New Ideas Begin With You, the Specifier

by WOHe

Where do ideas originate? Where do manufacturers find innovative
door styles? How about the latest colors and finishes where do
those ideas originate? Unique cabinets, creative options, the
latest reports, pioneering ways to communicate manufacturers are
continuously developing innovative and superior ways of doing
things, but where do the ideas come from?

It would certainly be exciting to think that ideas are developed
in exotic and/or scientific manners. I can envision a manufacturer
climbing a mountain to face an ancient Oracle that inhales earthly
gases and then prophesizes groundbreaking ideas. I can also imagine
walking down a hallway in the factory and pushing open a door to
find a room with the curtains drawn tight and a fortuneteller
caressing a crystal ball. Gurus, Swamis, Seers, Dream Walkers,
Wizards, Prophets and Psychics would all be members of a
development team. How about a mastermind sitting in a laboratory
chair with sensors affixed to his head and his thoughts being
studied and recorded by a panel of researchers?

Although these methods would be exceedingly interesting, that’s
not how it’s done.

Almost all manufacturers simply rely on you the kitchen/bath
product specifier. They’re looking for the idea that you jotted
down on a table napkin. They’re anticipating you finding a “new”
old door at an antique shop, or for you to pass along an
interesting color block. This is where ideas are born.

All manufacturers are looking for the new “hot” door style, the
up-and-coming, best-selling finishes, the new and best ways to
streamline selling, ordering and manufacturing. The truth of the
matter, however, is that most manufacturers are not out
trend-setting. Instead, they’re out looking at what other people
are attempting, and then doing their best to judge what’s working
and what’s not. They’re not looking to build a new rocket; they’re
looking to hitch a ride on a rocket that’s on its way up.

The only way for them to do that is to rely people out in the
field to tell them which rockets are taking off and which ones are
fizzling.
Your rep plays a very important role in this process. He or she
should be looking to you and valuing your thoughts and ideas.
Personally, I, find this to be one of the most rewarding parts of
my job as a rep. When I see a dealer/distributor, I want to know
what’s hot? What’s selling? What’s making it easier to do
business?

I understand that though dealers and distributors go to work
each day to turn a profit, it’s often the things that make their
business easier that garner their attention. And, if that’s a key
to how they work, it behooves me to do all that I can to make sure
that the products I bring to them meet those criteria.

A rep will look to his/her dealers and distributors for new
products and ideas. It’s important to look for both. It’s not
always about finding a new door style or color. It’s often the
little things, like a more efficient form for ordering replacements
or figuring wainscotting.

An effective rep wants to discover the means that are being
employed to make it easier for them, their manufacturers and their
customers to do business. This equates not only to more business,
but to more profitable business.

What’s Being Sought
What’s the rep searching for? Here are four things that come to
mind:

  • Doors and Finishes. If you have a new door style that you’re
    interested in, or a new finish, obtain a sample. You may think that
    something is a sure-fire hit, but the rep needs to sell the idea to
    the manufacturer. The best approach to this is to supply a
    sample.

    Manufacturers have a lot of factors to consider. First, they have
    to distinguish what a new style or finish looks like, and then they
    have to consider how to produce it. Can they craft it in house or
    do they need to outsource it? Is there a company already producing
    it and could they act as a supplier for it?
    Once they’ve figured this out, they then must decide whether adding
    this to the line can not only boost sales, but if it can be done at
    a profit. You can always increase sales, but you stay in business
    only by increasing the sales at a profit.

  • New Cabinet Ideas. Manufacturers are constantly looking to
    increase their product offerings. The last few years have witnessed
    an explosion in new cabinets for the kitchen, as well as new
    offerings for many other rooms in the home. Home offices,
    entertainment centers, laundry rooms and garages have become
    newfound spaces for manufacturers. This has amplified the demand
    for new ideas.

    Many of you have great ideas for fresh product offerings, and it’s
    important that you pass your ideas on to your rep. Draw it up for
    them and give as many details as possible. If you can find it in
    another spec book, photocopy it. A picture tells a better story.
    Once again, your rep needs to sell this to the manufacturer, so
    furnish them with the most effective tools possible.

  • New Options. Don’t forget about options, inserts and
    accessories. These items play important roles in expanding
    offerings. Overlays, appliqu’s, keyboard trays, pocket
    doors, CD holders, and many more items have all been necessary for
    cabinet manufactures to grow their business in new home spaces.
    What’s next? If a manufacturer adds bags and racks to hold soccer
    balls and other sports equipment to its accessories, can the firm
    then sell more cabinets for the garage? If so, tell them.
  • Reports and Forms. Delivery schedules, replacement part forms,
    order forms, profile sheets and many other reports can play an
    important role in sales. Is there a way to make it easier for you
    and your salespeople to sell and order? If there is, let your rep
    know.

Your input in developing new products and ideas cannot be
overstated. I can personally attest to sitting in sales meeting
after sales meeting and seeing new offerings presented and each one
being followed with the statement, “This was suggested by our
dealer” in Providence, Omaha, Cincinnati, Virginia Beach, and so
on.

Though manufacturers don’t have Oracles, Psychics or Masterminds
on staff, they do have a customer base populated with gurus whose
ideas are more than welcome.

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