Creating a Showroom That Supports Sales

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Staying ahead of today’s consumer is a challenging task. Armed with the Internet and its infinite offerings and 24-hour availability, consumers often become “armchair designers.” They’re the ones who have scrutinized models, materials and accessories even before stepping foot in a kitchen and bath showroom.

But no matter how competent they are, these customers really don’t want (or expect) the design professional to give them free reign over their new kitchen or bath. Instead, they have a desire to be empowered to do as much as they can reasonably do themselves, while leaving the crucial nuts-and-bolts decisions to the pros.

So what’s the best way to capture this more independent type of consumer? How do you satisfy their need to take an active role in the process and still achieve your goal of creating spaces that meet the needs and aspirations of each consumer?

I’ve come across a kitchen and bath design firm that is accomplishing all that through a process-based sales strategy that I see as a new way to do business. More importantly, the firm has strengthened the effectiveness of this process by tailoring its physical showroom so the two work together.

Based in Sacramento, CA, Kitchen Mart, Inc. operates one 1,300-sq.-ft. showroom, offering a variety of products and services, from custom cabinetry to cabinet refacing. The 31-year-old company employs 70 people, including six sales associates. In March, Kitchen Mart will open a second location in a 2,000-sq.-ft. showroom.

A THREE-STEP APPROACH

After observing, listening and learning what works with their customers, Kitchen Mart president Dave Hollars and his staff formulated a three-step approach that is employed to serve every customer who walks into the showroom. Here is the approach:

1. Allow consumers to take a complete tour of the showroom and observe as they gravitate to what interests them most. Use this time to learn and understand what they like and don’t like. Refine their selections and interests, narrowing the focus to a style choice, interior accessory options and/or construction feature(s).

2. If consistent with your business model, the designer and project manager visit the consumer’s home. This step allows the designer to see the space first-hand. Now is the time when measurements are taken and physical observations can be made regarding the structure and its construction.

3. Proceed to the presentation mode. The goal in making the presentation is to eliminate both the fear and the mundane quality from the planning process, and to give the consumer a sense of control, accomplishment and vision.
Simple though it might seem, this three-step approach enables designers to get to know consumers – and thereby helps them ensure the customers get what they want.

THE SHOWROOM LAYOUT

The three-step approach represents only half of Kitchen Mart’s success story. To make the process work, designers rely on a thoughtfully designed showroom and some unique presentation techniques.

Along with the expected – product-centered displays and selection areas – Kitchen Mart has incorporated two distinctive presentation/sales centers, each designed to put the customer at ease and allow the designer to get to know him or her.

The first presentation area is used during step one of the sales process. It encompasses 400 sq. ft., including an L-shaped, traditional display in warm-toned wood, complete with every accessory option one can imagine and a tiered island at which customers can be seated on counter-height stools. The island allows ample space for spreading out materials.

The focus in this space is not in determining the technical aspects of layout and function, but in selecting the details to be incorporated within a customer’s design at a later time. In this space, the computer takes a back seat to pen and paper, which the designer uses to capture the consumer’s thoughts and needs, creating a preliminary design plan.

The second space is utilized during step three of the sales process, when designers are ready for customers to experience the unveiling of their new design. This 300-sq.-ft. space also features an L-shaped layout, but it’s more contemporary in design. And, in contrast to the first space, it is outfitted with computer and Internet access, along with a 42" high-definition plasma screen monitor.

Customers in this “theater” space are seated in comfortable leather chairs at the desk-height island, facing the cabinetry display and plasma screen. The designer sits opposite the consumers, his or her back to the cabinetry, with laptop access to the high definition display. As the designer provides answers to a series of questions on the laptop, the kitchen comes to life right before the customers’ eyes.
This experience is not just exciting, it’s truly captivating.

As one might imagine, the theater presentation technique has not only streamlined Kitchen Mart’s selling process – it has also improved the company’s closing rate to 60%. In fact, the experience this theater space provides for consumers, and the success it has yielded for Kitchen Mart, are so compelling, I can’t do them justice in just one column. For this reason, I’ll supply more details about this fascinating area, including how and why it works, in the April installment of “Inside Today’s Showroom.”

Read past columns on Inside Today’s Showroom by Sarah Reep, and send us your comments about this story and others by logging onto Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Website at www.kitchenbathdesign.com.

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