Kitchen & Bath Design News

JUL 2019

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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OVER THE YEARS, when writing about showroom design, I've focused on the show- room and business. However, in the past ve years, I've become increasingly aware of how very important the designer-salesperson is to a kitchen and bath showroom's success. They can make or break the experience for the customer and the sustainability of the showroom. Cabinetry design in kitchen and bath sales can be challenging, and owners need and want their designer-salespeople to be able to do it all, including: • Assist in selecting products and materials with today's and tomorrow's fashions in mind; • Be able to see and deliver a conceptual design that wows; • Know and apply CAD technology to ensure accurate visualization to pricing; • Prepare everything from bids to legal docu- ments with accuracy; • Guide the selling process throughout a pro- tracted/extended time to a closed sale; • Gracefully manage enough jobs simultane- ously to make the monthly numbers; • Be a professional problem solver and negotiator; • Act as a therapist and psychologist through- out the project journey. TRAINING & MENTORS In the 's, our industry's mentors were more available and ensured the continuity of the business. Mentors drove education on many topics and closed sales. These days, however, training the show- room sta seems to be less important be- cause we have so many vehicles to self learn. However, in my view, it's more important than ever as we have older experts retiring and leaving our industry, being replaced by new employees who are younger and much less experienced in all the aspects of the kitchen and bath industry. More and more, self-service has replaced the personal attention customers used to get from store clerks. If you want to know how to do something today, people say, "Google It" or, "Look for a video on YouTube." Still, we all need mentoring, and our industry needs men- tors who will grow a crop of new designers who can sell from the rst engagement to the nal 'thank you' after closing the sale. The show- room is the space that connects it all. People use all their senses when learning and they need to be able to ask questions and benet from those with experience. In addition to the complexities of tting all the compo- nents, colors and nishes into a room design, there's the need for diplomacy when working with a client, and for accuracy when ordering and coordinating the timing of deliveries and installation, etc. Our complex industry is not for wimps! If you're not going to make it in our industry, you usually know within a year or two. Those who learn our "hows" tend to stay a very long time. However, with so many new industry employees, it's a challenge getting those new folks acclimated. A showroom is an expansive physical space containing products, merchandising, lighting, etc. But these showrooms – and businesses – cannot ourish without qualied, well-prepared designer-salespeople who work well with home- owners and who can manage all the necessary project details – and there are a lot of details! Home building and remodeling are rebounding, but during the recent economic downturn, we lost many educated, talented people. Some retired. Some moved to other industries and changed professions. There's also a talent gap because young designers are not entering our industry in the numbers of years gone by. Seasoned professionals may not be there to share their wisdom. So, instead of mentoring new employees, some companies are raiding competitors' designers. It's easier, at rst. But will it work long-term? I believe we can only do this for so long. Once a designer is on the move, he or she may not stay put but instead search for new challenges and opportunities. Frequently, I'm asked by business owners if I can recommend a designer-salesperson to hire for their showroom. I guess they contact me because they've already discovered how hard it is to nd good people in their local area – especially those with kitchen and bath experi- ence. It appears that we just don't have enough people to select from, and the ones entering the profession are right out of college. Hopefully, in spite of their lack of experience, they may come with agility, technical skills, design sensitivity and traits that will aid in project management – all important to the total role of a budding designer-salesperson for your showroom. Maybe we need to invent a project design simulator to practice working through a project and its details? A business needs to have the full comple- ment of core talents: project management, design and desktop tools. However, many new employees lack formal sales training or don't have a history of proven sales closing results. The business leader may be overwhelmed looking for talent that will immediately be productive. Our industry typically employs those return- ing to work or coming from another industry. We need people who desire a balanced mix of creativity, project ownership and technical skills. These candidates are not easily found in the open job market. How do we nd them and get them ready for our industry's business success in the showroom? When baby boomers entered the kitchen and bath workforce during the 's boom, hours and hours were spent training, mentor- ing, participating in NKBA memberships and getting certied in industry knowledge. With the advent of technology and the self-serve way of doing things today, educating our employees seems not to be our highest priority anymore. But when employees try to learn on their own or "wing it," they often do not have a uni- ed direction for guiding customers through the design process toward sales. If they're strong in sales, then their lack of industry knowledge and agility within the industry is their hurdle. It takes time to educate someone in kitchen and bath design. When sales increase and the showroom is busy, it's dicult to think about taking time out for training. However, a pool of trained employees is needed to welcome the growing numbers of homeowners seeking our products and services. We have numerous mil- lennials forming households and coming to us for kitchens and baths that are dierent from those of their parents. There is a saying that salespeople are born, not made. Undoubtedly, some peo- ple have a natural talent for sales. I see it in "Businesses cannot flourish without well-prepared designer-salespeople who can manage the various project details while working well with homeowners." The Quest for Good Designer-Salespeople SARAH REEP, ASID, IIDA, CMKBD, CMG, CAPS 20 Kitchen & Bath Design News • July 2019 INSIDE TODAY'S SHOWROOM

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