough openings penciled in. And the consumer is given what Cesario calls a “more touchy-feely” experience, where staffers explain “the real difference between a $150 door and an $800 door.”

“Education and demonstrations are the key,” Cesario says. “We look at it as trying to fill their needs, not sell them anything.”

That commitment to the entire showroom experience, rather than looking to sell at every turn makes the salesman’s job easier, reports Tom Sabourim, sales manager with Old Mission.

“Anyone can talk to the customer,” Sabourim says. “What we do is ‘relationship selling.’ Bring the parties on site, go through every segment of the market, let them see and touch the product and say ‘that’s exactly what I was looking for.’”

“I can do my job better when I can see the visual response from the customer,” Sabourim adds. “They say 70 to 80 percent of communication is body language. People go to what they like.”

Salesmen such as Sabourim are dealing with an increasingly savvy and educated customer, one who typically arrives at the showroom with some ideas already in mind. To facilitate that kind of shopping, the company has installed workstations throughout the showroom village with Internet so a customer can quickly access that shot they saw in a magazine, or product they spotted in a catalogue.

“If someone saw something in Better Homes and Gardens that caught their eye, I want them to be able to pull it up and show me,” Sabourim says. “I want them to be able to think outside of the box, and nudge them to be a little creative with colors and styles.”

Sales materials are never far from the staff's reach, allowing them to supplement the sales pitch without abandoning the customer.

The Old Mission showroom isn’t just about future orders. A comprehensive computer filing system allows staffers to review 18 years of past orders, and even immediately research whether replacement parts for those orders are available and if not, what comparable part would suffice. Cesario is also testing a system that will allow a home owner or builder to consult any one of a network of architects that will carry access keycards to the showroom, so they can come in and see products any hour, any day.

Going that extra mile is a big part of the Old Mission message that Cesario hopes his showroom conveys.

”We as a company strive to create a comfortable feeling based on trust and confidence that Old Mission’s team will exceed their personal expectations, throughout the build process and long into the future,” Cesario says. “Our services will continue in a personal, professional and expert manner, and a visit to our showroom is the first step in building these long term relationships.”

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Reach Ryan Self, managing editor, at rself@glass.org.