The last 15 years has seen a revolution in the way we buy and sell. The evidence is on our high streets as a growing number of charity shops fill the gaps left by closed retail shops. At one time, pundits were predicting a mass migration to an online world, with ‘clicks’ leaving the ‘bricks’ behind, but instead it’s fast becoming an Omnichannel world, with online merging seamlessly with traditional branches and showrooms.

It seems to me, no product demonstrates this transition more than the valuable £5 billion plus a year PVC-U windows and doors market. Builders’ merchants have taken to it in a big way – there are currently 910 Crystal Approved suppliers across the UK - and those who’ve been prepared to change how they sell to suit the changing market have grown the fastest.

We all know change isn’t easy, so the easier we make it and the more we go with the grain – in this case making it easy for both builders and merchant staff - the more successful we’ll be. So Crystal has adapted its service and support to make it simple for builders to buy a full range of colours, sizes, designs and styles of bespoke windows and doors from builders’ merchants. We’ve made it easy and quick with intuitive, secure, configurator software for merchants and builders to select what they want, at the prices and terms they pay, while preventing them from ordering impossible configurations. And we deliver on short lead times to branch or direct to site, whichever is most convenient.

But none of that helps if merchants don’t have the knowledge and confidence to help builders buy. We know that enabling merchants to sell confidently is the key to growing added value sales.

Training always gets a tick: who’d argue that it’s not required? It’s a cornerstone of Crystal’s offer because we’ve seen its transformative effect.

We provide in-branch training as a matter of course and Cesar (Crystal Exhibition Showroom and Representation vehicle), our 63m2 mobile showroom, is always busy visiting merchants so they can invite builders to see the windows and doors, ask questions, and merchant staff can discuss their projects with Crystal’s experts in support.

Our latest Platinum Partner (PP) and Platinum Partner Plus (PPP) programmes take training to the next level. Each PP or PPP merchant partner appoints a PVC-U windows and doors ‘champion’ who attends the Crystal Academy. This is a two-day course providing in-depth training on our extensive product range and on how to order. The course includes a tour of the factory so merchant champions can see how the product is made and ask questions. Champions are awarded a certificate of excellence.

We’re also working on establishing an online platform to provide additional training and support for an Omnichannel market.

We need no convincing because we see the immediate impact merchant staff training has on their sales. But it’s not a surprise: if you really know the product, you have the confidence to sell it, and your confidence supercharges sales.

Steve Halford, Group Managing Director, Crystal Direct.