In the past I have written mainly for sales people in the interior design industry. I thought I would change it up a bit by writing about another passion, the showroom where many sales people I train work.

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

I learned very quickly, as a regional sales director for two of those showrooms and a 13 state territory, 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? By focusing on what is really important to run a successful business..thinking of the showroom as a sales organization, not only an incredibly well designed space filled with beautiful product.

Here’s a case study that you can read for yourself.

Showroom success stories

What worked 10 or 20 years ago does not work now. It was an extremely 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Unfortunately I still continue to see showrooms hanging on to very outdated ways and many of them are still suffering.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. Major 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, most of which have proven to be ineffective.

The “Good Old Days” of having beautiful product or a beautiful showroom impacting sales was only as effective as the momentum of the company 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 product 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 major lines are finding other ways to approach the marketplace and leaving showrooms.

I know this first hand. I worked with a showroom that carried a whopping SIXTY TWO lines. There was no way my sales people 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 old 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 sales people.

That is the very first step I recommend to all of my clients, either product companies or showrooms. If sales people are taught to sell more effectively, the showrooms do not need to add more lines. That was the single most important strategy I implemented.

Turning sales people’s attention to selling was a very important part of how I was able to 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, there are other strategies that go along with that; another being strong metrics in place to measure the effectiveness of your sales force.

The metrics do not include how many sales calls a sales person made, or how many samples they gave out. And for inside sales people 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 sales people doing well, it places a lot of unnecessary burden on those people. And research shows many times the good sales people 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 sales person. (Average to replace an employee is $25,000.00 in re-training and downtime)

The only way to build business is through sales. That’s it! You can have all the beautiful product in the world, but if your sales people 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. (You sales people and managers all know what that means….a bonus!)

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

Deborah Flate, founder of Dialogue Consulting, has trained hundreds of sales people in the interior design industry, after her own sales career with high end product companies and showrooms.

She teaches people HOW TO SELL! Deborah increased sales by 300% for one of her clients using these techniques to train their sales people.

She is a sought after keynote speaker on revolutionary new ways to Power up Your Sales NOW! and has a four part e-course based on her ebook: THE FUTURE OF SELLING TO INTERIOR DESIGNERS!

Picture this. Your sales people, after implementing this 4 part ecourse system, increase their sales from 10% – 30%? What would THAT mean to your bottom line? Click here to get that right now!

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