High-tech Selling

Garden State Brickface, Windows & Siding in Roselle, N.J., has a history of using the latest technology in sales pitches.

May 31, 2002

 

After Choosing the style of home most like their own, Garden State Brickface prospects can experiment with a wide range of custom and standard exterior options.

Garden State Brickface, Windows & Siding in Roselle, N.J., has a history of using the latest technology in sales pitches.. In the 1970s, it developed a Super 8 film that the sales team could take to prospects’ homes along with a Fairchild projector. Later, it converted to VHS tapes.

This April, each of the company’s 25 salespeople received a new laptop with a proprietary, interactive design and sales program installed on the hard drive. Building on the film, video and presentation book that came before, the application includes the company story, information about products used and photos of completed projects. What’s new is the interactive showroom, where homeowners can choose the house that most resembles their own from among dozens of styles common to the region. From there, they can see how it looks with different colors and styles of brick face, stone face, stucco and vinyl siding.

“Nobody is going to spend any money without knowing that the house is going to look better,” says president Larry Landes. “We wanted something to allow clients to visualize how their home would look with our products.”

When he came up with the concept a few years ago, Landes wanted to be able to show clients what their home would look like with different exteriors. As the project un-folded, however, he realized that getting a picture of the home and taking it back to the office for rendering got away from the in-home, one-call close for which Garden State Brickface strives. Focus groups and market research showed that homeowners didn’t mind not being able to see their home as long as there was a similar option.

A number of manufacturers offer online interactive showrooms, but most of Garden State Brickface’s exteriors are custom, so using those Web sites wasn’t an option. Besides, one of Landes’ other goals was to ensure consistency among the sales reps and a uniform delivery of the company story. And he needed to make sure even techno-phobic old-timers found the new sales system easy to use.

To find a program developer, he asked for referrals from the person who’d designed the Garden State Brickface Web site, as well as local marketing, advertising and multimedia companies. Ultimately he chose a multimedia company with remodeling industry experience after talking to some of its prior clients.

Landes acknowledges that committing to developing the program, which takes up nine CD-ROMs, was a “giant leap of faith,” especially since it cost more than $50,000.

“Selling more business is the only thing that justifies it,” he says. He’s counting on this program to bring in “mar-ginal” prospects and increase the company’s conversation rate. After six weeks, he ob-served a spike of 10-15%, topping the 5-10% increase he’d sought. Salespeople have re-ported positive feedback on the use of the laptops and of the program, confirmed by a customer poll.

“It distinguishes us from the everyday contractor,” Landes says. “Ultimately, if we educate the customer, it means that they’ll choose us.” Of course, with more than 100 employees and annual sales volume in excess of $10 million, Garden State Brickface is bigger than the everyday contractor, with a bigger sales and marketing budget.

Even so, part of the beauty of technology is its scalability. Developing a CD-ROM sales tool without an interactive showroom wouldn’t require the database and animation that Garden State Brickface’s program did, and would be much cheaper.

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