New Ideas Begin With You, the Specifier

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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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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