Sharpen your retail strategy: Sandy Armitage

How can KBB showrooms maximise sales and build growth? In the first of a series of articles, kbbreview asks designer Sandy Armitage for her tips and advice on developing a successful retail strategy






‘I’m a closet psychoanalyst’

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my sales technique. I’ve researched what some experts on behaviour and emotional intelligence consider to be key ingredients and where my style lands within that.

One thing I absolutely know is that I’m not perfect and I certainly don’t have all the answers or want to preach to anyone about the way they should be approaching the sales floor, but time has taught me that I know who I am, what I do and why I do it.

When I entered the KBB industry from art school, I was only going to do it for six months, as I planned on being a megastar with a stonkingly brilliant solo singing career to overshadow Madonna’s mega-stardom. Yeah, dream on! Dad got fed up with me moping about as a work-shy art student, so he told me to go and get the job he’d ringed in the creative section of The Guardian. So I landed the bathroom designer job at CP Hart in the summer of ’83.

Being employed as a bathroom designer and salesperson, rather than a salesperson with design skill embedded, the way I view my professional identity is a designer who sells her ideas – and these are the things I have learnt along the way…

Know how to listen
I’ve learnt a fair old number of sayings and one of them is ‘we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’ and I definitely consider myself to be an excellent listener. What is the client looking for from me and what problem do they need me to solve? Ask them what they like and, crucially, what they don’t.

Empathise and tune in
Being sensitive to my clients’ feelings and needs takes insight. For me, the relationship is everything and that’s my selling aid. I love the process and rely on my instincts massively. It’s something I find continually fascinating, because I’m a closet psychoanalyst. Understanding my clients is paramount. Making a positive difference to how clients feel about their homes can make a difference to how they feel about life and that matters to me. I have been told on many occasions that my designs have improved relationships and well-being. It’s a win-win.

Be confident
Confidence – not to be confused with arrogance. Solid self-belief is key.
Identifying a client’s budget can be a game and I approach it in a few ways. If they won’t say, then I tell them what they should expect. I have often found that explaining the investment in quality of design and products as truly value for money has led to clients spending more than they first thought, especially if you exceed their expectations on design and presentation.

Be honest
I was once described as having a hard wire between my brain and my mouth, which amused me. However, I like to think that’s softened enough to now place a thought process between, but essentially it’s still correct. Trust means everything. I walk away from bullsh*t when I hear it, so why wouldn’t my clients? If you lie, you are setting yourself up for trouble that could damage your reputation for a long time. Tell the truth – even if it’s bad news – your clients will respect you for it.

Good humour and enthusiasm
You can tell from my picture that I’m irritatingly happy and have a natural ebullience and a fairly robust wit. How quickly or forcefully I reveal my energies depends on my client’s demeanour, but I find the fact that I get very excited about stuff really goes down positively with my clients. I’m easily pleased and all I can tell you is that it makes life less bumpy and a more joyful journey.

Be an extrovert
Being a people person has helped me a lot. It’s helped me make my own luck. Having a fearlessness about making the first move to strike up conversations is something I think I have always been able to do. I’ve certainly always been the first one on the dance floor and always been able to laugh at myself and not take myself too seriously.

“Be an excellent listener. What is the client looking for from you and what problem do they need you to solve? Ask them what they like and, crucially, what they don’t”

Sandy Armitage of Sandy Armitage Designs

Hard work
You have to put in the hours and if you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work most of the time, anyway. I don’t really ever switch off, but in a happy way. I see design in so many everyday things and that can lead to conversations that can lead to clients.

Be resilient
I no longer push for a sale because I hate pushy salespeople, but that doesn’t mean I’m not hungry for the deal. However, if my client doesn’t order with me, I accept it and move on. You cannot please all the people all the time.

Know and believe in your product
Know what the hell you are talking about and believe in its integrity.

Be a great communicator
Its importance is immeasurable. It underpins everything. I used to call it my ‘invisible umbilical cord’ to the client and keeping that link is a bit of an art.

Be persistent
In other words – get the sale.

Wear navy blue
This little tip is one I picked up decades ago. Lawyers wear navy to get the jury on their side. I call it dressing in ‘order-taking blue’… and all I can say is that it’s worked more often than it hasn’t.

The immeasurable quality
Being a woman.

• Read the other articles in this Retail Strategy series:

John Pelosi; Paul Wheeler; Nathan Hopper

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