Showrooms that sell to interior designers can have the stability they need by breaking from the old thinking way.

In the past, I have written mainly for salespeople in the interior design industry. I thought I would change it up a bit by writing about another passion, the showroom where many salespeople I train work. And the owners/managers who are responsible for the profitability of the business.

Over a 25 year career, I worked with four showrooms in the Merchandise Mart, Chicago.  I was fortunate to work with some of the most prestigious showrooms as a contract and residential salesperson and a regional sales director.

As a regional sales director for two of those showrooms and a 13 state territory, I quickly learned that we needed to think differently.  What they were doing for years wasn’t making them profitable. These showrooms were not doing well. You could even say they were on life support.

How did I turn it around?  Focusing on what is really important to run a successful business, thinking of the showroom as a sales organization in an incredibly well-designed space filled with beautiful products.

What worked 10 or 20 years ago does not work now.  It was a significantly DIFFERENT world.

 Unfortunately, I still continue to see showrooms hanging on to very outdated ways, and many of them are still suffering.

The evidence of these old ways is still abundant.

Design centers’ space is being turned over to non-design, high-tech companies, or retail spaces. Central lines are leaving showrooms because of low performance, and many showrooms are still going out of business or being acquired by larger companies. Others are “hanging on by a thread” while trying to look for solutions, like get more lines, which have proven to be ineffective.

The “Good Old Days” of having a beautiful product or a beautiful showroom impacting sales was only as effective as the company’s momentum and ease of business.  Hence the cliché “good OLD days.” We now can see this philosophy was all built on a house of cards and false assumptions that things would just remain the same or go back in time.

And many times showrooms make the mistake of adding more and more lines thinking this will be the way to higher profits. I know this is a common way of thinking. The more lines and products we have, the more market share we can capture.  I would respectfully disagree with that.

Although on the surface, it seems logical, all it does is water down sales from other lines.  That is why so many significant lines find other ways to approach the marketplace and leave showrooms to be sold through independent salespeople or company salespeople.

I know this first hand.  I worked with a showroom that carried a whopping SIXTY-TWO lines. There was no way my salespeople could give each of these lines the attention many of them needed.  There are still only 8 hours a day to sell, no matter how you slice it.

But here’s the good news!  We don’t have to leave our future up to chance or mired in ancient beliefs and methods that now fail our industry.  We can really dig deep and have a strong strategy that will take us right into the future.

The foundation of a good sales organization is, guess what?

Highly trained salespeople.

That is the first step I recommend to all clients, either product companies or showrooms.  If salespeople are taught to sell more effectively, the showrooms do not need to add more lines.  That was the most critical strategy I implemented when I worked in showrooms.  I did not cut a thing because I do not think you can cut your way to profitability.

Turning salespeople’s attention to selling was a vital part of how I could turn those showrooms around without a single cut back or lay off.  It’s how I continue to work with showrooms to stop those months of up and down sales.  Or, as I call it, the Teeter-Totter effect.

Yes, other strategies go along with that; one is dynamic metrics to measure your sales force’s effectiveness.

The metrics do not include how many sales calls a salesperson made or how many samples they gave out.  And for inside salespeople, it’s not how busy they appear.  Again, this may sound counter-intuitive to some, but in sales, less really IS more.  It just needs to be the RIGHT kind of less.  More focused, more targeted sales calls that MAKE sales are so much better than a bunch of calls leave sales to chance.

Even if you have some territories or salespeople doing well, it places a lot of unnecessary burden on those people.  Research shows that good salespeople either quit from feeling that burden or are recruited by another company.  This leaves you having to invest tens of thousands of dollars in acquiring a new salesperson.

(Average to replace an employee is $118,000.00 in hiring, re-training, and downtime)

The only way to build a business is through sales.  That’s it!  You can have all the beautiful products in the world, but if your salespeople are not highly trained for TODAY’S challenges, it doesn’t matter.  I used to say (even back in the day) beautiful product is just a spiff.  (Salespeople and managers all know what spiffs are….a bonus!)

Here’s something I know for sure.  If we begin to allocate some of the dollars, we now use showroom design and product to train our salespeople new methods, the outcome will be completely different.  No more teeter-totter sales but instead, stability all showroom business’s needs.

As founder of Dialogue Consulting, I have trained hundreds of salespeople in the interior design industry after her own sales career with high-end product companies and showrooms.   I teach people HOW TO SELL BY DESIGN!  After training and implementing this in showrooms, salespeople typically increase their sales from 10% – 30%.  Imagine what THAT would mean to your bottom line!

Additionally, I have spoken about this technique as a keynote speaker at trade shows, conferences and showrooms.  

For information on booking Deborah for your next sales conference or any of her ecourses, or a free report on  “The Current State of Showroom Business” email at  Subject Line: Showroom Business or call her at 773-281-9448.