Manufacturers Change Sales Strategies
After approximately ten weeks on the job, CPFilms’ new president
Ray Kollar is moving the window film giant quickly from a defensive to
offensive position. It’s no secret that the company has undergone a difficult
holding pattern amidst an economic downturn, including several layoffs
at its Martinsville facility and a recent leadership change. (See related
article on page 12 of Window Film’s July-August 2009 edition.) But Kollar
recently had the pleasure of hiring back 24 positions this past June in
a move that he says reflects the company’s commitment to increasing its
“I was brought in by Solutia to grow this business,” he says. And executives
for Solutia Inc., CPFilms’ parent company, didn’t bother setting the bar
low. He says the goal is to double his sector’s overall business.
Kollar’s strategy calls partly for developing an upstream demand in the
commercial segment. On July 27, CPFilms announced the creation of an in-house
sales specialist team to help find and win retail and commercial architectural
projects to fuel this process.
“By developing a specialized team in-house and avoiding a ‘middleman,’
we are able to keep costs lean while maximizing value for our dealers
and finding growth opportunities in the architectural market,” explains
Sal Abbate, general manager Americas for the company.
Kollar says that under the leadership of Jeff Hammerer, the newly-formed
sales team will focus on cultivating corporate relationships and funneling
resulting projects to CPFilms’ dealer base for installation. As the company
strives to double its business, Lisa Winkler, director of product development
and technology for the company, says it would be near impossible for its
dealers to keep up with the demands presented by the commercial segment.
“There are dealers out there who are absolutely qualified to do big commercial
deals, and are doing them now,” she explains. “But, if we’re going to
get really big, they can’t get big enough, fast enough, to compensate
putting CPFilms’ resources into selling to large building owners.
The idea being—we’ll make the sale, using people who have the savvy
and know-how, and then we’ll turn it over to our dealer base to do
the professional installation.”
CPFilms isn’t the only manufacturer retooling its strategies surrounding
large commercial deals. 3M recently penned a deal with National Glass
Service Group (NGSG) in which it agrees to pursue all national retail
accounts exclusively through NGSG. In return, NGSG, a Dublin, Ohio-based
company that specializes in landing big window film contracts, many with
large retail chains, agrees to use 3M products and dealers exclusively.
NGSG officials assure that any deal aligned with 3M will be installed
by the manufacturer’s dealer base.
But the agreement between 3M and NGSG has sparked controversy among some
of 3M’s dealers.
“I have sold 3M films for more than 20 years,” one dealer posted to the
Window Film magazine website. “They, and all of the major players, have
routinely gone around the local dealers to sell the product. Yes, the
local dealer still ‘gets’ to install the film, usually at a ‘volume discount’
labor rate … The profit on the product goes in 3M’s coffers, and maybe
it should. I have a problem, though, when these sales to the end-user
involve pricing equal to or below that of a dealer; even those that have
worked their entire careers promoting the 3M name.”
“No 3M dealer can be happy about this,” another visitor posted. “The margins
at the end of the day on projects like this are minimal.”
Patric Fransko, NGSG’s senior vice president of operations, says that
3M’s dealers need not worry about NGSG cutting into their sales. He says
his company will primarily serve as the project manager for each arrangement
and installation services and sales will remain within 3M’s dealer network.
“I’ve got a meeting tomorrow with a national retailer with 3,300 locations,”
Fransko says. “I’m going in with one of 3M’s regional representatives.
We’re coming in as a unified source and if that business comes in, then
we will use the existing 3M dealer network to do the installation.”
A Team Effort
Fransko says the same channels will remain in place, plus NGSG’s project
management services which earn the company a fee. He also says that in
the instance that his company comes across a potential customer that is
already working with or has received a quote from one of 3M’s dealers,
it is required to steer clear immediately. In the end, he suggests that
the only impact his company’s relationship with 3M will have on its dealers
will be in the form of added business.
“No one is cut out,” Fransko says. “The dealer will order the product
from their normal distribution channel; 3M sells the product through its
normal distribution channel; the dealer gets the sale and we get a project
management fee. So it’s truly like a win-win-win across the board. Nobody
gets cut out.”
Kollar says the same is true with CP’s decision.
“We are putting CPFilms’ resources into selling to large building owners,”
he explains. “The idea being—we’ll make the sale, using people who have
the savvy and know-how, and then we’ll turn it over to our dealer base
to do the professional installation. That’s good for them. That leverages
our resources and we’re bringing them business, which we should be, by
de-bottlenecking the process.”
Winkler says CPFilms’ dealers that are already equipped for and landing
large commercial deals may carry on with business as usual.
“For the dealers we have that are already capable of doing this, we have
no intention of taking over all of the sales for this type of business,”
she explains. Kollar says the move has less to do with taking over commercial
sales, and more to do with creating business.
“My focus is on growth,” he assures. “That means we’ve got to be able
to better leverage our existing dealers—bringing them business that may
be too difficult for them to get themselves.”
And Kollar says commercial sales isn’t the only department he will need
to retool in order to meet Solutia’s goals. His next stop is in manufacturing.
“As I do these things, I’ve got to have an engine that sits behind all
of this that can react to it,” he explains. “If I’ve got a sales organization
that is capable of going out and winning a bid on 80,000 square feet of
window film, the supply chain and manufacturing has to be able to react
to that quickly, or I’m not doing anybody any good.” In the past, he says,
CP’s manufacturing philosophy was centered on utilizing resources, rather
than throughput. “I’ve got to have a manufacturing engine that doesn’t
have to speculate that I might have an 80,000 square foot sale, and put
that inventory in place, then let it sit there hoping that we get it,”
he says. “I’ve got to have a manufacturing engine that can react,” he
adds with a loud snap of his fingers.
Changing strategies at the manufacturer level have the potential to impact
dealers that service the commercial segment. Mike Spurlock, a window film
salesman with Ken Caryl Glass Inc. in Littleton, Colo., says changes implemented
by 3M and CPFilms could have a number of impacts.
“Overall, I think that more aggressive direct marketing and selling by
the manufacturers will ultimately increase film sales for everyone involved,”
Spurlock says. “Many of the smaller dealers either do not know how to
pursue large accounts, or more often, are too busy owning and operating
their businesses to dedicate a large amount of time to chasing larger
potential clients.” Spurlock feels that manufacturers are stepping in
to pursue opportunities that many dealers have left unaddressed. “Overall,
this is probably a good lesson to the dealers,” he says. “If we had not
been complacent, there would have been no need for the manufacturers to
But Spurlock does have a number of concerns regarding how a manufacturer
will keep from stepping on the toes of its dealers that choose to remain
involved in the commercial segment. For instance, he says, there is a
possibility for a manufacturer’s sales rep to approach a customer with
whom one of its dealers has spent time developing an interest or lead.
“What if the manufacturer approaches an existing dealer's customer?” he
asks. He also fears that manufacturers may choose to draw on dealer client
lists as a resource. “There is a potential conflict, as the dealers must
turn in contact info for warrant[ees].”
A “Holistic Approach”
Window film manufacturer Huper Optik also announced a change in its sales
strategy recently. The company moved its headquarters into a newly-renovated
building, which includes such features as: green power sources, including
wind energy; LED lighting and control systems, which are based upon the
frequency of daylight at any given time; and a cool roof system—all of
which it now encourages its dealers to offer their customers. The company’s
chief executive officer, Faisal Nazir, says all will be provided and installed
through Energy Efficient Systems (EES), a provider of what he describes
as “holistic energy solutions.”
Nazir says Huper and EES formed a “strategic alliance” through which Huper’s
dealers are now able to offer additional products and services.
“The future, as we see it, is in the retrofit business for energy conservation
as a whole,” Nazir says. “Lets say a dealer has established a relationship
with a Ritz Carlton hotel. We want that dealer to use the relationship
they have with a facility manager to expand their business from just window
film to other product lines. With this strategic alliance, a dealer is
able to use this relationship to say, ‘By the way, window film is a great
product. We’re a part of your solution, but we’re not the whole solution.’
Then EES comes in and strategically packages window film with other products,
such as lighting and control systems for instance, and offers the final
customer an entire package.” In the process, Nazir says his dealers will
earn commissions on additional products.
The decision, which Nazir says was brought about partly by economic conditions,
was announced at the company’s annual dealer meeting. He supports his
company’s decision by pointing to those dealers who followed up by changing
“The dealers who followed suit and changed their strategies are out there
working 16 hours a day and have 15 buildings that they’re doing energy
audits on at any given moment,” Nazir says. “Those who did not, are wringing
their hands right now.”
Though his decision predates Huper’s, Jeff Thompson, owner of SUNsational
Solutions in Austin, Texas, is one of those dealers who chose the “holistic”
route. Thompson’s business once was strictly a window film dealership.
But eventually, he says he felt the need to push his company’s role beyond
just window film.
“About three years ago, we began expanding into more energy-related, green
services,” Thompson explains. “So, we service the residential and commercial
sectors with the purpose of reducing energy costs.”
SUNsational Solutions now offers radiant barrier products, which are spray
applied to the underside of roof sheathing to deflect heat. The company
has also added insulation products and solar-powered attic vent fans.
“You’re not selling a product; you’re selling your company,” Thompson
says. “When we talk to people, often times their goals are to reduce their
consumption of energy. Well, obviously window film can be a big part of
that, but we also consult our customers on other things they can do.”
Similar to Huper, Thompson has decided to walk the talk by incorporating
as many energy-reducing products as he can into his own home. Currently,
his goal is to be entirely off the grid within five years. —DV
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