Selling more than pretty pictureCabinet and related product sales is all about the design, isn’t it? Or is it?

How is a person going to make such a big investment if they don’t have a clear idea of what the kitchen is going to look like after renovation? Yes, design is important; however, should it play such a central role in the process of selling cabinets? Isn’t there a better way?

Over the years I have observed many successful and unsuccessful kitchen cabinet salespeople. I have noticed that those salespeople who struggle in this business make three common mistakes and that those who succeed commonly use two unusual sales techniques. These five items have one thing in common – how design is used during the sales process.

Mistake #1 – Letting Design Drive the Sales Process

Many struggling salespeople see the design as the beginning, middle and end of their sales efforts. Before getting to know the prospect, their unique needs and desires…the salesperson suggests that they put together a few ideas in a design. These are often the same salespeople who “defend” this design to the prospect instead of listening to them and finding out what they want to buy.

At Breakfront we suggest using the 4M Sales ProcessTM. The steps are Meet, Measure, Match and Make the Deal. Under this process the salesperson may spend 2 to 4 hours with the prospect before ever beginning the design process. The focus is on listening and gathering enough information to be able to really understand the prospect’s needs- and come up with a design the prospect loves. This process rests on the knowledge that the more time a prospect invests with a salesperson; and the more the salesperson understands the prospect’s views, the more likely the prospect is to buy from that salesperson.

Mistake #2 – Depending on Design Software as a Primary Pricing Tool

Today’s popular design software does have the ability to price out kitchen cabinets, depending on the accuracy of the manufacturer’s catalog. The problem is countertops, hardware, fixtures and other common accessories that can’t be priced out with design software.

This “pricing gap” leads to a lot of error prone hand calculation and paperwork. The more successful companies either put together computer spreadsheets for pricing or invest in software that provides them with a quoting engine that prices complete jobs accurately, at management controlled margins.

Mistake #3 –Too Many Redesigns

Some salespeople feel the need to hurry to the design process after learning “just enough” from the prospect to showcase their design skills. This typically results in a “trial and error” approach to sales, leading to many rounds of time-consuming revisions, a poor design, and mutual frustration.

The salesperson should realize that their job is to confidently lead the prospect towards investing in the kitchen of their dreams. To do this the salesperson must listen enough to understand what the prospect wants, the relative priority of those desires and the budget. With these factors the salesperson can do “side calculations” to show the cost of an island, different door styles or an addition of a trash cabinet without having to redesign the entire kitchen. This saves time, effort and frustration.

The really successful salespeople do a better job of understanding when to design and when to listen. They understand the customer’s wants, needs, initial selections and requirements before they even begin thinking about a design. They then focus on the budget and overall project complexity so that they can recommend the manufacturers and vendors who can meet their prospect’s project requirements. They hold themselves to a higher standard of product knowledge and salesmanship.

Of course there are plenty of other mistakes we could address, but let’s move on to some things the most successful cabinet salespeople concentrate on.

Success Standard #1 – No Design Revisits

The pros spend a lot of time understanding the different sales possibilities and upgrade paths that are of interest to the prospect. They carefully assemble a design that gives them the flexibility to show the prospect how the different design components and upgrades can be added or deleted from the basic design. As they present their design to the prospect they take notes about the prospects ideas and preferences. When they are done, they simply update the design with the prospect’s choices and present them with a final design, which brings us to…

Success Standard #2 – Close the Sale When Reviewing the Design

The successful salesperson uses a design review as an opportunity to close the sale. If the person likes what they see, told you what changes they wanted and agreed that there were no other issues- why shouldn’t they buy right then? The only reason for them to look elsewhere is to feel confident that they have considered all of the possibilities.

Sales pros often acknowledge and capitalize on this need by presenting a prospect with three unique designs that match their needs. The prospect then feels like they have considered multiple options and are making the right choice based upon their budget and upgrade preferences- so they are not afraid to commit.

The key to the successful use of design in the cabinet sales effort is timing. If the design is used at the right time and in the right way, it can be a powerful tool for closing a sale. But if it is used too early, or as the backbone of developing a quote, the design can turn into the cause of much wasted time and costly mistakes.


Prospects can tell the difference between these two types of salespeople. The ones that will win the sales are the ones that make it an easy, smooth process to buy cabinets. Following success standards like the ones outlined above is the first step towards making the sale a natural finish to your sales process.