Tips for Using Industry Shows to Help Close Sales

With 2009 behind us, and what feels like a weathering of the storm, we welcome in a new year of successful selling and potential growth. After a year of the media’s constant reminders of “downsizing” and “the recession” and other negative economic reports, we’ve begun to see an increase in traffic. Projects that may have been on hold are starting to get going again.

Whether our clients believe they can get some discounts or are just plain tired of waiting, the steady increase in business is happening. And we must be poised to capture this upswing in business and leverage ourselves against the competition with any and every tool available to us.

This leads me to one of the greatest tools available to us as kitchen and bath designers and salespeople: the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show. This show can be an essential tool in helping you to close future sales.


With K/BIS fast approaching, many of us are already making plans to head to Chicago. If you’re new to the industry or just haven’t attended in the past, I urge you to go. The ability to touch and feel an incredible volume and vast cross-section of products is how we stay on the cusp of what is new in our industry year to year. Not only do we get to see the products, we can speak to the product experts about what’s new and hot and what makes their products different from the competition.

As we specify products for our projects, the information gathered from K/BIS gives us an edge with what’s new and fashionable. Aside from the product displays, there also comes a tremendous opportunity for educational advancements. The classes and roundtables are a great way to hear advice and strategies on everything from design to business management. The guest speakers come from a talented cross-section of our industry and from other successful businesses, and can help forge the success of our own businesses. There’s also a tremendous opportunity for networking with other industry professionals.

The information gathered from just talking to some of the people who are in the trenches day to day is invaluable. And, the ability to utilize other points of interest in the host cities that your home town may not have is a great way to expand your knowledge and influence your talents. Whether visiting metropolitan design centers or merchandise marts, viewing local architecture or just visiting a museum, the ability to further educate yourself is endless.


You may, from time to time, have a client who is from or near the city that K/BIS is in. And if this project is in the planning stage, why not welcome that client to attend the show with you? Sometimes clients are open to traveling to this event, if invited to attend. I’ve utilized the show in both Chicago and Atlanta with clients, and it helped tremendously.

Here are a few ideas to make this process constructive and productive, rather than an overwhelming task for your client:

Develop an agenda.

I’m a firm believer in creating a formal agenda as an initial step in any of my client meetings. This develops a base point to start with and should outline both parties’ expectations. Determine what is needed in the project and what products you need to specify. You will be the key to determining what products fit their design criteria, their likes and dislikes and their budget. Make a list of the key products you need to review with them and use this as your road map to the show.

Do your research first.

Try to visit the show without your client the day before, so you can get the lay of the land and start investigating exhibitors. Narrow it to a few exhibitors for each product. The show’s size and content can be overwhelming even to us at times, so narrowing down the choices will help the client to have a positive experience.

Now, consult your list of products and begin your search. Jot down any booths that contain products that spark your interest and that might be a good fit for this particular client. You should speak to a product representative in the booth and get an understanding of basic retail pricing for any products you are interested in presenting to your client.

You will also need to determine how to purchase the products if the clients select them. Can you purchase directly from the manufacturer or do you have to purchase from a different third- party source locally in your home town? Do you need to establish an account with a regional sales rep? Find out these answers and follow the necessary protocol so you can procure the products when it comes time to purchase them.

Determine if the products are available at that time or prototyped for release sometime in the future. Determine if this product’s availability will fit the timeline of your project. Talk to the booth representatives about the cost of implementing certain products in your projects and how they may need to be integrated. Products like alternative drawer glide systems may require drawer box modifications or alternative construction necessities prior to the installation, and knowing these up front will only help your bottom line.

Sometimes new products require time to understand on the front end to get them right on the first go around. Talking to the professionals who know the products inside and out should alleviate the uneasy feeling of trying something new and untested. Educating yourself about product implementation is just as important as understanding the FABs of the product itself.

Lastly, your list should include a few items that are outside the client’s normal budgetary and design comfort zone. I find showing these to the client can spark interest they didn’t even know they had! Remember, if they don’t see it and they don’t know it’s available to them, they can’t buy it. Giving them the opportunity to see something new (even if it’s above their budget) may make that “upsale” we are always looking for.

Have fun shopping!

Walk the clients through the show and show them the products you’d like them to see. Gather peripheral materials such as brochures or project specifications. Visit any other vendors they would like to see after you walk them through your list. Lastly, have fun!

If geographic or economic constraints determine that visiting K/BIS with your client is impossible and you’re still planning on attending yourself, the above process is still relevant. You can gather all of the information needed while at K/BIS and present this to the client at your next meeting after you return. Be sure to tell them you are attending your national industry show and plan to do some research for them.

Remember, attending the show gives you the competitive edge because you are educating yourself about what’s available in the marketplace and how to integrate this into your designs. This authenticates you as the client’s best choice and helps you to close the sale.