Top interior designer mentor Lisa Kahn is the founder of Kahn Design Group in Naples, Florida. Lisa is a pro at collaborative wins and speaks for many designers when she shares insight into how best, as a supplier or rep, to get more business from busy designers.
Dear Supplier / Vendor /Rep,
Knowing that your career revolves around getting us (the Designers) to specify and/or buy the products in your repertoire, I have a few suggestions to share that I’m SURE will make things easier for everyone:
Come to our meeting knowing full well that every single minute I spend with you I am not working on the projects that will result in my specifying or buying your product. Be brief, to the point and respectful of my time. This hour with you is not billable and is therefore costing my company money. I am investing in you and your product(s).
MAKE MY JOB EASIER.
Leave me catalogs or finish chips or pricing or anything else I need to be able to plug your things into whatever I am working on right now~ easily! Believe me it’s in your best interest. When you send me things three weeks later, I have had many similar meetings in the meantime and have partially forgotten you and your products — you risk being “lost in the library.”
NOTICE MY BUSINESS MODEL.
Ask questions up front if you don’t know about the type of projects we do and tailor your product presentation and discussion accordingly. Too many times the sales and product training you receive takes over and as you begin reciting the list of what is new and the technicalities of your manufacturing process my mind moves on to bigger things — my next project, my next appointment, the lunch I didn’t have time to eat. So PLEASE spend a few minutes and acquaint yourself with me and my business so that you can maximize both of our time spent together.
DON’T TELL ME WHAT “OTHER DESIGNERS ARE DOING.”
You may read this and wonder who on earth would actually say that during a presentation, but I assure you, I’ve heard it more than once. It comes across as patronizing and slightly insulting. I’m not interested in what other designers are doing — I’m interested in what I’m doing and you should be too!
NOTICE MY PROJECTS.
One of my very best fabric reps always brings her iPhone into our appointments and snaps pictures of any pin-up boards I have on current projects or patterns of fabrics laid out for a particular application. She offers to take them back to her showroom and “shop” for me, sending me a care package a few days later of things that I can use as fillers and substitutions with schemes are already in progress. It feels helpful and almost like having another design assistant. Brilliant foresight on her part, if you ask me. It came as no surprise when I looked at my end-of-year sales figures to see that the bulk of my fabric business went to her company.
IF I CAN’T SEE YOU, IT DOESN’T MEAN I DON’T WANT TO.
If I’m too busy to see you when you call, I am working on the projects that give me the platform to sell and specify your products. I actually do have reps that get very nasty and then refuse to call me on subsequent visits to town when there is an occasion that I can’t meet with them. Of course, as always seems to be the case, they are the reps that handle the most expensive, exclusive lines. NEWS FLASH: Times have changed my friends and no longer can you sell things just because of the name brand and high price tag. We want nice reps, customer service and accurate ship dates. This may sound like incredibly childish behavior from a professional representative, but it happens more often than you might imagine. So to those of you out there who are blushing as you read this, STOP IT! Swing by my office with a smile, drop off a packet of tear sheets and if you’re clever, something to make me smile. Last week I got a little potted violet and a folder of beautiful new furniture pictures when I was in client meetings and couldn’t see a rep’s new line. I called to thank her when I was done and sold a pair of her console tables the next day. Personal touches do count!
Lisa Kahn as a spokesperson for “The Designers”
This article originally appeared on Decor Mentor, a collab-orative, educational online community for interior design pros and consumers. Founded and managed by Toronto designer Lisa Ferguson, Decor Mentor collaborates with talented interior design professionals and brands across the globe to offer education and insight into the process of interior design from both a decorating and business perspective. http://www.decormentor.com