Whether you work for yourself or you are working for someone else’s kitchen and bath firm, separating yourself from the competition is the only way to ensure you close the deal and eventually perpetuate referrals. Let’s face it, as salespeople, we are constantly competing with other local firms, and in some cases even with other salespeople at our own company.
Even in strong economic times, concentrating on your brand is paramount for elevated success; but in these uncertain times, it is imperative for your survival.
As designers, we are in the business of selling ideas to clients. Our process starts with the creative possibilities relative to the individual client’s needs and budget, as well as maybe some rough sketches. It transforms into an intangible two-dimensional possibility on paper. Over time, the project manifests into a concrete, functioning environment in your clients’ home for them to enjoy for years to come.
All along the way, while trying to sell these ideas, you are selling the products and services that your firm provides and that will be needed to complete the project.
Don’t forget about the emotions of “what’s to come,” as you’re selling those, too. You’re selling how wonderful that new kitchen will be for your client to entertain in. Or maybe it’s how fantastically efficient that new home office will be for that couple that works from home. Or perhaps you’re selling how relaxing that new master bathroom retreat will be for that client who is always on the go and needs to feel pampered after a long week of running around.
There’s an infinite list of emotions relevant to each project and each client. But, they are real emotions and we are selling them in our ideas of what’s possible within a kitchen or bath design.
We all do day-to-day tasks that make a project successful. We have our process. We have our time lines. We may even have company protocol and procedure. Sell the ideas, install the ideas…whatever the process, the basic goal is to complete the job on time and within budget with no (or minimal) mistakes. But it’s what happens along the way in this process that can make or break the effect of your brand development.
Start by asking yourself, “What makes my products and services truly stand out from the local competition?” Do you have a product that no one else can get in your area? Are you providing a service they can’t readily find across town?
If you’re in a company with other salespeople, ask yourself: “What makes me stand out from the other salespeople around me?” Now, ask yourself what you do exceptionally in that process. Ask yourself what you do differently.
What you do that stands out remarkably is identified as your brand. Once you identify that, you can begin to capitalize on it.
Here are some tips for making your business stand out.
- Create an incredible product. Don’t be afraid to take a risk with the products you have at your disposal. Understand your product lines, their benefits and their limitations. Know them inside and out. Understand where you can push the envelope. Be up on new technology and materials. Be creative in the implementation and integration of these new resources into your current products.
Use the Internet. Subscribe to as many industry relevant periodicals as you can. Attend the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show and other industry shows. Attend professional meetings from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA), among others
- Take risks. There are certain clients who allow us to take risks. They challenge us with new ideas and needs. These are the projects that become exceptional. I know risk taking flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says safe is more profitable in the long run. And certainly, simple designs the likes of which we do day after day are important and provide cash flow for our businesses. But, those projects are average – not remarkable. These are not going to separate you from your competition. So embrace the risk taking when you can. Step outside your comfort zone and go for it. With help from your vendors and some research on your own, you can get that project done. When done right, these projects can be highly profitable. These clients are also highly influential in their social circles. If you create incredible projects that stand out, those clients will seek you out.
- Create an incredible experience. It’s not simply about providing great customer service anymore. We all strive to exceed our customer’s expectations with the services we provide. In today’s marketplace, though, we have to go one step further and transform this process into an experience that the client will truly be wowed by. Providing this will make you stand out in a crowd.
It could be something you do for each client – something as simple as sending a hand-written thank you card at the end of the project or something as elaborate as partnering with a local restaurant or chef to provide in-house cooking demonstrations or cooking lessons. But remember, the most important part of creating an incredible experience is to customize it to each client’s project. It’s how you understand and effectively implement your clients’ needs that will truly create a wonderful experience.
- Specialize. Having a specialty area will also strengthen your brand. For instance, we’ve all heard about the green movement and the importance of creating eco-friendly projects. Becoming a certified green remodeler or getting involved with LEED-based projects in your community will provide you an alternative market.
Understanding Universal Design and the specialized needs of the disabled is another area of concentration. If you work in an area of the country that has a large retired population, consider developing a specialty in design that facilitates aging-in-place, perhaps getting your CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) designation. Get help from industry associations in developing and honing a new set of skills that separates you from your competition.
- Stay small, think big. Look at your target clientele and make sure you’re concentrating your sales efforts accordingly. Trying to be all things to all people is not going to work. Whether it’s the high-end custom client, the builder market or anywhere in between, you should concentrate on your target area and go after it zealously. It doesn’t have to be the biggest segment of the market, but you need to overwhelm it with greatness.
- Find or create your brand and stand out from your peers. When you have that client who says, “I don’t care who I’m writing this check to, I’m buying you,” you’ve done your job. You’ve created your brand. If you continue that experience throughout for that client, I guarantee you will quickly build referrals that will continue to perpetuate your brand for years of future success.