Innovation can be confusing and difficult. To be successful in changing times, many of us are trying to do more with what we know rather than take the time to learn new areas. For the average window coverings professional whose customers are asking for a 10 percent reduction in costs, that dealer must work 10 percent harder to make the same bottom line as in years past.
Customers, both residential and commercial, have become aware of
motorization but are not sure who or how to ask for it. The window
coverings professional is in a perfect position to focus on high-end,
creative applications and features. It is you who is in the perfect
position to focus your clients and educate them on all of their
window coverings options. You are the professionals who can defend
against the commodity competition and show the customers the benefits
of your expertise and understanding of choices and options.
While automation has come of age and has made significant headway
within the industry, many residential and commercial end users are
still unaware of their automation options. And this is where you,
the professional window coverings dealer, come in. Because you are
reading this article or are attending trade shows and seminars,
you are making a statement that your education and industry expertise
will set you apart from the competition.
Even the self-educated buyer can be gently drawn out of the standard
mode buy with the suggestion that there is something new to be considered.
Imagine the clerk at the grocery asking for your choice of paper,
plastic or cardboard rather than the standard question we hear each
week. You would most likely sit up and focus on what they are saying.
You could ask the customer if they prefer the tilter on the right,
left or automated and get a similar reaction.
AUTOMATION SALES AND MARKETING
To be successful in sales, you must understand three concepts with
intricate expertise: your market, your customers and your competition.
Sounds easy enough, but with a constantly changing marketplace and
expanding product offering, you would agree that this is not as
simple as it sounds.
Many window coverings dealers have had some experience with automation
and with differing degrees of success with early products. Most
of the remaining motorization companies in this industry have learned
from early market efforts and are now delivering more dependable
and easy to fabricate and install products. Even control systems
are integratable now with the advent of learning remotes and RF
standard controls that can drive the TV, the blinds and lock the
Begin to look at your competition in different ways. Hot new product
areas happen because of many influences. Motorized window coverings
are not going to be the next Pet Rock, but they are a product that
must be shown and the customer must interact with to fully appreciate.
So carry a sample, put the remotes in the front of your showroom
and buy big signs!
Recently I heard an industry executive use the analogy of how the
Big Box electronics stores sell. “When you walk in the door
every new product is right up front with big signs. All of the TVs
are on!” He went on to suggest, “If you want to compete
with those stores for the consumers dollar, promote, have the big
moving shade up front or go to all those big box stores and turn
off their TVs!”
HOW TO CREATE INTEREST
So, where should you start selling automation? This depends upon
understanding the individual you are working with. Most customers
will depend on you to initiate the conversation and suggestions.
Start small and let the customer find the other applications as
they envision living in their space.
Automation is a functional adaptation of the window covering. It
can been seen only through experience. Here are some ideas:
• Take the family with small children, for example. Automation
could be suggested in the playroom or child’s room to completely
eliminate cords and provide the parent the ability to operate the
blinds easily while juggling with childcare and other tasks.
• Find the “techie” customers and you have an easy
target customer. These early adopter customers seek the latest and
greatest features in all they purchase, so why not have automated
window coverings? If you walk in the house and there is a home theater
or home office, you may have found a natural automation customer.
• Walk into any new home in a modern development and there
is at least one room with a significant number of windows. Ask the
customer what is the first thing they do in morning or last thing
in the evening. There is a high probability that one of those events
will be opening or closing the window coverings. Ask, how long will
that take with six windows in the room? What if instead of operating
one at a time, they just simply touched a switch and all of the
coverings are lowered? Just turn down the thermostat, hit a single
switch and turn in!
• Consider any time you have to step over something or around
something to measure the window, such as a kitchen sink or bathtub,
you have found an opportunity for automation. Suggest it to your
• Prove that opposites attract! Most sales go smoother if both
parties in the decision-making process are present. Not to be stereotypical,
but if you want the man to be engaged, put the remote control in
his hand and focus the close on the woman. If the man is on the
fence and is looking to delay the choice, put the remote control
in his hand again.
• Leveraging your embedded customer base is simple. Pull out
your customers’ files and review the past year. I bet you can
think of one situation for each customer where automation would
be an ideal option. Many dealers have pointed out that if one window
is automated, the client will come back for others in time.
• Feeling aggressive? Homebuilders make a significant margin
on up-selling items in the home. It is easy to get people to spend
a little more when it can be mortgaged! Invest in the model home
In a recent conversation, the president of a large home building
company was complaining that selling window coverings had been a
problem each time they had tried. His marketing team did its research
and determined that when push came to shove most home owners were
actually focused on making only the required choices. Well, if the
home needs to be pre-wired, then there is a compelling reason for
the choice to be made earlier rather than later.
Also be prepared to manage the timeline and not delay the closing,
your fabricator can help!
We have seen customers who try window covering automation in their
homes invest each year in updating other coverings in the home over
time. Automation not only sells itself, it can sell the neighbors!
We all know how important “keeping up with the Joneses”
is for our customers when selecting home furnishings and window
TRUE HOME AUTOMATION
The history for automated window coverings has been driven mostly
by the high-end residential or commercial markets. As those markets
have developed, so has the new technology within automation. For
any product to reach mass market penetration a few things must happen.
First is the maturation of the technology itself. This happens with
the help of the innovators in the industry and the market working
together. As the technology becomes more mainstream, the infrastructure
required to support the product in the market matures with the technology.
This is the current stage of automation.
The leaders among the fabrication community have begun to embrace
automation not only as a function in their arsenals of products
so that they can work with those few customers who request it, but
are actively building teams of experts in all levels of their organizations.
Automation requires thought changes throughout the organization.
As mentioned above, the sales teams need to support the dealers
and retailers and train them to sell the functionality of the automation
systems. To do this, proper sampling is a must. On the fabrication
floor, training and adjustment in process and procedure insure success.
A final note: installer training is critical. Installers truly become
more of a valuable resource when they can measure, install and work
through the control options with the customer. With the installer
providing installation and integration services, the dealer can
sell automation without deep technical knowledge and with peace
Most automation companies understand that to be successful, our
customers need to be successful . . . and that requires training,
support and appropriate sales tools.
Tim Bates is president of Techniku, Inc. Denver, CO. With a strong
engineering and marketing background, he has more than 20 years experience
in guiding high-tech organizations from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500