I know I’m not alone when I say that being an interior designer in the furniture dealer world sometimes demands ‘superpower mind-reading skills’, but it doesn’t have to be this way. In my 10 years of experience, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to read minds; those of colleagues, salespeople, project managers, etc, because they were liaisons between myself and the client. In recent years, though, I have found this obstacle greatly reduced; in part, by learning and growing with experience, but mostly from joining a team that allows me direct contact with end users. If you find yourself struggling to successfully satisfy the clients furniture needs, perhaps these tips can help take some guesswork out of the equation.
1. Request to attend ALL meetings dealing with furniture and finish selections.
Sadly, this is not practiced at all dealerships. Having a designer/specifier present is reassurance that all the little details will get recorded. It also adds value to the dealership, which may increase your chances for repeat business and referrals. Designers can also explain functionality and aesthetics in a less ‘sales-like’ manner, which puts clients at ease.
2. Ask questions.
Create a checklist prior to meetings or ask questions on the fly, but it’s very important to find the right moments. During pre-bid or bid stage meetings, it’s mostly about listening and taking notes. I prefer to write down questions and ask them all at once towards the end of the meeting. After a project is awarded, my team & I will ask various specific questions throughout the duration of the meetings. At this point, it’s time to bring the concept to life, so detailed information is crucial. Do not be afraid to ask questions. I have never had a client roll their eyes or get frustrated if I asked too many questions (and I ask a lot of questions). In fact, doing so lets the client know you care and you’re paying attention to details (of how their money will be spent).
3. Be extra observant.
During a showroom walk-through, the sales team will have a game plan of product to present. While clients walk around, take notice of EVERYTHING; a glow in their eyes, a frown on their faces, comments mumbled to peers or under their own breath. These are all helpful signs for designers (and sales alike) in positioning the appropriate furniture (and also, discovering what to stay away from).
4. Educate yourself.
The more you know about various product offerings, the more valuable you (and your company) appear in the eyes of the client. Make time to visit showrooms, study specification guides, utilize online tutorials; become familiar with the products you sell the most. It will ultimately bring you confidence and success when presenting in front of prospective end users. A designer’s knowledge of specific product details may be the ‘make or break’ factor for some clients. Indeed, it is an added responsibility to absorb this knowledge, but it becomes easier with experience and is very rewarding in the end. When you receive the news of your company being awarded a project, you can feel proud to know that you played an important role in that win.
I’m sorry if you thought this blog would be a guide on how to actually read a person’s mind; you know that’s impossible. It’s also nearly impossible to get a design spot-on to what a client wants after just one attempt. There are almost always revisions, but getting close on the first try is still a great triumph. I hope that sharing these guidelines will help streamline the thoughtstarter process and ultimately reach the end result more quickly and efficiently, without the need to mind-read.