Top Qualities in a Designer-Salesperson
authors Sarah Reep
Your showroom is in the business of selling home fashion for the kitchen and bath. The showroom personnel you employ may be called designers, however, more often than not, especially today, designers are not just designing. They’re also there to generate profits for the business. Completed profitable sales ensure your showroom is sustainable.
There’s a saying that salespeople are born, not made. Well, that’s not completely true; for our industry, diverse skills and expertise are expected. Undoubtedly, natural talent makes selling success easier. However, our industry continues to need more natural salespeople who can also design.
We have a gap in finding great designers who are also great salespeople for our showrooms. But people can learn these characteristics and become successful. It’s about coaching instead of coaxing so your showroom remains relevant for many years to come.
This month, I’d like to provide a quick snapshot of some key traits I’ve observed with winning designer-salespeople working in kitchen and bath showrooms nationwide, along with some showroom notes for how you can ensure your showroom supports these traits.
A Good First Impression
When you’re in the business of color and fashion, your employees need to be ambassadors of your brand. Is this person someone you would like to meet or would be willing to trust? Cleanliness and neatness are more important than the cost of their wardrobe, their hairstyle or gender. To create a positive first impression, this person responds to a smile with a smile of their own. Smiles stimulate positive feelings and confidence. They maintain eye contact. They speak clearly and loudly enough to be comfortably heard. And their handshake is neither a bone-crusher nor a limp fish.
Showroom Note: When planning your showroom layout and the arrangement, keep in mind that your guests should be greeted soon after entering. Do you place a wall with a desk in front of them, or will it be placed to the side to open up the greeting? Consider the first sight line and the first impression your guests will have. What they see and how they are greeted with the showroom design will quickly set the stage for beginning a customer’s successful shopping and design experience with your designer-salesperson.
A Careful Listener
Steven R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Your employee will naturally give their full attention to the client, and this will show how important the client is to them. Nodding and leaning forward will convey that they are paying attention without needing to interrupt the flow of conversation. The employee will show respect by taking notes, communicating concern for accuracy by listing the client’s wishes. It’s also important for the designer-salesperson to be comfortable with silence.
The best salespeople ask their clients and customers why they want something done. When a designer-salesperson listens to their customers, they find out what is wanted and needed, and think about how to make that happen.
Showroom Note: Consider your ceilings and hard surface spaces for materials and creating the opportunity to have in-depth conversations within the showroom. As Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers age, hearing can be an issue. Higher ceilings and open floor plans with hard surfaces throughout can be very noisy. Carefully plan some spaces conducive to reflective thinking and conversation within the showroom design. The impact of a more open layout can be enhanced by dropping in a lowered ceiling cloud with directed lighting. When customers can see color and details better and can easily discuss the project, your business and your showroom will be more successful and likely grow your sales.
You want your employees to be trusted advisors. Not everyone is born with a personality that allows them to easily meet and captivate people. Some are more reserved – even timid when meeting new people. However, even more introverted people can build close and long-term relationships by just being themselves with customers. It is not a person’s ability to make people laugh, but their willingness to be honest and share themselves that enables a lasting, trusting relationship.
It’s impossible to solve a problem or create delight in your customer’s mind if you don’t understand what he or she is feeling. Active listening is an essential component of empathy, as well as vulnerability. Revealing our feelings, sharing stories of everyday experiences and finding shared interests are vital to creating trust, mutual understanding and an empathetic bond.
Relationship selling involves a combination of empathy and problem solving. While understanding allows one to better relate to a customer’s problems, the ability to provide credible solutions to those problems is just as important.
Showroom Note: Consider seating arrangements in your layout. Conversations can flow better when not staged across a desk. Round tables or sitting around an island promotes collaboration during the selection and project planning processes. You don’t need to minimize your control or power in leading the conversation. With an engaging discussion space that fosters a positive relationship early on, communications will be more productive and open on both sides.
The American Psychological Association published a report that found the most successful salespeople were “conscientious.” This trait is found in people who take pride in their work, are organized and efficient. A person can learn these traits. Conscientious also means they’re following through on tasks and keeping their word by doing what they’ve promised their clients.
Showroom Note: Keep the showroom tidy and well organized. The more cluttered and mixed up the samples are, the higher the chance the conversations and presentations will also be chaotic. With so many distractions in our world of speed and technology, a well-organized showroom will help control the conversation and ease the designer’s performance.
It’s been said that experience isn’t nearly as crucial as coachability for predicting successful showroom designer-salespeople. Being energetic, being willing to learn and having the ability to adapt are all parts of being “coachable.” A coachable person is an early adopter of the suggestion. If asked to do things in a certain way, they will do it that way, even if they’ve always done things a different way.
Showroom Note: As we have more new designers on board, you will need a way to provide coaching in a productive environment. The showroom may not have the luxury of a positive and private space to talk, especially if the showroom has a smaller footprint in a higher-rent district. Taking things offsite can improve coaching by taking a break “from the office” and focusing on learning for mutual success.
Someone who seeks to understand a customer’s unique problems and strives to determine the best fit for their needs is a consultant.
Showroom Note: Even a super salesperson needs some quiet recovery time for the next project and homeowner interaction. We have so many details to address that some off-the-floor space can increase productivity.
However, today’s trend is not to be so removed from the showroom that you can’t be found. Some showroom layouts include work areas within and also out of the showroom presentation area. Designer-salespeople need to bounce ideas off of each other and have separation to think, make calls and plan.
Founder of Searchmetrics Marcus Tober states, “Our top salespeople respect our customers’ time and money above all else.” Your customers and potential customers should be treated with respect. Time should be scheduled for meetings and work. Wherever a client’s time can be saved by using FaceTime or Skype or electronic signatures, for example, these time-saving efforts will be appreciated. Don’t finish a meeting without getting your next step scheduled and confirmed to ensure a positive result.
Showroom Note: Plan a showroom design layout where the homeowners feel served and attended to. Your showroom should be set up to facilitate respect for you, your staff and your guests.
Adam DeGraide, founder of Astonish, digital marketing and training services for independent insurance agencies, believes, “The best salespeople I have met are the ones who have a great personality, are confident in what they do and never let go of opportunities to close or make a sale.” Confident people also inspire trust, and they will be able to guide customers through the process of making selections and important decisions based on their skills and experience.
Showroom Note: When everything is organized and samples are not piled high, your salespeople will have confidence and not be distracted when presenting to clients. Set a showroom maintenance protocol that, in turn, will support your designer-salespersons in their efforts.
An independent person is a self-starter who doesn’t need to be micro-managed. They set goals and strive to improve their stats and look for ways to enhance their knowledge and skills on their own. They can pat themselves on the back and appreciate their greatness without attention from others as their validation for success.
Showroom Note: A designer-salesperson who values the workplace is a plus. Schedule regular interviews (at least annually) to include their ideas for improvements that ensure continued closed sales and referrals to your showroom. Employees can be reluctant to give their boss solutions that spend his/her money. Making them understand they are an important part of the team will pay you dividends in retention of your well-trained and successful designer-salespeople. Schedule some relaxed open time to talk and listen to their ideas. Of course, you’ll still need to drive the showroom for operational performance and fiscal success.
These qualities are not the only ones to consider when selecting and building successful designer-salespeople for your showroom. However, having some basic guidelines to consider will ideally support finding, training and mentoring those designers you include in your business. Designer-salespeople who can work successfully with your clients – and close those kitchen and bath projects with profitable and satisfying success – will ensure your showroom investments are sustained for many years to come. ▪