Kitchen designer Carlos Ponte (left), says creating a no-pressure relationship is key to winning over clients during a showroom visit.
Nadia Molinari / Novus Select Kitchen designer Carlos Ponte (left), says creating a no-pressure relationship is key to winning over clients during a showroom visit.

Your showroom experience will vary from visitor to visitor. “I use the showroom differently at different times,” says Carlos Ponte, a designer at AyA Kitchens, a design company and cabinet manufacturer in Kitchener, Ontario. “[First-time visitors] are looking for solutions not door styles,” he says. “I talk to them and find out about their space and what it is they don’t like. The solutions are in my head and not on the [product] wall.”

Step by Step

While AyA has room vignettes and product walls, Ponte says that he doesn’t want to overwhelm customers by showing them too much at once. He has seen too many designers lose sales because of this. He recommends slowing down the process and offers the following suggestions:

  • Build rapport. The showroom is the best place to connect. Show clients that you know what you’re doing by asking lots of questions about their space and lifestyle. Probe to discover what their “grief” point is. Highlight the ways in which you deal with design challenges, such as corners. “No one likes corners,” Ponte says. “Where space permits, stoves, dishwashers, pot drawers — even fridges — work beautifully mounted diagonally across the corner. And customers love it!” Ponte uses photos or renderings of these specific treatments to show clients how they work.
  • Exert no pressure. Ponte assures customers that there will be no sales pressure of any kind. He promises them that they’ll get everything they need to make an informed decision and he won’t charge them for that education. He never lets anyone leave the showroom without a brochure, and he gives them his sketches. “Kitchen plans are complicated entities; the customers will have forgotten half of everything we discussed by the time they get to the first set of stoplights.”
  • Be honest. Sometimes homeowners have ideas that just won’t work architecturally or for the lifestyle they envision. “It’s better that you tell them now than have their friends tell them later,” Ponte says.
  • Don’t ask for measurements. “I’ve seen salespeople ask customers to go home and bring back measurements,” Ponte says. “If you owned a car dealership, you’d never do this. What percentage of people do you think would return [to your showroom] — especially if you haven’t established a relationship and all you’ve done is inundate them with door styles and finishes?”
  • Arrange a meeting. Once you’ve built a relationship with the customer, let them know that the best place to talk about their kitchen is in their kitchen.
  • The bottom line is that you want to move the showroom visit to the next step: an appointment at the customer’s home. And, if you’ve done your showroom presentation right, you won’t even have to ask for that appointment; the client will ask you — usually brimming with excitement about the possibilities that you have started creating in his or her mind.

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

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