Passing the Buck

For designers and trade showrooms everywhere

I love talking to Dennis Miller of Dennis Miller Associates. Our talks usually focus on something that he is noticing on the showroom floor that just doesn’t sit well with him and this was one of those talks.
Dennis told of a designer who was getting some push back from their client about crating and delivery charges. As a multi-line showroom, different lines have different policies – some blanket wrap, others crate – and there is a cost to both. Knowing who does which takes partnership with the showroom salesperson and needs to be part of the discussion well before the quote or order is written.
But the rub was when the designer passed the client concerns back to the showroom…for THEM to manage with the client… which doesn’t work on so many levels.

buck stops here

First, dealing with the client is the responsibility of the designer, not the showroom. To pass the buck of a concern back to the showroom breaks that connection, and in doing so, makes the designer less relevant. This isn’t intentional, but a natural occurrence when the responsible party steps aside. By passing the buck, the client will look to bypass the designer at the next difficult junction, again, diminishing their relevance.
Second, this is what the designer is being paid to do –to manage all aspects of the project and not just the fun or easy ones. The showroom can help with the information but it’s not their role to do the job that the designer has contracted to do.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 9.00.04 AM

And finally, having challenging conversations is an area of practice and development. It takes having them to get better at having them. Avoiding them or passing them along to someone else robs the designer of the opportunity to hone an important skill that will serve them the next time a challenging conversation or delicate discussion arises. I have coached countless professionals on developing the confidence and vocabulary necessary to successfully navigate all aspects of client interactions resulting in stronger, more profitable relationships with their clients. If you think you could benefit by improving or polishing your skills, reach out. I am just a phone call or an email away! You will be so glad you did.

And now, go sell something,
Cheers and love,

Feel the Love


Sorry, I’ve been out of touch for the last few weeks.

I had the good fortune to spend the day in Las Vegas last week at the Flexsteel Sales Meeting with 65 salespeople who were gathered there to learn more about the product and to improve their selling skills.

My topic was “How to Connect with Anybody!” and the follow up calls with the salespeople over the last couple of days have been inspiring and downright amazing.  This is one of my favorite programs because the results are strong and quick and for most of the participants there is an internal shift that happens and impacts personal and professional interactions that is very moving.

Since the program is all about that those critical first few minutes of connecting, it’s heartwarming to hear how the participants clearly get that what happens with the customer when they walk in the showroom has SO much to do with how they are received and greeted.  A lot of it is non-verbal, under-the-radar communication that has the customer feel welcomed (or not), feel comfortable (or not) and feel accepted (or not).  Hmmmm, a lot of feelings there…..

One of the salespeople told me that her close ratio over the weekend was 100% – she connected with and closed every up she got. EVERY ONE.  Another said that he ‘got to neutral’ when he caught himself judging the customer and stopped it, replacing it with ‘happy to see you’ that he really meant and got a sale that he never would have gotten before.  And another said that she’s just happier – at work, at home, with herself – since she stopped being frustrated with people who weren’t doing what she wanted them to do and just accepted them (and herself) just the way they are…and her sales have dramatically improved.  In just one week.


I am so blessed to do what I do and to bring this kind of opportunity to salespeople and their managers and to the customers they wait on around the country.  And I get to repeat this program in a couple of weeks in Chicago with Walter E Smithe designer / sales team.  Can’t wait.


Delivering A “White Glove” Luxury Experience….To Every Customer

I am hard-pressed to think of any other industry that started serving one customer and is now serving another customer.  The Design Center industry started as a business to business industry and is now ‘toe-dipping’ in the business to end-user industry.  For the record, I am not voting on how it should or shouldn’t be, but rather appreciative of the challenge of identifying the REAL client/customer and how to best serve them.

Let’s try this: they are all customers of some sort and of some one’s. Either they are your customer (the designer, architect, contractor) or they are your customer’s customer.  Regardless of who THEY are, WE are the same: purveyors of luxury products and deliverers of a luxury experience. And whoever they are, they are influential in what product is purchased and from whom.  From that perspective, we can create an experience in which everyone wins.

When they enter your showroom, you either know them or you don’t. If you know them, welcome them back BY NAME. If you know who they are but have never met them, INTRODUCE YOURSELF.  If you don’t know them at all, INTRODUCE YOURSELF.  Only after a warm and sincere welcome can anything else happen.

Once you get through that (and of course, offer them refreshments and offer to take their packages or coat) ask them to tell you about the project they are working on and listen to their response.  Then you can ask if they are a designer or if this is their personal project.  If they are a designer, you can begin to sketch the project and ask your qualifying questions (remember those…if not send me an email).  If they are an end-user, thank them for coming in and ask who their designer is so that you can relay the notes you take and the choices you make to their designer.  If they say that they don’t have one, ask if you can offer some designer names that you know of or if you can call the Designer Connection in the building to have someone come down to meet them (the option of either / or is often effective in helping them to choose).  If they decline both, restate your desire to assist and ask if you can tell them how this building operates, as it is primarily a ‘to the trade’ building and not retail, and you want them to be comfortable and to be able to purchase whatever they select.

In all cases, be gracious, open and welcoming.  Treat them as you would want a member of your family treated if they were out looking for products for their home.  Chances are they don’t know or understand the process and just need to be informed.  Under no circumstances do we get to be snobby or snippy with them, regardless of how they are behaving.  Our own ‘bad behavior’ comes from not knowing what to do in an uncomfortable situation, just as their’s does.

This is a game redefined, and one we can all benefit from.   Business is a challenge right now and will go to those who try new things, and get beyond their own discomfort for the comfort of their customer.  Remember the motto of the Ritz-Carlton employees: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”.  Graciousness is defined by being generous and kind when we don’t feel like it and doing it anyway…and it’s also when it counts the most.

Be BOLD. Be Kind. And keep swinging for the bleachers!