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‘It’s Sales Jim – Just Not As You Know It’

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Published 14th December 2020 by Sternfenster Categories: Sternfenster Installer Network, Updates

We have transformed our approach to sales, pulling reps in off the road since lockdown to focus instead on increased customer support.

It’s a model that has been a part of the window and door industry since its inception. The rep on the road. Then came the watershed moment – March 23rd 2020 Lockdown. Suddenly ‘pressing the flesh’, ‘popping in for a cup of coffee’ and dinners with customers, lost some of their appeal.

These functions clearly only a part, of the traditional sales model, nonetheless ones that have been difficult to sustain since COVID-19 and let’s face it, while the sentiment may be there, fist and elbow ‘bumps’ are just a little awkward!

And while many within the industry are back clocking up the miles and time on the nation’s motorway networks, others have taken the opportunity to reinvent their sales model.

“We were looking to change and adapt our sales model pre-COVID. We always felt that we could work more effectively if our people weren’t in the field so much. If you’re in a car or out it’s very difficult to be effective, to get things done and sorted for customers.

“You go in, pick up actions and then you’re on to your next appointment, without the time to do the work. It didn’t make sense and it didn’t allow us to deliver the service we wanted to, to our customers.”

In this sense, COVID-19 accelerated change, giving new impetus to a path we were already pursuing. This led to a restructure at the start of this year, taking three field reps off the road, with the remaining two splitting the country between them, but spending more time office based and supported by an expanded customer service team.

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“It didn’t make any sense. Our salespeople were some of the most knowledgeable and technically capable members of our team but they were spending most of the day travelling from appointment to appointment clocking-up 1,000miles plus”, Nathan continues.

“What value does that add over a video chat or call? It’s not that we’re not going out and seeing our customers. We are but it’s with a purpose. For me, the ‘casual’ drop-ins are a thing of the past.”

He argues that rather than reducing contact, reigning in the time our reps spend on the road has done the opposite, making them more accessible and able to support customers more effectively. This has contributed to a 40% uplift in turnover from pre-existing accounts year-on-year and not counting new customers.

Culture Change

To get there we have had to re-skill members of our sales team. This has been built around a new customer contact process and reporting methodology. It has also meant bringing sales personnel up to speed on remote working tools including Teams, Zoom and SharePoint.

“We’ve been on a journey. I have guys working for me with 20, 30, 40 years’ experience on the road. It’s been a transition to get to a point where they’re confident with the tools that they’re using.

“The same goes for customers. For some the transition was very easy, for others the idea of a video call was completely alien. For me, that’s where COVID-19 has accelerated delivery.

“It would have been harder to persuade some of our customers to adopt video calling if COVID hadn’t been there. In a sense it wasn’t only us saying could you do a remote meeting, it was the Government saying that they should”, Nathan reflects.

Increased contact

The net effect, he argues, is that customer contact has in fact increased rather than decreased. Key accounts and members of our installer network, get regular contact through Zoom, teams or calls and detailed in-person six-monthly reviews with our account managers.

We can also contact and chat with the customer services team through Teams.

“One of the things that has happened is that we have moved away from reliance on phone calls. Customers were emailing in a lot more, which provided a cleaner audit trail and allowed our customer services team to work more effectively.

“Moving more of our customer services function onto Teams continues to maintain that ‘paper trail’ but is a much more personable platform with the ability to chat with or call key contacts direct.”

Consumer lead generation

This adaptation is consistent with the approach that we have brought to our retail support offer. We generate leads through our own website, chatbots, social media and download them directly into our members own micro CRM dashboard in real time. Accessible by phone as well as laptop or desktop, it means installers can also download and follow-up leads while out on site.

Called Easy Admin, we also allow customers to track leads, prepare professional quotes, check profit levels, order online, and auto-generate invoices and reports.

We also offer a number of sales accelerator tools to our customers. This includes its online quote engine, which allows homeowners to select products and instantly build prices. This can be styled and custom designed to reflect our customers’ own brands and offers.

Members of the Sternfenster Approved installer network also get access to a branded sub-site with dedicated post-code search; e-marketing tools, SEO support, as well as subsidised website development delivered through our digital partner, ICAAL.

“The incredible demand that installers have seen over the past seven or eight months has in also made them more willing to adopt new ways of working that get the job done, while saving them a bit of time”, Nathan says.

“They don’t want a rep calling and taking an hour or more out of their day because they don’t have the time – they’re too busy!”

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