Stan Stokes is in the window business. More specifically, the general manager of K.C. Co. in Beltsville, Md., is in the Pella window business and only carries that one brand, which makes selling windows much simpler. Many window replacement companies stick with a single vendor. “The [Pella] brand is huge, so you really end up depending on it to draw your leads,” Stokes says. Once in the house, the company emphasizes its own 75-year history. Showing one brand leaves salespeople little wiggle room. Margins are protected, drops are few. “Sales reps are forced to become product experts,” Stokes says.
ALL ABOUT OPTIONS Companies that offer multiple brands have the advantage of appealing to many more homeowners by offering a variety of solutions based on price, quality, and aesthetics. “You try to figure out what the need is,” says Maurice Forde, whose company, Forde Window & Remodeling in Northbrook, Ill., installs eight brands.
American Custom Contractors in Rockville, Md., offers two brands of vinyl and three of wood. Options tie in with the way the company sells, which begins with a measure call and needs assessment, after which the rep returns with a recommendation and proposal. “We let the homeowner decide based on what they want,” says vice president Demetri Giakoumatos.
Selling multiple brands is more difficult — the difficulty being “finding and training reps to sell multiple lines and installers to install them,” according to Forde — but, he points out, “it makes people more comfortable and gives them more options.”
SIMPLIFY TO SELL Selling style has a lot to do with the number of brands a company carries. Companies that train reps to close on one call are disposed to carry a single line of windows over multiple brands. For instance, Illinois Energy in Lombard, Ill., offers only the company's private label brand of vinyl. Owner Dave Sonner cites three reasons: “It's easier for a salesman to present it to people; it doesn't confuse homeowners; and it simplifies ordering parts and servicing the product.”
Sales manager Brian Campbell says an added advantage is that “if you're constantly marketing the same product over and over, it gives you name recognition and shows your commitment to the product.” But probably the biggest advantage has to do with selling. Many customers, say single-line sellers, have a hard enough time trying to arrive at a buying decision, so why complicate matters?
The best of all possible worlds, says Lee Ewing of Custom Remodelers in Clarksville, Tenn., is “to find a line where you're comfortable with its low, middle, high, and super-high product levels, and for which you can get the service and be price-competitive in the market.”