Using Reps to Improve Your Showroom

by WOHe

It was 7:43 a.m. and I was maneuvering my car into the left lane
of’ I-95 south. The 495 split was coming up fast when my cell
phone rang. My office was calling to deliver a few messages that
had come in the previous evening. One customer had asked me to call
him about a showroom issue and the other had questions about new
displays. My mind raced forward; just the day before, I had jotted
down showrooms and displays as a topic for my next column. The
traffic was now slowing, but my thoughts were quickly gaining
speed.

My messages were from two long-time customers who often consult
with me, as their rep, on ways to improve their showrooms and
displays. They look to me for new ideas and they value my insight
into what they’re doing compared to others in the industry. They
recognize that my customer base is quite varied, ranging from
one-person dealerships to distributors with hundreds of
employees.

My customers’ showrooms also vary widely, from those consisting
of a laptop computer and door samples in the car trunk to showrooms
that are several thousand square feet in size, with everything from
full working kitchens to dog grooming stations. Through these, I am
exposed to a vast diversity of ideas and business processes.

My thoughts were speeding along concerning all of the ways that
I could assist these two customers while my car inched along
passing the lane closure sign at Route 50. While my car was still
moving forward my mind had been detoured by the thought of the
dealers/distributors that don’t utilize their reps in these
endeavors.

That’s not to say that reps are excluded from decisions
concerning showrooms and displays. But often, the only question
they’re asked is, “How much of a display discount can I get?”
Though that’s an important point, there’s so much more that a rep
has to offer.

Scouting a Location
The first phone message
was from Dan, with whom I had previously discussed his intentions
to open a new showroom. He was now ready to choose a site. He
wanted me to meet with him and look at a few places that he had
scouted. I was very happy to do so, because his showroom’s location
will be key to his company’s success and my sales are tied to his
success.

Dan’s company is in a large rural town and his business relies
heavily on remodeling. Location could make or break his company. I
have customers located in industrial parks, strip shopping centers,
big buildings, small buildings, upstairs, downstairs, downtown, way
outside of town and just about any other place imaginable. Each one
of these locations can be perfect for that individual company but
just because it works for one doesn’t mean it will work for all.
That’s why a dealer/ distributor should gather as much input as
possible.

Companies thrive or struggle in their locations for very
specific reasons. Dan’s business is based on remodeling, and he was
looking for a new showroom to make it more convenient for his
customers to meet him and view product options. He was seeking my
help to have another perspective.

Was the site convenient and easy to find? Was the parking
suitable? Did the area lend itself to his type of business? What
aspects did I think would enhance his business and what would
detract from it? The list could go on and on, but these are
questions that would need to be considered. He was involving me in
the hopes that I could help ensure that he did not create any
unforeseen roadblocks for his business.

The second message was from Preston, and it concerned display
questions. Preston’s company works with the entire spectrum of
kitchen and bath customers, but his main showroom is upscale and
trendy. He relies on me as a source to keep him up-to-date on the
trends in the industry. He and I share our thoughts often, to our
mutual benefit.

One item I bring to the table is that my manufacturers keep me
informed about sales trends. I have the numbers to demonstrate
trends; for instance, oak has dropped from 59% of our business to
37% over the last five years. And how about maple or white doors?
Are the new door styles selling well? Are sales trending more
toward darker verses lighter stains? We can look at these and make
intelligent observations and decisions because we have the
numbers.

Using Photos
He and I also share ideas
through photographs. At my office, we take digital images of
everything and anything. We take pictures of new products at sales
meetings. We record displays, molding treatments, door styles,
glazes and design ideas. Any time we see something interesting, we
try to get an image of it. We even capture images of defects and
problem items. We have this as a resource to present ideas and
options to our customers.

Preston helps me in this way, too, by giving me photos of the
ideas that he would like to see incorporated in my line. I find
that our pictures are often our best form of communication.
Preston and I also frequently talk about new ideas in the showroom.
As a rep, I get to see quite a variety of showrooms. I see
everything from sample bases and doors strewn about the room to
showrooms that are developed by teams of industry experts. This
knowledge can be a valuable resource for my customer. Are the new
door displays effective? Are office, home entertainment and
specialty displays leading the way in opening up additional markets
for the cabinet dealers?

A rep has experienced all of these scenarios with other
customers, so if you’re considering making changes to your
showroom, it makes sense to consult your rep. Why repeat the
mistakes of others when your rep can help steer you toward more
successful plans?

I dialed Preston, thinking about the new glazed product I had in
mind for his showroom. I was ready to enjoy our usual conversation
when he said, ” Hey, thanks for calling. All I really need to know
is what discount can I get on another display.”

Well, as I said, that’s part of my job, too.

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