Countertops Magazine Archive

Using Showrooms to Boost Countertop Sales

  • by Kirk Heiner, Photo Courtesy of Showcase Kitchens & Baths

    One of the best ways to increase both sales and profits is through showrooms. Whether you own and operate your own showroom, or sell through an ally’s showroom, how you show can dramatically affect your sales volume. If you do it right, a showroom can maximize your reach to potential buyers.

    So how do you increase the bang for your bucks in any showroom? What follows are some things to keep in mind.

    Showroom space isn’t cheap, and showrooms can make or break a business. They will cost you money every month whether your sales are low or high. Make the best use of your showroom by driving more customers through your doors.

    Remember the real estate motto: location, location, location. It’s the No. 1 factor of a showroom’s success. Is your showroom easy to find? Does it have fairly heavy drive-by traffic? Is it easy to get in to and out of? These factors all affect sales.

    I’ve had great showrooms in poor locations and so-so showrooms in great locations. Let me tell you, I’ll take the great location any day. I had to learn this reality the hard way.

    Another important way to drive traffic to your business is with the Internet, because it’s where nearly all buyers begin their search. When captured, bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. He replied, “Because it’s where they keep the money!” The same is true for the Internet today. If you’re not there, you’re not in the game. Play to win.

    If you’re not quite clear about how to get found on the Web, invest some time or a little money to learn about it. It doesn’t have to cost a lot.

    If you do a Google search for “countertops (your city)” where do you rank?

    If you’re not on the first page, you don’t exist. Do whatever it takes to get there.

    Selling through Other People’s Showrooms What if you don’t have your own showroom? Making allies with non-competing, but related trades can send you a ton of business. It can be a kitchen/bath design center, an appliance store or anything that is shopped for at the same time as countertops. Remember, they’re creating a space, not just a countertop.

    If a showroom brings in a lot of customers looking to make decisions about their countertops, you want to be there. A few good allies with strategic showrooms in good locations can give you more business than you can handle.

    Many showrooms have 10 to 20 (or more) potential customers every day. If you’re not getting enough business, it may be time to think about using other people’s showrooms to enhance your sales.

    Displaying in Allied Showrooms
    How do you display in other people’s showrooms? The first obvious answer is with vignettes. However, don’t downplay the importance of developing good relationships with the sales staff at the showroom. I know a lot of countertop company owners that have incurred huge costs doing vignettes for showrooms and then end up losing the bulk of the sales to another countertop provider. Your relationship with the showroom sales staff is a critical factor in making this type of setup work well.

    When developing your display, set up a win-win-win situation. You want to display in the way that is best for you, the consumer and your showroom ally. Anything less is, well, less.

    I realize some showrooms want to command how you display; however, if you do it right you can influence the showroom manager if you have everyone’s best interest in mind.

    Believe me, showing just like every other company doing countertops is not in anyone’s best interest. In sales, a me-too approach is the kiss of death. When products or services look pretty much the same, most buyers choose on price.

    Wow them! You need something that creates a wow factor. You want to differentiate, so do something memorable that sets you apart from your competition. I know one company where I live that does what they call a “fused Sink” in granite. This is not just another undermount, but rather a solid surface sink that is integrated in to the slab. That’s different.

    Visit competitors, or have someone do it for you. Know how they display and what they are saying to potential buyers. You want to show better, and differentiate clearly.

    Finally, when working with other companies’ showrooms, you want to build your brand if at all possible. Some showrooms will not let you do this, because they want to hide their sources. If they will allow you to, place your name on every single sample in the building.

    Opening a Showroom
    If it’s time to open a new showroom, take time to plan. This is critical. Most people don’t give enough thought to creating the correct showroom environment to drive sales and maximize their return on investment. After building and operating five showrooms in as many cities, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get it right.

    Look for a location that customers will feel good about coming to. Being near other kitchen product showrooms with a built-in traffic count can help. We moved next to a Lowe’s in a ruddy old building and our sales volume doubled. That’s a nice problem to have.

    Very few of your competitors seem to understand the 2nd Golden rule – He who has the gold, makes the rules. Customers are the ones who decide who wins and loses in business. What they think matters. Just having a showroom is not the answer. A me-too approach gets very little of the customer’s hard earned dollars. But those who seek to give customers what they want, do well.

    Try to think like a shopper. (By the way, 91 percent of these decision makers are women.) They want a clean location in a safe area, especially if they are shopping alone. They want to feel important; to feel like you want their business. Let them know you’d really like to do their job. You don’t absolutely need it, but you do want it.

    In a recent article in this publication I mentioned that the No. 1 attribute to own in the countertop business is “trust.” A showroom is one of the most powerful tools in which you can build trust. A showroom can make you look like the ultimate craftsman, a consummate professional or an industry leader, all while creating a feeling of trust.

    Good showrooms are about creating emotions that sell. You want to create the right emotions and avoid the two sale-killer emotions: confused and overwhelmed.

    How you show matters. A recent Harvard Business Review study showed that customers want one thing more than anything else, and that’s “simplicity.” They want you to help them find what’s called “Decision Simplicity.” Anything you can do to make their job of selection easier is good. Help them visualize.

    Clutter will kill your sale. Nothing frustrates a client more than too many chips, chunks and samples shown haphazardly. Create a very well laid out space that allows the customer to visualize their countertop choices with their cabinets.

    Showrooms of the Future
    I recently spoke at KBIS 2013 in New Orleans, offering a presentation titled, “What will the showrooms of the future look like?” In a nutshell, here’s the conclusion after all of the data and studies.

    * You want to create a positive customer experience that helps the customer make decisions without overwhelming them with too many choices.
    * You want to create what I call “The Goldilocks Effect.” Showing them not too much that they are overwhelmed, yet not too few that they feel they need to keep search and go to your competitors to see more.
    * One of the biggest secrets to selling through showrooms is just to keep ‘em there. Studies show that the longer a customer stays in a showroom, the more likely they are to buy.
    * Create engaging ways the customer can connect with you, your product offering and your message. Set up a continuous loop video on a DVD player or computer.
    * Anything interactive keeps their interest. Give them a new, fresh way of thinking about your products. Ask great questions that make them stop, think and lean towards you in their decision.
    * Speak in ways your competitors don’t – either through handouts or video.
    * Customers are begging for engagement, something that draws them in and is interesting. Let them know about a process you use that is different or better. Make it clear why this should be important to them. Will it make for less maintenance or better performance?
    * Put on seminars for consumers. A Saturday seminar that helps them “Choose the Right Countertop” can engage and endear them and creates huge credibility.
    * Buyers are looking for anything that will make their decision process easier.
    * Profitable Showrooms will be marked by three main factors. They will be: innovative, interactive and customer centered.
    And if you take then considerations into account, you will be much more likely to have a showroom that sells.

    About the Author
    Kirk Heiner is an Author, Speaker & Sales Coach with more than 30 years in the kitchen, bath and construction industries. He helps companies accelerate their sales. He is founder of KB Interactive Showrooms ( and can be contacted at [email protected].