Best practice for suppliers working with interior designers

By Carol Rutter
Interior designer at interior design and Projects Director for The UK Interior Design Bureau.

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Providing samples to interior designers – admin task or sales lead?

Samples – the life-blood of a sale

So much importance rests on samples as without them interior designers cannot assess your product and are also unable to present it to their client. In short, if a supplier doesn’t provide samples it usually means that their product cannot be specified.

Requests for samples equals hot leads

A request for a sample of your product from an interior designer is the hottest lead you will ever get.
Why? Well, interior designers are busy people, usually with limited storage space so they don’t order samples for fun. Ordering a sample from you means they are very interested in your product and are highly likely to be working on a relevant project right now.

Realising their importance you won’t want to make the (sadly common) mistake of treating sample requests as hum-drum admin and something that is unrelated to your sales activity. You will want to jump to it and make sure your work team do too.

How quickly to send a sample – postage and cut-off times for despatch

Requests for samples are nearly always urgent so will need to be despatched promptly.

You will need to make it clear on your website by what time you need to receive a sample request in order to send it out that same day. So you may have a cut-off point of 3pm to allow for the packing of samples and despatch in time for the courier or post.

You may also like to offer a service for super-urgent sample requests. Getting samples biked across town or put on special delivery is a sure way to impress an interior designer.

The quality of your samples – only send what truly represents your product

It will come as no surprise that the quality of your samples must match that of your product. There is no point explaining to the interior designer that the sample has been bashed around and the real-life product is superior. You have to remember that the sample is going to be life or death to your sale. If it’s damaged or inferior, don’t send it. An interior designer is not going to mount a battered sample on their story board to put in front of their client – unless it’s demonstrating an antique or vintage-look product.

Samples must be free of charge

You can never, ever charge for the samples you send to creative specifiers (interior designers and architects). You can’t even use the word “free” to allude to this fact. It’s a given in the world of interior design and architecture that samples are FOC (free of charge) so trying to make a selling point of this, sadly, would only show that you don’t know your market. It also makes you look like a retail seller which would probably alienate a creative specifier customer.

Labelling samples

Sounds obvious but yes, it is worth saying – label everything! Designers will not just be receiving your sampling but that from other suppliers too. Make sure your company name, product reference and contact information is on the label. If you are expecting the interior designer to identify, catalogue and label your product samples you are putting your company at the bottom of the heap if you consider other suppliers will have clearly labelled their samples with company name, product reference and contact details. Including these details means that when the interior designer selects a sample they can immediately make contact and refer to the product correctly.

If the interior designer does not open their own post then it becomes a guessing game for them as to where your sample came from if it isn’t labelled. And even if they know it was from your company – have you made sure your contact details are to hand?

Make sure the information is legible. Here is the back of an A8 (slightly smaller than the size of a business card) colour sample sent out from Dulux. Bypassing for the moment that there are no contact details provided, look at the background print on the card. This is the product code – is it legible? Er – not really but it does manage to be a bit eye-boggling which certainly wouldn’t have been the desired effect.