Are you a designer who sells or a salesperson who designs?

In a typical KBB showroom, are the employees trained designers who sell, or are they salespeople who design?

The two methods of thinking have many pros and cons; however, it can shift how the retailer works with the client, as either sales or design will be at the forefront of the retailer’s mind.

In a poll on kbbreview’s LinkedIn, 62% of people said they would classify themselves as a designer who sells, and the remaining 38% say they are a salesperson who designs.

On LinkedIn, many retailers gave insights into how they and their staff work.

RFK in Rugby design and sales go together, as CEO Trevor Scott explains: “At RFK, we’re definitely design-led, but I’ve always stressed without closing the deal, all that time designing the perfect kitchen has been wasted. Therefore, we train sales and closing skills in our designers from the very start of their careers with us.

“Understanding the wants and needs of the client is paramount along with establishing a budget window. If the right questions are asked at the beginning of the process (a sales skill) Then the right design at the right price will evolve at which point the client will place an order if asked correctly (another sales skill).”

Often sales and design have to go hand in hand, as Nick Warrington, Owner of Stuart J Warrington & Co, says: “First and foremost, I sell kitchens, but good design is part of the product we sell. I’ve attended very few sales training courses. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and listening to sales training books to improve how I sell.

“The level of the market our business is in (mid-market) is competitive and sometimes it requires selling skills to close a deal. So personally, I wouldn’t have someone in front of a customer who was good at design but couldn’t handle the sales side of the deal.”

The same goes at KCA – Kitchen Connection of Ascot, as commercial manager Johnny Wing explains: “We have designer/salespeople that carry the project through from brief to the order preparation.

“Our thoughts is if you have someone who cares about the design, the client and the project 100% that person will be able to offer a better more tailored service to each customer. Than multiple trying to do the same thing – some things can get lost in translation.”

One anonymous retailer said: “There are exceptions to every rule but ultimately it depends on what you are looking to achieve – to win awards or earn money. I have met a lot of really good designers who can design beautiful kitchens but can’t close a deal and their conversion figures show that. It’s a really really thin line and one that we’re grappling with at the moment.”

Roxanne Baker of Olympus Bathrooms believes that different people must be utilised in different areas of the company. Also, some skills and techniques cannot be taught and just come naturally to some. She says: “I think it depends on the person. Some people are natural salespeople, and vice versa.

“If you don’t have the ability to close I don’t think it can be taught. It’s a flair or talent or special something that not everyone has, in my opinion. So, skills should be utilised to be reflective in the role they do.”

Kevin Stevens, director at Stevens Design Refurbishment Build, thinks that sales often come from a good design, and the ideal design for the client is part of the sales process. He explains: “One thing I learnt very quickly when leaving the ‘conceptual’ world of university and venturing into the ‘real world’ (where clients exist). Much like a piece of art, if you or your team wish for their design to be given life, it most likely needs to be funded.

“If someone falls in love with your design they will want to buy it. And therein lies the art of selling! In my opinion, all great designers and artists, while they may not like the notion of being a ‘salesperson’, are in fact already great sales people. The bit where the client pays should be like a silent whisper in the overall journey. When I became comfortable with this reality, I loved my job even more and it felt as if my clients were happier to.”

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