Some customers have only the basic decorating or window coverings needs to fill, but many more are yielding to their desires for a dollop of luxury, or a bit of lavishness. This customer appears more often today on our sales calls. Surprisingly, they don't often come right out and say, "But I want more!" Yet, if we can offer a bit extra-not just in service, but in product-we often can delight and inspire our customers and win their loyalty.
This intuitive approach is not a mystery. It is simply a facet of good salesmanship. In fact, the French have a word for it, lagniappe (lan' yap), which means a bit of unexpected extra. For example, if a baker were dishing out a dozen, the extra roll is lagniappe (hence, a baker's dozen, or 13). That surprise morsel not only is mouth-watering; it's delightful. To us that does not mean giving away costly products, but it does mean we can offer the client a product that goes beyond the reason for the initial sales call.
An attention-to-detail approach to helping customers has many advantages both to the customer and to the sales professional. It is indeed a win/win strategy.
The customers win by receiving more services and products than they initially called you to provide. This saves them time, effort and, possibly, money. It is convenient. More importantly, they receive a fuller, more finished interior with fascinating, interesting, exciting details that are visually, aesthetically and emotionally satisfying. They win through your ability to coordinate several items for them because the fabrics and products all come from your samples. There is no need to bring in another design professional who might not be able to match or coordinate with your products.
You win because your volume of sales increases and the fun inherent in being creative increases along with the satisfaction of helping someone to be happy and thrilled with his or her interior. Selling more at each sales call by adding on details means less travel and time working with other clients. You also gain confidence and enthusiasm as you see the possibilities for creating a more completely furnished interior.
A Paradigm Shift
A paradigm is a perspective, a way of looking at an aspect of life, a routine, an opinion. A paradigm shift is a transfer of opinion, or a new way of looking at something, or a fresh approach. Changing our perspective from, "How can I fill the basic sales call needs?" to "How can I find details to delight my customer, to help them feel my service is complete?" makes life at work a lot more fun and exciting-not to mention profitable.
Attention to Detail
The power of suggestion cannot be overemphasized. It often is amazing how positively a customer will respond to an offer of a more complete product or service. Let us take a look at furnishing options, product by product, and thereby encourage ourselves to do a better job at furnishing details, or finishing touches for our clientele.
The way to begin is to train the eye to take in the details. Look for items that might be missing that would complete the room; make it more luxurious, appealing or finished. Here are some specific suggestions for adding products and details.
• At the Window: Offering a complete line of alternative window treatments is basic for today's window coverings professional. Beyond that, a healthy but controlled number of fabric books from a few great sources is essential. Too many books and too many sources is confusing and overwhelming to the customer. Be sure there is a variety of weights, styles, textures and patterns.
Look over your offering of decorative hardware. Is it a complete range? If not, add more sources including some lines you think are rather fancy, pricey or upscale. There are clients who are longing for just this sort of thing.
Next, consider trimmings. Adding fringe to the inside leading edge, or to the outside edge, and along the bottom hem of draperies is a great detail. Consider cord along the bottom of the pleats with tiny tassels; or perhaps at junctures of top treatments; or at the outside of tiebacks; or looped, moss-edge or tasseled fringe on the tiebacks. Add jewelry, fasten on decorative ornaments, add appliqués with a bit of sparkle and exotic spice.
Consider chandelier prisms, stars or other heavenly shapes, even angel pins or ornaments! Decorative ornamental pieces with a theme can make an interior fun and lively-be it a child's room with a jungle theme, a transportation theme, or a more adult room with cosmic decorations. Have fun with the creative prospects.
Also consider the possibility of trimming with silk foliage-trellising ivy, silk flowers-that today is more realistic than ever, and weave in French ribbon (with wire on each side to hold the shape). Look to costume jewelry such as beads, necklace lengths, or tiny strings of imitation pearls to add to the greenery or be an ornament alone. Add a hand-forged or custom-created ornament not only on tie backs, but in unexpected places, too! Sachets of potpourri, tiny framed art work or bas-relief ornaments such as anaglypta.
Also, undertreatments can be details such as soft sheers in the fabulous textures that invite the eye to relish in the shimmer of the finely spun yarns. We have available to us today a phenomenal array of fabulous polyester textured sheers. Play these up to the client as wonderful details for both under sheers or draperies over alternative treatments, or for softly swaged valances. How rich!
Look also to fabrics with detail-patterns that are subtle, complex, demanding or understated-in one color or combined with layers or side-by-side panels of a surprising or soft mix of hues. Think theatrically. Draperies often are dramatic side panels for the stage of life with sets created in the best taste for the drama to play out with the clients, their families and friends as the cast.
• On the Wall: Wall coverings, like decorative fabrics, are available in an amazing selection. One detail that has come into its own as a fabulous statement is the cut-out border. Whether it be in a floral, fabric, anaglypta or wood/resin molding pattern, borders are a delightful way to finish a room. Add molding above, and where straight borders are selected, a smaller molding below. Also consider using gimp, cord or other passementerie trimmings at the top or bottom of wallpaper sections or on borders.
Upholstery on the wall is another fine detail. Upholstery batting or padding with widths of decorative fabric absorb sound, cover imperfect walls and provide a richness that is unique. Seams are folded and overlapped or covered with trimming and/or welt. (Note: find photographs and a skilled installer before selling upholstered wall treatments.)
Wall art also is a detail you can provide. Several companies have made available to designers and decorators catalogs of ready-framed art in a wide variety of styles. Often mirrors also are available through these art distributors.
• Upholstery, Bedding and Accessories: Now, take it a step further. Do the bedspreads need updating? Would pillows on the bed make a difference in making the new draperies an integral part of the scheme? Are there places that would be perfect for a round table covered with a coordinating table cover or layered table covers? Would dining or occasional chairs benefit from a partial or full slipcover? How about new custom bed skirts or dust ruffles in a lined fabulous sheer to match the new draperies?
Throws, afghans or blankets are a wonderful detail and easy to sell. So are ready-made designer rugs from catalogs. Rugs also can be custom-made with inspiration taken from a fabric. Some rugs even use fabrics. Rag rugs woven of designer fabrics now are used in very upscale homes.
Details can be added by having waste baskets and tissue boxes covered in fabric. Match the shower curtain, take a fabric and have it sewn onto towels.
Consider adding a line of decorator accessories: vases, objects of art, statuettes for the home garden, urns, columns or pedestals, and clocks.
Remember, details are not always the obvious things; they are items that delight the eye upon discovery. Enthusiasm is the key, suggestion opens the door. Be willing to walk in and make the customer not merely satisfied, but captivated!
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.