‘Commission-only schemes belong in the past,’ claim kitchen designers

Snug Kitchens owner and designer Nicholas McColgan has criticised commission-only pay structures for designers, saying they “belong in the past”.

“Some retailers are like glorified car salesmen,” said McColgan. “A big part of the issue is the way they’re paid. If you only pay on commission, the emphasis is on making the sale, they’re selling boxes no matter what.

“Hard selling techniques belong in the past. What clients want now is quality of service. They want you to be on their side, guiding them and supporting them. Not, ‘here’s some boxes, this is how much it costs, and I’ll give you 50% off if you give me the cheque now’. Those days are long gone.”

McColgan, whose business is based in Newbury and mixes handmade Fordbrook products with Pronorm, claimed that his closing ratio is high because he offers a very high level of service during the specification process, rather than focusing on the hard sell.

“I spend so much time with them that most people want to continue. They have a costing that’s realistic and a set of drawings.”

He also claimed that holding back from asking the customer if they want to commission a job until after a second meeting makes it easier to up-sell.

“The crux of all this is that nowadays you have to add extra value,” he added. “For us, it’s about offering free advice. Clients can do what they want with it. The specification process is an interview process that works for both of us.”

Rugby Fitted Kitchens owner Trevor Scott agreed with McColgan, saying that getting the design right is the top priority.

“The sales process is inevitably a slow burn,” he said. “So, it is important for us to build a good working relationship with our clients, based on the trust and confidence that our product knowledge and design skills foster.”

Premium Kitchens and Bedrooms managing director Iain Forsythe, however, disagreed claiming that a commission pay scheme makes people hungrier.

“We’ve recently taken on an estate agent, a butcher and a timeshare salesman and all three of them have gone on to be fantastic. The estate agent has broken the company record with £181,000 of sales in a month,” said Forsythe.

“Designers are paid a low salary with a commission and we’ve changed it back to being a weekly wage. It’s made them more hungry. It’s had a big impact. Our top designers earn £70,000 a year and average designers £35,000.”

However, Scott said he believes that Premier is “more interested in the sale than the end product or client.”

Despite this, Scott argued that there are still plenty of design-led kitchen specialists, but that the conundrum they face is that to “survive and prosper”, they also need to be able to sell.

“Getting the balance just right can be very difficult,” he concluded.

  • For the full Snug Kitchens profile, see the October issue of kbbreview [pgs 88-90]
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