As co-founder of Window Coverings University, I give sales and business training classes across the country. Attendees include beginning consultants and professionals with 20 years experience who personally sell over $1 million a year. For two years I have asked, “What makes window coverings a great business for you?” The answers are inspiring and thought provoking. Included with this article are actual comments by shop-at-home consultants and comments from business owners.
Do you agree or disagree? Whatever your thoughts, please e-mail your comment to me at: steveb@custEmers.com As you compare your experience to others, think and analyze. Then, you tell me: Is window coverings unique among all businesses? Is it possibly the best business in the world?
ONLY WINDOW COVERINGS
Sales consultants say the No. 1 thing they like is the flexibility possible with shop-at-home selling. How many jobs allow an employee to work by appointment at a time acceptable to the employee? If Mom needs to pick up kids at school, or Dad wants to take the car in for repairs, there is no problem and no lost time from work. Working hours are fabulous. Shop-at-home consultants are never trapped inside a store working tedious hours. They rarely work nights or weekends, except by choice.
The work is challenging, creative, satisfying and ever changing. No two homes are exactly alike—but every home has windows and the best homes have unique architectural challenges requiring a trained specialist. The customers are great and the income potential is outstanding. I personally know employee sales consultants earning over $150,000 a year! Is there another career field that provides such flexibility, fabulous hours, challenging work and high income potential?
Window coverings business owners have advantages impossible to find in other fields. Start with a low investment to get into business—often under $5,000. Next, consider low overhead and high sales potential. Some business owners reach a half million dollars in sales with no employees and no store!
Window coverings is one of the only businesses that work equally well from a home-based or a retail location. Flexibility works for owners, too. You can leave town for a week and customers will wait until you return.
A UNIQUE BUSINESS
Window coverings is not like selling flooring, lamps, furniture or any other product of home furnishing. It is the only product that can be totally customized by the skill of the consultant. A sales professional can create an artistic effect to enhance an entire room—to set the mood, reflect a feeling and express the family lifestyle. There is no viable alternative to the beauty and affordability window treatments add to a room.
Why do window coverings, of all home furnishings, add this much value for homeowners? The answer is subtle, but telling: Window coverings are the only home furnishings item that is an equal combination of product and professional service!
Value to the homeowner is equally balanced between product and service. Skill doubles the value of the product alone. There is no other business like it anywhere.
In professions such as architecture, teaching, engineering, law and accounting service is rendered by a trained professional who charges for time, not for products. On the other hand, product stores that sell flooring, lighting and furniture do not offer the level of skill and expertise of a window coverings shop-at-home consultant. Yes, there is a level of sales competence and professionalism, but essentially the buyer wants the product first and sales advice is secondary. In window coverings, advice and service can be equal in value to the product.
SHOP-AT-HOME REQUIRES TRAINING AND SKILL
With window coverings—above the level of basic privacy and light control—the shop-at-home consultant creates a custom solution to serve homeowner needs. The consultant must know which product to recommend; how to measure the window; how to consider architectural issues of light switches, heating and window placement; how to write specification orders and supervise fabrication; and, finally, how to assure installation to perfection.
In other words, window coverings service and products are balanced equally—about half is the value of the product and half is the service value of a skilled professional. Do you want proof? Check the Internet, a catalogue or box store for the cost of a product. Compare that price to the value a professional sells it for. A professional will justify selling at double the cost of the Internet price. The difference? It’s the value added by training, experience and skill of the consultant.
HOMEOWNERS WILL PAY FOR EXPERTISE
The dynamic quality of the American marketplace allows homeowners to choose the level of service and professionalism they value—and will pay for. Homeowners in the “Golden Opportunity” (see D&WC, April 2005, page 56) segment of homes valued from $300,000 to over $800,000 on national average want quality and professional assistance. They will pay twice the value of purchasing on the Internet and doing it themselves.
THE BUSINESS IS UNIQUE
Window coverings is the one business where a professional can enjoy flexibility, great customers, creative challenge and high potential income. How does the professional earn this privilege? Only by investing in education to develop skill, confidence and expertise. I have long advocated that skill and knowledge can substitute for invested capital. Among all the businesses in the world, window coverings affords that choice. I personally believe it is the best business in the world . . . and I hope that by now, you do too!
Why window coverings is the best business in the world for a sales consultantWhat consultants have to say:
1. Flexibility: work by appointment
2. No store hours to confine you
3. No night and weekend work, except by your choice and by appointment
4. Creative outlet
5. Make a room beautiful
6. Make the homeowner’s life better
7. No boss standing over you
8. Variety of challenges—not repetitive, every window is different
9. Professional—use education and experience to solve problems, similar to an architect, CPA, doctor or lawyer
10. Shared values with your customer: both want a beautiful room
11. Doesn’t feel like work—enjoy the work and enjoy the customers you work with
12. Customers are great and become friends for life
13. Pride and satisfaction of great work—come back and see it years later, bringing happiness to the household because of your ideas and effort
14. Changes the lives of people who live there—raises self-image and pride
15. Control your own destiny—work less and care for family. Work more, make more
16. Make a lot of money
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase your profitability. Bursten is co-founder of Window Coverings University and Exciting Windows! service. He also is the founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur.” Questions and comments are welcome: email@example.com or call (888) 333-8981.