Countertops Magazine Archive

Management Matters: Solid Surface Fabricators Should Stop Waiting for the Phone to Ring

Six months ago, I changed my job from working for a large solid surface fabrication company to working for DuPont surfaces. I went from running one of the largest shops in North America to becoming a DuPont Key Consultant, working with fabricators and visiting showrooms all over Connecticut, Rhode Island and western Massachusetts. 

It’s been a wonderful experience and I have learned quite a bit about working from manufacturer’s end as opposed to the fabrication end.

From what I have seen, one area that I think fabricators can improve on is reaching out to showrooms. I believe it is time to become more aggressive in this outreach. Because of the economy and the domination of granite in the last few years, dealers didn’t want to hear about countertop alternatives, especially when it came to solid surface. Maybe you believe calling on dealers is a waste of time because they aren’t interested in these alternatives. You’re just waiting for the phone to ring.

However, from my visits with showrooms, I have noticed a few things. First off, dealers are ready to listen if you have a plan. For example, many granite fabricators are very organized when it comes to a price book. Almost every showroom I’ve visited has a binder that has prices and programs the dealer can reference quickly without having to call the granite shop.

However, from my experiences, most solid surface fabricators ask the dealer to call for a price even if it’s a lav top.  In today’s way of running a showroom, designers do not have time to wait for a price.

So my first suggestion is that it’s time to hit the road again and start visiting showrooms, designers and small architectural firms that may just be looking for fabricators. On several occasions I have had a dealer tell me that he wasn’t sure who to call if I asked him where I could find a solid surface shop. That tells me the first fabricator that shows up at a showroom has a potential new customer.

But, it’s not just stopping and asking to be their fabricator.

My second suggestion is to make up a binder with a pricing structure that allows a designer to price the top. I might add this is how solid surface tops are priced in the big box stores, so you’re already competing with that as well. When I worked at the solid surface shop, I also preferred to price the tops themselves. I felt I was giving a better price that way. In reality, that is the best way, but we are living in different times and a revamp on how we bring prices to the market can make a big difference.

My third suggestion is to develop specials that would be of value to a showroom. For example, what about a lav top program?  I think this is a good place to begin, as many showrooms only have programs for granite. Throw a plan in there and mix things up. You could add this to your sales binder. Call your local sheet rep and ask them if there’s special pricing available you could use for a program. Reps like this. Their job is to help grow your business, so if they’re good, they will be more than happy to assist.

Also, knowledge is one of the best things you can bring to a dealer – they like to know what is new and exciting. In fact, that could be your first line when you meet with a designer. “Would you like to know what’s new and exciting in the solid surface world?”

If you’re going to use that line then it’s very important you keep up with the industry. Do you know what the new colors are? What about the colors that have been discontinued? How about bowl options? You also need to be able to explain how solid surface can be used in design. As we know, it’s not just a flat surface.

In the information age, it is pretty easy to get your hands on the latest information. For starters, keep reading this magazine. You can also use social media to gather information. As I’ve pointed out numerous times, there are tons of social media sites full of information you can use. And also make sure to call your reps and brainstorm with them. Most have seen a lot of different ways fabricators are getting ahead and they can be a wealth of information and can help you brush up on your sales skills.

Here are a few other points to ponder.

Be positive at all times. Don’t talk bad about your competition or other products. That will only come back to bite you in the end.

Make sure to call and make an appointment rather than just showing up out of the blue. It is frustrating to designers if you don’t do this, especially if they are busy. Plus, an appointment ensures you have their attention for a given time period.

Don’t underestimate the importance of receptionists. They may play a big part in what customers buy. They are generally the first one a client meets, and often part of their job is to show new clients around the showroom; they tend to put more attention on products they understand. Fill them with knowledge. They also tend to support the companies that are nice to them, so smile and listen while engaging with a receptionist. Trust me, it works.

However, for any of this to work, the fabricator really has to work together with the material rep, and the showroom so you are able to deliver competitive pricing, frequent knowledge updates and outstanding enthusiasm.

So if your phone isn’t ringing and your inbox is empty, staring at them and waiting isn’t the solution. The time is perfect to visit showrooms with a great sales pitch. You have a great product. It’s time to spread the word!

About the Author

Jon Olson works for DuPont as a key account consultant for Corian and Zodiaq surfaces in New England and has more than 30 year’s involvement in the solid surface industry, with experience in all aspects of fabrication and sales. He is the past recipient of ISFA’s Fabricator of the Year and Innovator Awards and can be reached at [email protected].