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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Selecting the Perfect Paint Color

I’ve made many paint color mistakes in my own home over the years. I’ve come to find out, even the high-end designers can’t just pick a color from the paint fan and have it be the 1 in a 1,000 perfect color for the room. They usually use a technique like the one explained in this post.

Here is a sure-fire way to make it right the first time.

1. Get a piece of drywall from a home improvement store. Saw it in half.

2. Saw one of those halves into 3 or so equal pieces.

3. Use those 3 smaller pieces and paint a color option on each one. Don’t paint several colors on the same board - viewing 2 colors very close together can alter how they appear.

4. Use the other half of the drywall as a neutral background.

5. Move the color samples and background board to several places in the room during morning afternoon and evening.

6. Mark the sample that looks best in each location during each time of day. For example, you’d write “Kitchen, Morning” on the sample that looks best in the kitchen during morning light.

7. Tally up which sample looks best in most locations during most times of the day. Also consider when the room will be used most. For example, if you'll usually be enjoying the room in the afternoon, you may want to select the option that looked best in afternoon light.

Yes, this technique takes more time than just picking a color from the swatch wall at the paint store. But, it can save you time and money in the long run – when NO repainting is required when the job is done.

Also, if you’re tempted to skip the drywall step and just paint the color sample on the wall, be advised that those paint samples will need to be sanded down before the actual painting begins. (Otherwise, you'll see the raised edges of the paint sample when you paint over it.) Plus, it may take several coats to cover the colors of those samples painted directly on the wall. (I know because I've tried to take this shortcut. ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to Convey to Your Client that Spring Is A Great Time to Buy.

Spring is almost here. The gentle warm-up, barely visible buds on the trees, and sounds of birds chirping remind us that renewal after a long winter is just around the corner. Something deep inside us stirs. It’s an invigorating feeling of energy and excitement - an instinctive sensation to renew our living environment and ourselves.

This innate human reaction to the season usually manifests itself in a few ways:
1. Spring cleaning to remove the layer of clutter and dust that has accumulated over the winter
2. Dieting for a healthier, slimmer summer body
3. FURNITURE SHOPPING to make things beautiful during what is arguably the dreariest month of the year in the northern half of the country – March.

So, if you’re in the business of selling things for interior spaces, now is the time to “strike while the iron is hot.” People are already naturally motivated to redo & renew. Now, all you have to do is find the right pieces to make their living space “sing.”

Here are a few dialogs that might help complete the buying process:

"Since you’ve already invested time and energy into shopping around, it usually make the most sense to finalize your interior decisions now, while all your options are still fresh in your mind, and you’re motivated to make the inside of your home look fabulous. Once the warm spring weather rolls around, focus usually shifts to what needs to be done in the yard and furniture decisions will get put on the back burner. Before you know it, it will be fall and you'll be scrambling to try and find the right pieces for your room and get them in before the holidays."

Or how about this:

“Spring is a natural time to want to renew, refresh & redo. Our internal clocks are programmed to begin sprucing up our living environments when the weather starts warming up. If you make your buying decisions now, then you’ll have your new room before summer hits, just in time to do some entertaining - barbeques, margarita parties... And you can just relax and enjoy the fun knowing that your home looks fabulous.”

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Saturday, March 12, 2011

5 Steps to Avoiding "Spousal Sabotage" of the Sales Process

Have you ever had a customer 100% happy with everything the two of you selected… only to then have the spouse come in and hate everything. Then, it’s back to square one. That is, if the spouse will even agree to continue working with you. This is what’s commonly referred to in selling as “Spousal Sabotage.”

And it actually is human nature to do this. People naturally resist decisions they were not a part of making. Even if they say they don’t want to be involved, when it comes down to it, they usually have an opinion or want to feel like they’re needs have been considered.

If your customer is shopping alone, avoid potential "Spousal Sabotage" by following these 5 easy steps.

1) Collect info on the needs of all decision-makers

First, find out if there are other decision-makers involved in the process, maybe a spouse, girlfriend, trusted “designer” friend, Mom, etc. That way, you can be better prepared for how to handle the situation.

Start out with a simple, non-threatening question such as:
"Who will be using this room besides you?"
This will usually tell you if the person is married, single, or living with a significant other, without specifically asking about their living situation.

Then, you can also ask,"Who will be the primary user of each piece?" e.g. - Does the husband use the chair more while the wife uses the sofa? If this is the case, not each piece of furniture has to fit the comfort needs of both people perfectly. Sometimes, this is impossible to do anyway, especially if the wife is 5’ 2” and the husband is 6’2”.

Next, when your customer is trying out furniture options, make sure to ask how she thinks the spouse will like the pieces.
“You mentioned your husband needs a lot of support for his back, do you think this chair will provide that for him?”
“Do you think it sits deep enough for his height?”

Finally, when your customer brings in her spouse, meet them near the door and take control of the product presentation process.

2) Give him a quick recap of the info she gave you on their first meeting.

e.g. “Janet said that getting a new chair and sofa are the priorities for your room. She said that you primarily use the chair and she uses the sofa. Your chair has to be big enough to fit your 6’2” frame and give you good back support. Would you agree with that?" (hopefully you collect a “yes” to this question.)

3) Next, show styles and verify comfort level before showing any fabrics. This will keep the process more focused.

“So, before we look at any fabrics, I just want to concentrate on making sure the pieces we selected are comfortable for you, especially the chair since you’ll be using that more often. I’m going to take you over to a chair style that is deep seated with a high back and a lumbar cushion for back support. We really like the look of the chair for your room so I’m hoping the comfort level will work for you. Don’t pay attention to the leather that is on the chair. It can be customized from hundreds of fabric & leather options.”

Notice how this example dialog conveys how important his comfort is to this process. He’s more likely to go along with the chair choice knowing that his needs were considered.

If the sofa choice isn’t a perfect comfort fit for him, remind him that the comfort level of this piece is suited more for his wife, who has a petite stature, and guests, who will likely not be “lounging” on the furniture.

4) Finally, before showing any fabric or leather options, review the info that the wife gave you about the room. This way, he has a better understanding of why these particular fabrics and/or leathers were chosen. He’s more likely to go along with it if he first understands the “why” behind the design decisions.

e.g. “Janet told me that the room currently has a very rustic, country feel. Although you both like that style, she’s looking to update it with a slightly more sophisticated look, since this is the main room that you entertain in when you have guests over. So, a more “Sophisticated Lodge-Look” is what we were going with.

"To create this look and feeling, we really wanted to incorporate a beautiful, top-grain leather into the room. But Janet said that you wanted a soft, comfortable fabric for your recliner. So we opted to put the sofa in this oil & waxed, dark-chocolate leather. It is super soft to the touch and will conform to the user’s body temperature in just seconds…"

"For your recliner, we selected this textured chenille fabric in a shade of mocha. It will be super soft to lounge in. Plus, the color will be forgiving to heavy use. We’ll also fabric protect it, since Janet said this is usually where you eat your snacks…"

5) Make sure to ask for his input throughout the process. That way, you’re less likely to get the objections at the end, when you’re asking for a buying commitment.

e.g. “How do you feel about this fabric choice?”

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tips for Interior Design Professionals: Providing the Agenda for a Total Room Plan Presentation

Before starting the actual presentation, provide your client with an agenda so they know what to expect. Otherwise, they may be thinking this is going to be a quick ½-hour thing and they’ll start to lose interest in the middle of it. An agenda can also prevent the client from “jumping around” and asking questions about things that will be covered later on in the presentation.


“Let me tell you what I have planned for us. I know you’re probably excited to see your new room. However, I’ve found that it’s best if I reveal it in phases. This will give you the ability to focus on one design element at a time and make small decisions along the way – instead of getting lots of things thrown at you at once."

"We will be “building” the room as we move through the presentation."

"The total room presentation will take about 1 ½ to 2 hrs."

"First I’ll show you the proposed floor plan.
I’ll explain why I placed certain furniture pieces in certain areas. These decisions will be based on how you plan on using the room as well as principles of good design."

"Once we’ve decided on the floor plan, I’ll show you the actual furniture pieces I’ve selected based on your comfort and design preferences. Some of the pieces I actually have in the store and we’ll sit on those to try them out. For others I have pictures. For those pieces, I’ll show you something in the showroom that will sit comparably."

"After you are comfortable with the actual upholstered furniture pieces, I’ll present the fabrics and/or leathers that will go on the pieces."

"Next we’ll go over the “occasional pieces” like tables and other wood items that will make the room more beautiful and functional for you."

"I’ll finish by discussing the accessorizing phase that usually happens on or after delivery to put the finishing touches on the room."

"At any time during the presentation, if you’ve got thoughts, concerns, objections, or comments, please let me know right away. This is your room and I want you to be happy with the final product."

"If I think one of the design choices will make more sense to you after more of the presentation is revealed, I may ask you to hold your final judgment until a little later. I promise we will revisit those concerns."

"At the end, I’ll let you know the room total including everything – all furniture pieces, fabric protection & delivery. However, you are always in control of how much you buy and when. Some of my clients do everything at once to get the room finished as soon as possible and some people choose to do it in phases as time & budget allows."

"Do you have any questions before we get started?"

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Tips for Interior Design Professionals: Fabric Presentation

Most customers have a difficult time visualizing how new furniture will look in their home. And a confused mind always says, "No." So if they aren't 100% sure that they're making the right decision, they'll usually give you the 'ol, "We're going to go home and think about it."

It's up to the design professional to help the customer "see" their new room with the words they use and the way they present the products. Here are some quick tips to use during the fabric-selection or presentation process.

Use correct fabric terminology when describing the pattern/weave type. This builds your credibility as a designer. People feel more confident following the advice of someone who seems knowledgeable and experienced in their industry.

Find creative names for the color. Instead of “shade of yellow”, maybe it’s “Honeycomb” or “daffodil.” This taps into the emotional aspect of choosing new furniture. NOTE: If your customer uses a certain color name, you should use that name, too – even if you don’t think it is 100% accurate. Color naming is subjective and this process is about making them comfortable and happy.

Before having the customer feel the fabric, fold the fabric in half. This way, their fingers aren’t rubbing the course back side.

Place the fabrics on the actual pieces the customer is considering. Make sure the fabric sample is oriented exactly the way it will be upholstered. Different furniture manufacturers place the pin tickets/tags in different locations. Consult the catalog to ensure you are displaying the sample correctly. Try to conceal the edges and tags, if possible, by tucking them into the cushions.

Place the fabric for the pillows around the actual pillow on the floor model. Layer this right next to the sofa fabric so the customer can see how the two fabrics work together. If you are proposing a contrasting welt, fold the welt fabric in half and place it behind the pillow so the folded edge is just peaking out from behind, giving the illusion of a welt.

If you’re working with three or more fabrics, try to also show the customer the fabrics in proportion to how they will be displayed in the room – sofa fabric being the biggest, chair fabrics folded to display ¾ of the sample, and pillow fabrics folded in ½.

If the fabric on the floor sample is too distracting, have a yard of solid, thick cream-colored fabric to place on the furniture piece before you place your fabric samples on it. You’ll neutralize the background allowing the customer to better visualize what their fabrics will look like on the piece.

Justify how the colors and patterns work together. E.g. "Even though we are using 3 different fabric patterns, they all work together because the scale is different. The sofa is an over-scaled floral with a mini-floral pillow. So the florals aren’t competing with one another. The stripe on the chair pulls in many of the colors from the florals, which will tie the pieces together."

When deciding between several fabric combinations, talk about the positives of each. Avoid using any negative words. This process is about what your customer likes & dislikes, not what the designer's preferences are.

E.g. "This floral combination is soft and feminine. The light cotton fabrics keep it more casual. The chenille tapestry fabric combination is still feminine but the fabric thickness and sheen add a touch of formality."

Then ask a decision-inducing question like, "Which style are you more comfortable with - soft, feminine & casual or feminine with a touch of opulence & formality?"

For regular tips on being successful in the furniture business, "Like" me on Facebook - Fab Results with Cathy Linard

Thursday, February 17, 2011

4 Quick Space Planning Tips for the Great Room, Family Room or Living room

1. Decide on your focal Point(s)

What will be the most interesting thing in this room – the T.V., the fireplace, the view, a grand piano? Most of the seating should face in that direction. So, this also means not every seat in the house has to face the T.V.

You may have more than one focal point in the room. Try to create seating spaces that can enjoy at least one. Swivel chairs are a great way to allow the room-user to take advantage of several focal points.

2. Consider Traffic Patterns & Flow
Keep your main walkways in the room at least 3’ wide. The path can narrow as you move through the room to no less than 18” to comfortably move between furniture; although, cocktail tables can be as close as 14” to a sofa.

3. Create Your Furniture Arrangement
When creating your furniture arrangement, try to work against the general shape of the room.

- If the room is more long & rectangular, create a more square arrangement, or maybe even 2 smaller sitting areas, to prevent the whole room from looking like a bowling alley (with all the furniture against the walls). Using square shapes – like a square cocktail table or square rug - will help widen the room.

- If the room is more of a big, open square, try to create more coziness by bringing the furniture into a more rectangular arrangement. You can fill space along the walls with bookcases, a cozy reading nook, or simply a focal wall featuring framed art.

- Keep each piece in the furniture grouping within a 10’ radius for ease of conversation and an overall feeling of comfort. If pieces are outside of that range, the room can start looking and feeling cold and unwelcoming.

4. Check for Balance
Balance is an overall feeling of equilibrium in a space.

It was once explained to me that you should imagine all the furniture in the room as if it were on a platform floating on water. Would one side of the platform sink? If so, that side of the room is heavier and needs to be balanced out. Here are a few quick ways to do that:

- Of course, choose larger scaled furniture – bigger pieces to balance out the heavier side of the room

- Select bolder colors of fabric & finish or bolder patterns – they have more visual weight

- Move 2 or more smaller pieces of furniture closer together to create a larger unit – kind of like the “teeter totter” effect – bringing objects closer to the center makes them visually heavier, while spreading them out to the edges makes them lighter. Make sense?

- Place something with more visual weight behind the lighter side of the room – a tall book case, an over-scaled piece of art, a tall tree, or opulent window treatments on the windows.

Want to receive my daily tips on success in the retail furniture biz? Just “Like” my Facebook page: FAB Results with Cathy Linard

Friday, January 14, 2011

5 Quick Tips to Get Your Clients to Make An affirmative Buying Decision

Whatever you’re selling – be it cars, furniture, homes…whatever… you are really in the “Decision Making Business.”

A confused mind always says, “No.” So, your job is to guide the buying process, by getting your client to make small decisions along the way, until they get to the point where they feel confident making a buying decision.

I’m a professional development consultant for the furniture business. So these quick tips are geared toward getting the client to make a decision on home furnishings.

1) “This one or that one” – Instead of showing lots of options at one time – just show 2 at a time. Get the client to make a decision of which one they like better out of just those 2 options. Then compare the “winner” of that round to the next choice. Repeat until you have it narrowed down.

2) Get them to look at the options with “fresh eyes.” Sometimes staring at all the options just gets more confusing. Encourage your client to take a quick break – go for a stroll around the store, enjoy a coffee/snack break (preferably inside the store), or simply get them talking about something other than the decision at hand.

Usually, when you revisit the choices, you and your client will have a better “gut reaction” to what they like or dislike. At the very least, you may be able to absolutely rule out one of the choices.

3) Get the customer “thinking out loud.” Ask key questions which will force them to really think through the decision-making process, such as, “What do you like best about this fabric?” “Do you think this will coordinate well with the other pieces you have in the room?” What don’t you like about this fabric?” You’re almost playing the role of a design “psychologist.”

4) Collect your “Yes”s. If you know your client wants it, but they are just a little hesitant to finalize the buying decision, ask them questions which will create “Yes” responses, such as,

“You said this fabric will coordinate nicely with the area rug you currently have in the room, right?”
“This sofa is the most comfortable one out of all the ones you’ve tried, correct?”

Each “Yes” is what is commonly referred to as a mini “close” in selling – getting you one step closer to being able to “ask for the sale” at the end of the sales process.

Because my philosophy is more client-focused (rather than sales-centered), I call these “Yes”s small decisions that get you one step closer to getting your client to make an affirmative buying decision.

5) If none of the above techniques work, offer a housecall to take out swatches, samples, and catalog pages so you can both view the samples in the environment that the piece(s) will be placed.

Want to receive my daily tips on success in the retail furniture biz? Just “Like” my Facebook page: FAB Results with Cathy Linard