When homeowners decide to remodel their bathroom or kitchen, they can select from an almost unlimited number of products. How they find these products varies from online searches, a visit to a big-box retailer or a local bath-and-kitchen supply house showroom. Many plumbing contractors have discovered that investing in their own showrooms not only helps their clients, but their businesses, too. Below are a few tips to help a showroom shine.
1. Provide excellent customer service.
Be honest and realistic about price and delivery. Make sure showroom personnel are knowledgable about the products they are selling. If clients find it easy to do business with your company, they are unlikely to stray toward another showroom.
“Give the clients what they want” is the mantra at Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Master Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning’s showroom, Master Plumbing Bath & Tile. Showroom staff won’t tell a client “no” until they’ve exhausted all avenues to find that one kitchen or bath product she has to have.
2. Partner with manufacturers.
Don’t just sell the name brands found in big-box stores. On some lines, plumbing contractor showrooms can buy better than plumbing wholesalers because of personalizing those relationships.
Best Plumbing in Seattle helps its manufacturer partners to understand not only what it can expect from them in terms of payment, but also how it will introduce the product to showroom customers through product displays.
3. Stay on top of trends.
Read bath and kitchen trade journals, talk with manufacturers reps and attend trade shows such as the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.
4. Utilize floor space appropriately.
When a customer walks into a showroom, one thing she will notice is the floor space. Keeping an open space is key to getting everything seen. Stay away from filling every inch of floor and wall space. Product groupings or pods convey intimacy and reflect a certain style or manufacturer.
At Aurora, Colo.-based Bell Plumbing & Heating Co., taller displays such as shower doors are kept toward the back of the store while vignettes are installed around the outer walls and windows. Clients may see a complete line of a particular brand in one vignette and complementary lines working together for a certain design aspect in another.
5. Fill a niche.
Know what customers in the surrounding area want and fill that need. One particular niche is the aging-in-place market. Other niches include traditional vs. trendy. Or maybe it’s high-end homes. The key is luring in those who are looking for something different, something they couldn’t find at the local big-box retailer or plumbing wholesaler.
6. Qualify potential clients.
It is OK to tell someone, “I can’t work with you.” Master Plumbing developed an agreement that requires a down payment for the time spent on discussing products and providing specs to showroom clients. This lets clients know the showroom is not a retail area where they can shop and leave. Questions to ask include: Are you building, remodeling or replacing? When is the project starting? Where is the project? Who is your builder? What’s your budget?
7. Develop a schedule.
An essential component of communication between showroom staff and clients is a calendar of events, a schedule that spells out the work days to lay tile, measure countertops and install plumbing, as well as open days. This keeps the customer informed and helps keep the job running smoothly.
Brookfield, Wis.-based S&K Pump and Plumbing — and its S&K Kitchens & Baths showroom — won’t start a job until it knows a schedule is developed. Sticking to the schedule avoids unnecessary delays. No one wants the master bath ripped up while waiting for the toilet.
8. Small showrooms work, too.
Plumbing contractors with small showrooms find that a limited number of products helps their clients focus their search. With so much information to be found online, at big-box retailers and large wholesale distributor showrooms, some clients can get overwhelmed.
Ravinia Plumbing & Heating in Highland Park, Ill., and Tom Drexler Plumbing of Louisville, Ky., have taken the small-is-better approach to great success.
9. Cross-market your divisions.
Many plumbing contracting companies with showrooms make sure to market the plumbing service side to showroom clients and market bath and kitchen design to plumbing services clients.
For Burnsville, Minn.-based Genz-Ryan Plumbing & Heating, adding the showroom to its business allows it’s staff to be involved with customers from product selection to installation to follow-up.
10. Stand out from the herd.
Become a local expert for all things plumbing, such as an industry specialist for the local paper or TV station. Be a sponsor for a local home show, but don’t just contribute money — get your face out there so people know who you are.
This article was originally titled “Make your showroom shine” in the September print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.
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