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Is Your Designer Just Trying to "Sell" You? How to Tell.

When you begin the hunt for a good designer, you may or may not know if the person/people you're looking at hiring make their living on design fees alone, selling a product, or a combination of both.  Based on their area of specialty, a designer may get commissions from the sale of fabric, furnishings, cabinetry, accessories--and the list goes on.  This is perfectly acceptable, and with the exception of project-specific design fees, may make up the majority of a designer's income.  That said, how do you tell the difference between a designer who is just trying to fill your home with a smattering of product that they'll make commission on, versus someone who is concerned with designing your home/space to reflect your personality and your lifestyle?

I had two experiences within a fifteen minute time frame that illustrate my point here--not design related, but pertinent to this discussion. Today at the bank, while trying to simply deposit two checks, I found myself cornered by two bank tellers who were doing all they could to "sell" me on opening a new account that would give me extra protection of some sort.  Politely telling them I would think about it wasn't enough, and before I knew it, paperwork was thrust in my face to sign up for this new account.  When I declined again, they attacked from another angle, questioning my current credit card accounts and requesting I open another one.  Ten minutes later, I finally had to put my hand up, tell them I was in a hurry (the business attire and shaking of my keys obviously wasn't enough to indicate that I was in the middle of my work day).  Walking out, I was blown away that I'd had to endure that marathon of sales chatter--all for a simple check deposit.  As if that wasn't enough, my next stop was the gym to get a couple of guest passes for a friend who might be interested in joining.  As soon as I asked, a flurry of activity produced a swarm of sales agents, all eager to go over an unending list of deals and promotions that would appeal to prospective customers.  I clearly stated that all I wanted was a no-strings-attached opportunity to bring my friend in for a work out and get her feedback.  I'm a long-time guest of this gym, but this request did little to stave off the annoying sales pitch. 

So where is this going?  Sorry for my long-windedness, but all this to make a few points about people in sales--particularly in the design industry:

1.  A designer/salesperson should be far more concerned with how they can meet YOUR exact needs and guide you to your ultimate aesthetic goal than they are with getting THEIR brand of product into your home no matter what the cost.
I've seen this in over-designed kitchen spaces--ones that are so cluttered with cabinetry that its painfully evident that the designer/salesperson chose to pack the space with as many cabinets as possible in order to make the highest percentage of commission possible.  Where these spaces could have used a little breathing room, a different material, or some added interest besides a sea of matching cabinets, this was overlooked in exchange for added commission.  In my opinion, this is not thoughtful design--its sales-driven and not client-driven.  (But P.S. - A truly savvy designer will know how to get their product into your home in tasteful ways, often getting maximum sales without creating a look that seems overwhelmed or over-sold.)

 2.  When you talk, they should listen.
You'll know very early on if you have a talker or a listener.  Anyone who is interested in working with you will first be interested in working for you.  You want someone who is primarily interested in how they can serve and fulfill the needs of you as the client, and who is perceptive enough to actually find out what those needs are.  Yes, there will be times when you need a designer to "push" you in new and bold directions, but this should come after they have truly listened to discover your needs and wish lists.

3. Figure out if the things that are important to you are important to them.
So you have a brilliant collection of accessories and art pieces that you'd like to incorporate within the new space?  Great.  Hiring someone who is attentive and interested in what you currently own and love will ensure a space that reflects what's important to you.  Be wary of someone who wants to come in and fill your space with brand new items.  A "collected over time" look is what you're after, and shopping the Pottery Barn catalog cover to cover is not going to give you that.  

4.  Don't underestimate the value of humility
This virtue will go a long way in any profession, and especially in design and sales.  As much as many of us would hate to admit, in today's competitive market no one is irreplaceable.  Consumers and clients have the ability to direct traffic, and get the best they can afford with all types of goods and services.  Finding a designer who is out there to serve their clients will add tremendous value and a trust factor that you can't put a price tag on.  Which is ultimately what you're after--someone who will respect the money you spend, and the money you save.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Very thoughtful post and thank you for introducing me to Caldwell Flake - wow! but, I do think the economy is a huge factor right now with this salesperson eagerness. Everyone wants to succeed in their job so they can keep their job, therefore, they are pushing people because they want their numbers to look good. Is this selfish? yes, and it is survival. But you bring up a brilliant point about design, because it isn't about the designer, its about the client. The client's needs always come first!! thank you for the post!! :))