Social Media’s Impact on Our Sales Approach

Every year one of my cabinetry partner vendors hosts its designers/dealers for a day-long symposium. The company will put together an informative presentation about its new cabinet products and designs that we as their designers now have at our disposal. We see beautiful examples of the manufacturer’s new wood species, veneers, alternative cabinet construction materials, door styles, design elements and innovative accessories. Along with these presentations, the company will bring in fantastic guest speakers to make other presentations on different topics relevant to the designers selling the product.

One of the greatest features of having so many business owners and designers in one room is that we get to interact with other individuals from other dealerships across the country. Talking to them owner to owner or designer to designer provides a wealth of insight and different perspectives on topics relevant to our businesses. These casual discussions are great ways to reflect on our business, ourselves, how we do what we do and why we do what we do.

One of the conversations I recall has really had me thinking about how I view the impact social media has on my business and my sales approach. I was asked if I have a Houzz page. We spent some time talking about the pros and cons of doing this and how much work goes into it. Clearly social media can have an impact on the marketing of our companies, but how does it affect our sales approach? And why is social media so important to our clients? All of this got me thinking.


Changing Times

We can all remember the days of yesteryear when our clients would show up to our meetings with magazine clippings for their inspiration. Usually it was a random jumble of torn pages stuffed into a folder, haphazardly placed. If the client was a bit more organized, he or she might show up with a three-ring binder. Each clipping was hole punched, perhaps coordinated by category with divider pages using those colored plastic tabs and slide-in labels. Those were the clients we loved to work with; they clearly had invested time and thought, done their research and generally had a good idea of what they wanted.

How times have changed! With social media sites such as Pinterest and Houzz, the client can easily navigate a Web site and search for something design related by exact search type. And they can do it on their time schedule, day or night, from the comfort of their home. And they can do it for free.

These sites do a lot of the organizing for consumers, so they can correlate the information into concise formats. They have the opportunity to print out the inspiration pictures. They can save them to certain files, providing easy organization of their thoughts and images that speak to them. They can email the file or files to their friends to get their thoughts, or to us so we know what they are interested in.

All of this creates a complete digital file that replaces the torn magazine clippings. No more three-ring binders and spending tons of wasted time looking through torn magazine pictures!


A Changing Sales Approach

These types of media sites are revolutionary in the way they impact our meetings with clients and how we discuss their likes/dislikes. We are now requesting our clients send us their Houzz/Pinterest files prior to our initial meeting. This allows us to see what the client is interested in. Perhaps this will give us some insight into their budget, and the scope of the project. Interestingly, we are seeing every customer we are working with sending us either (or both) Pinterest or Houzz files prior to our first meeting. We have yet to have a client say they wouldn’t. And, more interestingly, we have yet to have a client ask us what that is, even with the older demographic consumer. That’s pretty powerful.

We also use these sites in our sales approach when we are working with a client initially in our design meetings. As with many of you, we present ideas to them in a sketch or computerized drawing format initially and try to explain our ideas and design verbally and schematically. We are finding that more and more clients are asking us to show them a picture.

A lot of our ideas and designs are proprietary and there might not be a picture out there of the one-off design we are presenting, so we have to work off of drawings. But for the client who might have more conventional design tastes, we use sites such as Houzz and Pinterest to browse for precedent images to give them a true life view of the design idea we are presenting for their individual space. Sure, you may be able to do this with your showroom, or with images of past work you’ve done. However, if your showroom doesn’t have that certain type of display or you don’t have a picture of exactly what you’re looking for, chances are good you’ll be able to find something that will work by searching one of these social media sites. Using these sites as a tool in your design presentations and sales will help your clients feel like they are getting to see exactly what they want. And that can take you a long way toward making the sale.


Managing Social Media

Some kitchen and bath design firms are more involved with social media sites than others. But going forward, it’s clear that these are going to become increasingly important in business. By now, all of our firms should have Web sites, as this is increasingly viewed as a necessity in business. In fact, not having a site can damage your credibility.

Then there’s your Facebook business page. And then you have your Houzz and/or Pinterest accounts. Perhaps you also have a Twitter account. Before long, the question becomes: How do you find the time to manage them all? It’s hard enough trying to keep our Web sites updated; now there may be as many as half a dozen other social media accounts to be managed as well. And with Houzz, you have to answer all of the questions. Who has the time for that, you might ask?

If you are a large company, you might have someone in a position to manage all of these social media sites for you. If not, you might wonder if it’s worth the time investment when there’s so much else to do.

I would urge you to carve out a time to get your accounts started and then schedule a time once a week to manage them. Here’s why: Savvy consumers are relying on the Internet to do their research prior to buying. From the research they do online, they are more educated about products and services than ever before. Most consumers who use the Internet for research prior to purchasing are likely 50-75% sure of their purchase even before they ever consult an actual salesperson. So now they know what they might want, and they begin to look into how to get it.

Just as they are researching products and services, you can bet they are researching you and your company. I know when I meet with someone I do research about them prior to the meeting so I can interact with them on all levels. What type of business are they in, what about them is positive, what might be negative, where do they live, etc.? This provides information that may be useful when we interact and form relationships.

Social media provides the prospective client with another opportunity to research you and your company. It can help them feel like they “know” you, and to some degree will help them feel comfortable that you are a reliable company that does what it says it will. In essence, it legitimizes you and your business.

This is especially true with sites where consumers can share feedback and make honest comments. Indeed, it is the review or testimonial that is the strongest tool on these social media sites. Consumers gain confidence by reading comments, reviews or testimonials from your actual clients or past customers. The clients are reading what they interpret as unsolicited reviews of you and your company (though it’s okay if you do solicit testimonials, and, in fact, I urge you to ask your past clients to write reviews). These are helping the prospective client determine which company they want to work with – so by having these, you are effectively working on your sales approach without having even met them yet.

Businesses that are not on board with the changing times of the social media interaction will only sit by and watch as the competition that does this well continues to excel.

Don’t get left behind. Devote some time to social media each week and elevate your social presence, help promote your business, provide peace of mind to your clients and set up a valuable sales tool for your business.