Four Misconceptions About Automated Window Treatment Sales
Richard Millson ([email protected]) owns Millson Technologies, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This past March I delivered a presentation at the CEDIA Management Conference on the importance of implementing standardized processes for ESC firms. As an example, I explained how my firm has standardized the way that we sell, specify, and install automated window treatments. I also shared how these products have grown to represent a very significant portion of our overall business.
During my sessions, I asked how many ESCs present were actively selling automated window treatments as part of their current business offering. I was very surprised by how few hands went up.
After each class and during the rest of the conference I conducted an informal poll as to why more ESCs were not offering automated window treatments. These discussions allowed me to see that there are a fair number of misconceptions among ESCs about this area of our business and even some confusion as to the specific role of the ESC in the sales process for window treatments.
1. Excuse Number One: ‘I won’t make money.’ In fact, the very first reason why you should be selling automated window treatments is that they represent an area of our industry where you can actually still make a good profit. The simple reason for this is that even though most homes have some form of window coverings, the automated versions of those same products are much less common and are still considered a relatively “niche” market, which also places them squarely in the territory of the other luxury items our clients expect and want. That means they are not “commodity” items available from mass-market retailers in competition to drive the prices ever lower.
2. Excuse Number Two: ‘I can’t fit them in my existing product mix.’ Automated window treatments actually can be a natural extension of what you are already doing. If you currently sell lighting control, then window treatments logically represent another layer of that same system, aimed at controlling natural light as opposed to electric light. And if you offer even basic integration services, then you will likely be asked to control the motorized window treatments anyway. It makes a lot more sense to plan the control and integration of all the systems within your own firm, as opposed to having to coordinate with a window treatment supplier.
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3. Excuse Number Three: ‘I don’t know how to design or install window treatments.’ Aside from any specific training that the window treatment manufacturer might require, any reasonably experienced ESC technician should have no trouble wiring, installing, and programming these products. The most important skills are the ability to take accurate measurements, handle the products carefully during installation, and get things perfectly straight and level. There are a variety of technical details to consider when planning or installing these systems, but that is no different than many of the other systems we provide. With manufacturer training, attention to detail, and the experience gained over your first few installations, you should have no trouble adding window treatments to your portfolio.
4. Excuse Number Four: ‘I know nothing about fabrics and colors.’ The good news is that more often than not you won’t have to know much about this stuff. It is almost always the responsibility of the interior designer or architect, in consultation with the client, to select the specific fabric and style of each window treatment in the project. The role of the ESC in this area is generally no more difficult than accurately recording and communicating the color/fabric/style information to the manufacturer so that everything gets ordered and fabricated properly.
The most valuable piece of advice I can offer for successfully adding these products to your projects is that you must do everything you can to standardize your documentation. While measuring and recording the many parameters associated with the various window treatments in a project is certainly not difficult, it can be very detailed (see sidebox).
If you don’t currently offer automated window treatments I strongly encourage you to consider doing so. In an industry of shrinking margins and increasingly do-it-yourself products, this is one area where your skills and expertise can add real value, and still earn you good profits.