Shedding light on the ‘dark art’ of sales

Regional Sales

Tony Basile, Building Products Director at Liniar, discusses his thoughts on selling and the advantages of listening to your customers…

There are a lot of negative connotations when it comes to the word ‘sales’ or ‘salesman’ – particularly in this industry – but when it’s done properly, I believe that selling is simply a case of providing a professional service. I like to think of is as matching the right product with the right customer and helping people to decide what they actually need, not just what they think they want.

I’ve been in sales for as long as I remember – you could say it’s in my blood. From dealing sweets in the school playground, working in a shop as a teenager, and then coming into the fenestration industry as a bright eyed 21 year old, I’ve always enjoyed it.

The biggest motivator for me has always been to know your product and to believe in what you are selling. It’s never about undercutting the opposition and trying to turn a quick profit; instead it’s highlighting how my customers can benefit from what I’m selling, and how I can help them to use the products and my knowledge to grow their business.

Relationships are vital in this industry. Building trust takes time; but once it’s been established it’s priceless and I’m now happy to count several of my customers as close personal friends.

One rule I live by is to never stop learning. I’m always happy to hear about some of the methods and techniques my own customers have come up with to promote and sell Liniar products – which I can share with other customers to help them in turn. Here are three recent examples which are proving successful.

Sample savvy

Tonia Lloyd, who runs a trade counter with her sister Amanda, came up with a novel idea to utilise a sample she’d received from another systems house.

“We’ve been promoting Liniar’s Alumina bi-fold doors since their launch and have been astounded by their success,” said Tonia.

“We were immediately impressed by the obvious quality of the product when we saw the corner profile sample, which we’d been showing to our customers. But then I remembered a sample I’d received through the post from a rival systems company and fished it out.

“Holding the two samples together, side-by-side, the difference in quality is immediately plain to see. There’s just no comparison – and our customers agree as soon as they see the two samples together.

“So we don’t actually need to ‘sell’ Alumina – it now sells itself!”

Quote quest

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Gordon Riley of THS Plastics in Tamworth prides himself on the quality of his firm’s manufacturing and service. Although his tip could be put down to common sense, I think it’s a stroke of genius.

“We added Alumina to our suite of Liniar products and it’s given our sales of bi-folds a huge boost,” says Gordon. “But in fact, it’s our sales of ModLok™ uPVC bi-folds that have soared as a result!

“As part of our quoting process for Alumina, we also include a secondary quote of the same spec for a ModLok equivalent. Because of its innovative exoskeleton with combined reinforcement and lock, ModLok can achieve most of the sizes of an aluminium bi-fold, as long as the height isn’t required to be more than 2.1m.

“Just the option of providing an alternative quote has resulted in several Alumina enquiries converting into ModLok sales! If we hadn’t offered an alternative product and price, we might have lost those potential customers altogether.”

Hard choices

The third and final example is one of my own and this relates to hardware. Our Alumina doors are a premium product and, as everyone knows, you have to pay for top quality.

As I said before, we have no interest in undercutting our rivals on price. We know that the product is the only sculptured and foiled aluminium bi-fold on the market – and sells itself on quality.

Saying that, though, a little common sense goes a long way!

I noticed that the majority of quotation forms that we had received for Alumina doors had the customer selecting the most expensive choices when it came to hardware options.

Understandably, this increased the overall price – sometimes substantially – meaning that the total cost may be off-putting compared to alternative, inferior bi-folds on the market.

Most other companies only offer black or white hardware, whereas we have additional choices of gold, chrome and dark chrome, providing greater options.

With other hardware choices, the price dropped dramatically in quite a few cases, so we took the decision to include other options with every quote we returned. In other words, we quote what the customer has asked for and also for what they may want.

This simple tweak to our internal quoting process has led to far more enquiries turning into sales – and more Alumina bi-folds being installed throughout the country, which is music to my ears!

All of this goes to prove that listening to customers and helping them to implement a few simple changes can help turn potential into profit.

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