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Embracing Industry Sales Professionals as Part of the Design Team

By: Linda Makins

As Interior Designers, are we doing our part?

In September of this year Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) hosted its first Design Symposium: Value of Design Thinking. This three-day symposium was held in Toronto and provided design professionals with a program of in-depth education, expert panel discussions, and inspirational guided design tours. There were seminars for practicing interior designers as well as programs geared to the specific needs of industry sales professionals.

Over the course of three days, I had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion at the Industry Sales Professional Training course. Spearheaded by Glen Brewer, President of Midgely Technica and board member of IDC, this course was tailored exclusively to meet the needs and objectives of industry sales professionals. It featured Q & A sessions with registered interior designers and architects from design firms both large and small. According to Glen Brewer, it was the discussions in the Working with Design Firms Roundtable which drew the greatest response from the attendees.

The struggles of industry sales professionals

As a roundtable panelist and I was impressed by the level of passion the industry sales professionals had for their work and the products they represent. It was clear that the struggle to get face-to-face time with designers was becoming increasingly difficult. With product information being readily available on-line and designers’ time being squeezed in order to keep up with the increased work load, the one on one rapport with designers has been lost in the shuffle. Today’s reality is that designers simply cannot respond to every call to view new product.

During the roundtable discussion the industry sales professionals also expressed their ongoing struggle in monitoring product specifications. Their job is to track when and where their product is being specified. More importantly, without knowing where their product is specified, the industry sales professional cannot monitor its progress in the system. Again, designers have so much on their plate in managing multiple projects that they have little time to follow up with their industry sales professional to let them know that their product has been specified.

It’s time for a new perspective

It occurred to me after participating in the roundtable that this was a one-sided discussion. The answer was not going to come from forty-five impassioned industry sales professionals reaching out to a panel of eight interior designers. I wondered, “Why are we not carrying this message to interior designers on a broader scale?”

The frustration coming from the industry sales professionals was palpable. They truly wanted to service the designer and yet often found themselves on the receiving end of non-returned emails and telephone calls. It was clear that there were no easy answers. Although our panel of professional interior designers was empathetic to the struggle, it was agreed that perhaps a shift in perception and an understanding of each other’s perspective was needed.

How can we make a change?

First, I think it is important that we give homage to the fact that our industry sales professionals are part of our design team. We always consider the design team to consist of designers, engineers, contractors, subject matter experts, and the client. But can you imagine our design solutions without the products we specify? When we stop and think of it, how much of our project’s success can be attributed to the excellent service of our industry sales professional?

As designers, are we doing our part?

The change begins with us. Yes, everyone is busy and interior designers wear many hats. But let’s not let our busyness blind us to the hard work being done by our industry sales professionals. We need to extend some consideration to them because they ARE part of our design team.

Imagine how much the team dynamic could be improved by:

· returning a call

· making time for updates

· thanking them for the samples

· notifying them when their product has been specified

Although most would say that they do most of these things I think there is always room for improvement. The time has come for us to change the way we view and value our industry sales professionals. We can do so much better by acknowledging the hard work of these professionals and recognizing their contribution to our success.

Moving forward as partners in design

This helps our business too! When we acknowledge the industry sales professional as a part of our design team, they are more engaged and involved in the process. They will go above and beyond in their service to us; they have our backs because we have theirs. By valuing all members of our design team growth and prosperity will follow.

Let’s be innovative and look for ways that we as professionals can improve. Here’s a practice that I enjoy that you may wish to adopt; the next time your project reaches completion, set aside an afternoon to invite suppliers to come and see their product installed. It’s a wonderful way to express gratitude to our valued partners in design.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

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