Designers edgeKitchen and Bath Designer Sales Issues defines a professional as, “engaged in one of the learned professions: a lawyer is a professional person.” It takes three years to become a lawyer, and it takes longer than that to learn how to be a kitchen and bath designer. Designers are professionals.

Kitchen Designer Requirements

Think of the knowledge required to design a kitchen. The average semi-custom cabinet manufacturer has over 5,000 products, with 40 finish options and over 150 potential modifications. But having access to such a depth of product doesn’t really do anything for the consumer until a designer helps them understand it all. But, designing an efficient kitchen isn’t enough. The style of the kitchen has to fit the house and spark a little envy when friends come to see the new kitchen. It isn’t easy.

However, the demands are even greater. The designer also needs to be an expert project manager. The perfect design needs the right materials and professional installation crew to really make the consumer happy. It takes a long time to become a product expert, efficiency engineer, interior designer and logistics expert. Kitchen and bath design is certainly a learned profession.

So why aren’t kitchen designers treated with the same respect and professionalism as other professions? Lawyers don’t have consumers asking them for a contract and then use that contract to get a lower cost from another lawyer. Accountants are boring and they don’t have to fight to get a return phone call. Why don’t designers seem to get the same respect?

Big Box retailers have a lot to do with it. You don’t see a lawyer sitting in the middle of a 50,000 square foot store writing contracts for anyone who walks up and asks for one. The ease prospects have being able to get simple designs and the consumer’s lack of knowledge about how to recognize a premium design makes it difficult for kitchen and bath designers to get the respect they deserve.

This is too bad. A kitchen remodel is one of the biggest investments a consumer will make in their lifetime. There are a lot of trade-offs to be considered and knowledge needs to be shared. A full third of people who remodel their kitchen wish they would have done something different when the kitchen is complete. You can’t help but wonder if things would be different if a designer helped them.

The average consumer considers a kitchen remodel for two and a half years before they buy it. They think about their needs, they investigate products, try to understand the unique features of each brand and its only after doing this research that they feel comfortable sitting down with a designer. They think they know what they want but they need a designer to help make their vision come true. The designer is the critical link to the consumer getting what they want.

Additional Responsibilities

In addition to being a product expert, efficiency engineer, interior designer and logistics expert- designers need to be marriage counselors and financial advisors as well.

Anyone who has seen a husband and wife debate budget and design knows the issue. Kitchen and bath design is a profession that requires unique talent, training and skill.

So why doesn’t the consumer give designers the respect they deserve? What would happen if the consumer did? Would a designer sell more?

Have you ever noticed the designers who sell the most have a way of gaining the consumer’s respect? Can most designers command the same level of respect and corresponding sales increases? The answer is yes!

In 2008 there was a gathering of successful cabinet dealers. They discussed the issues that affected the industry and debated different solutions. One question generated more emotional debate than all the other issues combined. “How do I get great designers to sell more effectively?”

The dealers found each of them had a few great designers who were also very effective salespeople. These designers had certain ways of dealing with prospects that made the prospect want to do business with them.

A curiosity fell across the room. What are these high sales volume designers doing that is so different from the others? Why are they able to sell more than their counterparts? Everyone agreed this couldn’t be explained by the quality of their designs. The designs of high volume salespeople were good, but not that much better. It had to be something else.

The dealers agreed that they wanted to know the difference between these designers who were natural born salespeople and the others. They arranged for their top selling designers to be interviewed by a sales process expert and agreed to share their findings with the group.

The Naturals

The interviews soon revealed that the natural salespeople had a much different way of dealing with prospects than normal designers. They were not afraid to ask about budget, decision time frames or even the sale. But what was even more curious was the similar rules each of these designers used to deal with their clients.

Most of these designers who were natural born salespeople didn’t even know they were setting up rules. They thought their unique manner of dealing with prospects was common. As a matter of fact, when they discovered that not everyone dealt with prospects the way they did, they couldn’t understand why.

The truth is that designers with natural sales skills didn’t do anything that was all that outrageously different. What was surprising was these designers used three unique techniques to sell prospects and had a similar view on the best process to use to make a sale.

The Result

When the sales process expert shared his findings with the group, the dealers all had the same questions. Can you teach others how to do the things our high sales volume designers do naturally?

The answer is yes. However, the sales techniques needed to be organized into a simple process that was easy to teach and enabled managers to easily re-enforce.

This is how the 4M Sales Process™ was born.

Natural selling designers position themselves as a trusted expert, who should be listened to and valued. The specific words that each designer uses are different, but their processes are the same.

Natural Process

When natural sellers engage a prospect for the first time they are not pre-occupied with what the prospect wants to buy. They are focused on making a connection. They know that to influence a prospect they must show them they are trust worthy. They break down the trust barrier by talking about a common experience- often family, organizations or interests they share with the prospect to build a foundation for their new relationship.

These designers also don’t do a showroom “show and tell” like many other designers. They ask questions, listen, present new ideas and wait for the prospect to talk. Their way of selling is different. It is more discovering what the prospect wants to buy (and why) rather than trying to sell.

They focus on being likable. They also let the prospect know they are a valuable resource. They share stories about similar kitchens they remodeled and how the customer enjoyed the result. They are quick to talk in detail about how their company is uniquely positioned to benefit the prospect. They don’t sell – they converse.

Another interesting technique they use is making and asking for commitments. They make it clear they exert effort on behalf of the prospect and ask for the same level of effort in return. For example, when they do a design for a prospect they make it clear that a great deal of effort is being expended and they expect the courtesy of a quick decision.

In a very friendly way they let the prospect know that a timely decision is expected in exchange for them spending hours creating a design that captures the prospect’s vision.

Salesperson’s Image

The natural salespeople manage their image quite well. They are always responsive to the prospect but not too responsive. They make it clear they are in demand and that if the prospect wants to stay at the top of the designer’s priority list, they have to keep their commitments and communicate. If they didn’t, the designer wouldn’t chase them, they just focused their time on another, more promising prospect.

Designers with natural sales abilities sell differently than the other designers. It’s a small difference, but one that seems to have a huge impact on their effectiveness. They tell stories rather than recite cold hard facts.

Their stories are more lively, interesting and relevant than facts. When a prospect talks about a problem, these high revenue designers use the prospect’s concerns to set the stage for sharing an experience that shows they can help them.

The way the story is told is interesting as well. The designer talks about the different people in their story. The prospects relate to the characters. The problem the people face in the story are always very similar to the prospect’s challenge. The similarity draws the prospect into the story and engages their emotions. Then a product or design feature is introduced and how the characters enjoyed the benefit is discussed. This engages the prospect.

Relevant and interesting stories are the main tool of the designer who naturally sells. It makes sense once you think about it. Facts and figures are hard to relate to and remember. Stories about people who are like you, facing the same challenges as you and are now enjoying the benefits you desire, are memorable.


Designers who naturally sell present their designs differently. There is a process they follow that makes them stand out from the competition. It all begins when the prospect walks in the door.

After greeting the prospect the designer takes them on a tour. They introduce them to all the people at the dealership. The receptionist, warehouse manager, installation manager and finance manager. They make a point of ensuring that the prospect has a sense that these managers are interested in them and want to ensure their experience with the company is a good one.

Next they spend a little time in the showroom. They show some of the accessories that they suggest in their design and try to get a feel of the prospect’s interest level. The designer wants to make sure that when they suggest a soft close drawer or lazy susan that the prospect has a fresh memory of the item.

The beginning of their presentation is also much different than designers who sell less. They spend more time talking about the problems they are trying to solve and ensuring they have uncovered all of the prospect’s concerns.

The Design

When designers that sell naturally reveal their design, they don’t talk much. Instead, they ask the prospect what they think. A conversation ensues and the designer encourages the prospect to speak frankly.

The features of the design are discussed and the prospect is asked to speculate on benefits. After these discussions the designer confirms that the design will address the problems that they just reviewed.

They share plenty of stories. Stories about how features work, stories about how the construction process will work and stories that help the prospect talk about how they are feeling.

When the prospect finishes this meeting, they are almost always sold. They also expect to be writing a check. And they are happy to do so.

Why would a prospect expect to write a check at the end of the design presentation? Well, because these designers set that expectation early in the sales process. Designers with natural sales skills are comfortable establishing rules andsetting expectations.

They don’t get mad at prospects who behave badly. They know that most of the time a prospect who treats them poorly just doesn’t know any better. This is probably the first time they have ever remodeled a kitchen and they don’t know. Designers with natural sales ability are quick to explain the rules.

The rules aren’t complex. They are based on common courtesy. The designer with natural sales skills shares with the prospect that they expect mutual respect. When each party makes a commitment, the other party should be able to count on them to keep it.

The designer has a win/win or no deal attitude. It is made clear to the prospect that the designer would rather lose the sale than agree to a term that one of the parties will someday regret. This lack of pressure creates trust. And one of the biggest demands the designer has is for the prospect to trust that honest, open and timely feedback benefits both of them.

Yes, timely feedback means that the designer encourages the prospect to tell them no today rather than stringing them along. It hurts to hear no, but it also provides the designer with the opportunity to ask why. When objections are surfaced, concerns can be addressed, and often the sale will be saved.

The cabinet dealers were impressed with what the sales process expert discovered. They quickly pressed him to tell them how to teach others how to sell in the same way. The result is the 4M Sales Process, now taught in the NKBA course called The Designer’s Edge. The process takes all the best practices of the designers who sell naturally and puts them in into a step by step process that can be taught to any designer.

The 4M Steps

Meet – When the designer first meets a prospect they are taught how to quickly establish rapport and trust. They also learn how to qualify the prospect and position themselves as experts. From this position of authority it is easier for the designer to establish next steps and create rules that define the relationship with the prospect.

Measure – The designer measures the home and they are given a set of techniques to gather information. These techniques help position the designers as the preferred vendor. The prospect will be impressed with the designer’s skills, curious about their kitchen design ideas and certain that the designer is the person they want to have remodel their kitchen.

Match – Designers learn to reveal their design to the prospect in a unique way. This unusual technique gets the prospect involved in the presentation early and creates an environment where the prospect literally sells themselves on doing business with the designer.

Make the Deal – When the designer meets with the prospect at this step they win the business 95% of the time. Designers learn special techniques to deal with price sensitive prospects, last minute competition and unmotivated buyers.

Success in Selling

A consistent sales process ensures anyone can learn salesmanship to generate as much or more revenue than the natural salespeople. Learned salesmanship is more consistently effective at winning deals and a quicker path to management for those who apply themselves.

But it all begins with learning the process.

Learn about the process here