Grab A Partner by Steve Boodakian and Sy Mahfuz of The Mera Group
Let’s face it, professional designers drive the bus when it comes to many of the wealthy buyers out there with which we want to do business. As traditional Rug and Carpet retailers we all face the challenge of competing with Designer showrooms to capture and grow business with professional designers.
This article is for both Rug Retailers and Professional Designers who want to do more than survive in this challenging economy. The best way for professional designers and rug sources to be truly successful in this competitive environment is to establish and maintain strong partnerships.
What is a partnership?
First and foremost a partnership is based on trust. For the designer they must trust the retailer to protect their professional interests with their clients. Simply stated, this means that once the designer introduces the client to your store you include the designer in all transactions going forward. From the retailer’s perspective, they expect the designer to initiate the client relationship and follow through, and not jump in with their hand out as it comes to a close.
Trust is earned through:
- Respect for the professional ability and skill of your partner
- Mutual Cooperation
- Each person taking responsibility to do their part towards a common goal.
What is most important is that in the end is:
- A Partnership exists for the benefit of both.
The RUG SOURCE
Let’s start with the Retailer or more specifically THE RUG SOURCE.
Why do we use the term “rug source”? Because you may need to adjust your way of thinking. Being a great partner with a professional designer goes far beyond being a great retailer. It takes a commitment to a new set of responsibilities and an understanding that a great designer can bring clients to your door that you would otherwise not sell to.
The Rug Source Partner should:
1) Provide a welcoming and professional selling environment
o Support –“from phone to floor”
2) Have a clear policy on working with designers
3) Have a thorough knowledge of the product- you are the expert and this is where you can truly separate yourself from many designer showrooms.
- Weave, wool, dyes, pattern origins and the history behind the art.
- Suitability for specific use
4) Have a strong relationship with suppliers-Domestic or overseas
- Provide accurate and reliable delivery information
- There can always be glitches and you must be able to resolve problems quickly and efficiently.
5) Develop an understanding of Color and Design
- Stay current with Design Trends both within the Rug industry and in home furnishings in general.
- Have “a good eye” to help the designer in fulfilling the design goals they articulate
6) Provide a range of rugs that suit the Designers style and needs
You can’t be all things to everyone, but if you want to develop profitable relationships with professional designers, you must make a commitment to stocking and sampling the right products.
7) Know when to step back and let the designer do their job
8) Make it easier-Provide adjunct services
- In-home trial
- Stain Treatment
- Delivery- for trial and sale
- Installation- Stairs and W/W
- Cleaning/ Restoration
9) Selling is like Dancing-
- Make it memorable
- Dance with them better than your own.
- You want the customer to tell the designer how happy they were with the experience.
Wow the designer and his/her client and they can bring you many clients and add lots of dollars to your bottom line each year-to say nothing of referrals to other professional designers.
10) Value the Partnership
Reinforce the strengths and reputation of your Designer partner with their client. Plus, all of us have retail clients and contacts that, for a number of reasons, cannot make a decision and need the help of a Professional Designer.. Refer them to your Designer Partners who will in turn protect you as the rug source.
This partnership is of course a two way street.
The Designer Partner should:
1) Develop a working knowledge of the product
- Countries of Origin
- Weaves and materials
- Suitability of different fibers/constructions for different uses
- Available/custom sizes
- Custom Procedures
2) Have a plan
- Dimensions of the space
- Color scheme
- Overall style and Flavor
- Approximate Budget
3) Make a visit without Client
- Get on the same page with Source
- Clarify pricing policies
o Retail/ Designer net/ Split pricing to customer
o Who quotes the price
o How to deal with negotiations
- Pre-select Rugs and make an appointment for a return visit
4) Accompany the client
- Read the client’s reactions
- Be an active participant in helping the client come to a decision
- Know when to step back and let the source work
5) Look at the rugs in the space
- Close the deal
- Give constructive feedback for other options
6) Value the partnership
We are not suggesting that a designer partner with only one source for their rug needs, but they should make themselves important to a few rather than an occasional walk-in for many. The source will work harder for you, and that leads to a satisfied client.
Both the dealer and the designer must work together to build trust with the client and make them comfortable in their decision to buy a rug. After all that is the “bottom line.” But that is just the beginning. As we stress in all of our sales seminars and practice on my sales floor, real success comes in getting the “second date” with your client – doing the whole house. And we even take it a step further, how about the whole neighborhood that comes from a satisfied customer referring you to their friends.
If both partners are professional and follow these guidelines, you will both make more money and dazzle your clients every time.
Steve Boodakian and Sy Mahfuz have been selling and servicing Fine Rugs and Carpets for 3 generations. They are partners in THE MERA GROUP which focuses on product education and motivation for area rug and home furnishing professionals. Contact them at www.themeragroup.com
Copyright © 2008. Any publication or reproduction in whole or part without permission of THE MERA GROUP is expressly prohibited.