The Evolving Door: What Today’s Customers Want, and How You Must Adapt

© 2007 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2007
Author: Scott O’Neill and Tom Wadsworth
Page 76

The Evolving Door
What Today’s Customers Want, and How You Must Adapt

By Scott O’Neill with Tom Wadsworth

Yesterday’s customer was certainly different from today’s. And the garage door world has changed dramatically—in the last five years, in the last 10 years, and even more radically since 1986 when I got into this trade.

Through each mini-era, we’ve seen a change in the dynamics of garage door sales: the doors themselves, the customers, the questions they ask, the features they demand, and the relevance of design. But today’s customers are more educated, whether properly or not, from many resources not previously available.

Our Changing Industry
“Video Killed the Radio Star.” That song came out when MTV and music videos emerged as the new medium for music. No, it didn’t kill the radio star, but it dramatically changed the music industry. It was a similar transition for garage doors.

In the 1980s, the typical mindset of a customer was, “It’s just a garage door—anything will be better than what I’ve got now.” Here in California, that included replacing old one-piece flip-up doors.

Steel doors became the doors of choice through the 80s and 90s. They performed better, were much easier to maintain, were cheaper, and looked updated … all good reasons for replacing an old door.

Yet, today, updated means so much more. Carriage-house doors or steel doors with windows and custom paint colors can give the entire home a facelift.

Our products have changed, but so also have the ways people buy doors. Today, customers can buy garage doors from big box stores, typical door dealers, and a growing number of “tail-gaters” who operate out of the back of a truck.

The New Customer
Customers have changed, too. Door buyers are now influenced by many new voices that were only whispering or totally silent in 1985. For example:

1) Television. A long procession of “home makeover” shows is now broadcast around the clock on network and cable television.
2) The Internet. It’s brought instant, touch-of-a-button research to customers sitting at a computer at work or at home.
3) Advertising bombardment. Instead of seeing door ads in just the Yellow Pages and newspapers, today’s customer finds ads in direct mailings/coupon books, Web sites, consumer magazines, newsletters, special interest publications, trade magazines, radio, TV, etc.
4) New home styles. Today’s home architecture emphasizes overall style more than ever. This has driven the amazing new demand for high-end custom doors.
5) Peer pressure. “Hey, look at the neighbor’s new garage door!”

Changing Our Tactics
How, then, does today’s garage door salesperson adapt to today’s customer? Here are my best suggestions.

· Consider each customer’s objectives. Ask questions about their needs and wants. Help them wade through the sea of door information. Guide them to the door that works for them. Sometimes design is key; other times it could be safety.

· Be a trend/design consultant. We should all be cheering that garage doors are now “trendy”! Some customers will not be aware of this, but they will all appreciate knowing what’s hot and what’s not. Give them smart advice that they will never get from a tail-gater or from the kid in the vest at a big home-improvement store.

· Earn their business. With all the new buying sources for garage doors, you must work harder than ever to earn each sale. Call them back faster than anyone else. Get helpful literature to them faster than any competitor. Bend over backwards to meet their busy schedules and their unique needs.

· Offer honest advice as if they were your family or friends. Today’s customer is wary of getting ripped off by the growing number of con artists and uneducated salespeople. Be genuine, trustworthy, and give reliable advice. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Would you want that advice you’re giving?

· Think long term. Most importantly, instead of going for the quick buck, maintain a professional, long-term approach to business. Plan for today’s sale to lead to another sale tomorrow … to that customer’s relatives, friends, and to that same customer 10 years from now.

Adapting to the ever-changing demands of the market does not require that your integrity must suffer. If you maintain integrity in all your business practices, you will ensure continued survival and success for your garage door company.

Scott O’Neill has been in the garage door business since 1986 and a sales manager since 1992 at Madden Door, Martinez, Calif.

Photo caption: Style is king for garage doors and their homes, like this new Mediterranean home in Orinda, Calif.