In my 30 plus years in the commercial furniture industry, I have worn many hats. I began my career as a designer, moved to project management and then to sales. As a result, I have been exposed to the inner workings of each of these positions. Now, heading a firm that supports sales teams primarily through design, I have been able to share a few tips with my own team that have made our lives, as well as our sales rep’s and client’s lives, so much easier. I hope the following ideas may provide some guidance as you navigate the world of furniture
1. Know your sales rep.
We work with sales reps and clients from many different organizations, including dealers, manufacturer’s reps, manufacturers, and end users. Each have their own culture and within that culture, each have their own style of doing business. Ask questions. Some reps/clients want to be completely hands-on with their project, others just want to sell and let the designer make all the decisions. Ask their preferred method of communication, many prefer a phone call over email. Remember, sales reps are responsible for being out of the office all day, so waiting for an email response may be much slower than getting a phone call. You can always recap your phone conversation with a follow up email to keep a paper trail.
2. Always insist on a 15-minute touch-down meeting with your sales rep prior to project kick off.
Most reps will be willing to share 15 minutes of their busy schedule. At this meeting, you can find their vision for the project, their expectations, and anything they did not express when filling out a design request.
3. Ask for the budget.
With so many price points and options in the market, you will have no idea what to specify if you don’t know the budget. Many reps are timid about asking the client for a budget. You can coach them. I always told my clients – “If you are uncomfortable with sharing your budget, just give me some number below what you really want to spend.” That way, it allows the client to save money and would provide direction to follow when curating the project. Both you and your client will look like heroes when you select the right products and come in under budget. This is also a huge time saver.
4. Narrow your selections.
Even though the sky’s the limit when it comes to furniture choices, you need to narrow the playing field for your client. I prefer to give the client no more than three options to start. These can be three color schemes, three budget choices, three different styles – wherever you think you need to start. This gives you an opportunity to find out what the client is thinking without overwhelming them. Once you have a direction, you can still provide other options that may be better suited.
5. Things don’t have to be perfect in budget phase.
Remember, early in the project, you are still trying to move the sale down the funnel. Perfection can come when you are close to order entry.
6. You are the expert!
This is one of the most important tips for all designers. Your sales reps are looking to you to give advice and want you to make decisions. If you are unsure of what to specify, choose basic finishes and fabrics and present them to the sales rep instead of waiting for them to tell you. Ninety percent of the time they will be happy with your choices and will be glad the project was not held up waiting for a decision. Consider discussing a reset when you know the project is getting off track. You can offer advice on how to streamline the process – remember – you have done this before. Today, lots of sales reps are new, and still finding their way. By offering alternate ways of being more efficient, your sales rep will appreciate your perspective.
These are just a few of the tips that we use to help organize our projects. We find that our clients appreciate that we are proactive and share the common goal of getting the sale to the finish line. I hope these ideas will help create a year of abundance for you and your sales team.
Principle | Blue River Services