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Decorating School Crash Course - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


Part 1: How to put on a successful seminar series for your customers.

Learning Basic Skills By: Margarett DeGange, M.Ed.

What a wonderful industry this is! Customers come to us for knowledge, solutions, and validation concerning their decorating choices. They look to us for expert advice, and they trust we will give it to them straight. To gain the respect and loyalty of our customers, we MUST lay hold of relevant knowledge that we can easily impart to them. We must understand the minds of customers who trying to furnish and beautify their homes. More than ever before, the home has become a sought out retreat from life’s busyness and outside influences. People are returning to the home in droves for sanctuary, entertainment, and for family connection. Our customers are not simply looking for furniture and accessories. They are looking for a better life!

How can we make a solid connection with our customers—so strong that they come to us over and over again for their home decorating and design needs? The answer is through education.

Education is a powerful tool for successful selling. Education is your strategic edge against loss of sales to savvy competitors and customers with buying objectives. It is not enough to simply provide customers with information about products and services they want and need. You must learn to understand how your customers think, behave, and ultimately, how and why they buy your products.

I love the idea of helping furniture business owners and sales consultants to empower their customers using the basic concepts of style, design, color, and placement. So starting today, that is what I am going to do for you!

The Decorating School Crash Course is a series of decorating lessons that will provide you with an incredible opportunity to connect with your customers through knowledge. Your first lesson—Simple but Sensational Seminars begins in this very issue, followed by another informative decorating lesson in each issue of Furniture World Magazine.

The purpose of your crash course education is for you to quickly gain and retain valuable design and decorating principles that you can effortlessly use to assist your customers. This is information your customers want to know. You will become THE HERO your customers turn for solving their decorating dilemmas. Your customers will look at you with adoring and appreciative eyes. You will look at your increased sales and profits with pride and satisfaction. Everyone will win!

The information in each article will be "chunked" and presented in a format that can be used in the selling process or directly translated into a customer seminar in your place of business. Your first lesson (below) will actually coach you on how to produce a successful customer seminar that will get you leads and referrals. Use the information in the second and subsequent Decorating School Crash Course lessons for your seminar content or for relaying important design information one-on-one to your clients.

Monthly Crash Course articles will touch on topics such as:

  • Simple but Sensational Seminars: Keys to a Memorable Presentation
  • Color Psychology 101: How Color Choice Affects the Mood in Your Home.
  • Style Savvy: Identifying the 4 Main Decorating Styles—Choose The One You Love.
  • Center Stage: Show Stopping Design Through Understanding Focal Points. 
  • Furniture Placement Strategies to Bring Your Room to Life: Know them to Live Well.
  • Successful Accessorizing:  Winning Strategies to Show-Off Furnishings and “Wow” Your Friends.
  • The Fabric of Our Lives: Pattern and Texture Choices that Wear Well and Feel Right.
  • Don’t Lie to Me: The Truth About the Powerful Impact of Faux Finishes in Your Home.
  • Pillow Talk: How to Dress a Bed or Sofa That Will Call You by Name.
  • And Then There Was Light: Turn on Good Design Through Illumination Basics.
  • More (We have to have some surprises for you!).

If education is your vehicle for success, then the Decorating School Crash Course is the road on which you should travel; the high octane to thrust you forward into sales success and a meaningful connection with your customers. The Decorating School Crash Course will help you meet the hidden needs of your customers and increase your average sale.

I believe we should always help our clients to solve problems. That is what a successful sales person really does. By placing this decorating information in your hands each and every issue of Furniture World Magazine, you will have the ammunition to successfully and brilliantly plow through the barriers and knock down the road blocks to your sales success.

Decorating School
Crash Course Lesson #1
Simple but Sensational Seminars
Keys to a Memorable Presentation

Before we begin with the actual decorating lessons in this Decorating School Crash Course, I want to encourage you to use the information for customer presentations and seminars. You can hold these sessions right in your place of business, at a local library, or at a nearby women’s club, for example.

Decorating seminars are a fantastic way to get quality leads and referrals. They help customers to gain information and solve problems, and they position you as a decorating expert. The seminars will be easy to do since each lesson will be presented in the same style you will use to present to your customers.
Crash Course lesson #1 will help you to produce a seminar your attendees will love. Follow these important tips to help ensure your success.

How to put on a Customer Seminar

First, decide on your topic. This should be something your customer, or audience, is interested in. If you sell upholstered furniture for example, you can do a seminar on how color choices in furnishings can help create a warm mood in the home, or you can choose a topic such as, “family friendly fabrics and accessories for low maintenance but stunning rooms”, or “furniture placement for a peaceful home.”

Next decide on a day and time of the week that will attract the best audience. Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons are usually good days. Check to see that other events or major T.V. broadcasts do not interfere with your choices.

Once you have a topic and date, consider your audience. Invite people you know will be interested in your specific topic. Think about the demographics of your target customer, and seek to invite people who share these characteristics. Use your past customer lists or new home listings for names. Invite your guests to bring a friend (birds of a feather flock together). Send out friendly postcard invitations, and possibly follow up with phone calls. Let some of the local country clubs and women’s groups know you are holding the seminar. The invitation should make it clear that this is just a fun and informative seminar, and that guests should leave their checkbooks at home because you are not selling anything. Of course, you will have an information packet with your business card and a few decorating tips for each guest when they arrive. As guests enter, have a small greeting table with hand written name tags, and invite each guest to sign up for your email newsletter and special announcements.

Set up another table beforehand with light refreshments such as coffee, tea, water, cookies, and fruit. Keep it simple so it does not distract from the seminar.

Begin and end on time. Your total seminar, including your introduction, your content, and your conclusion should run about 35-45 minutes. Do not go past 45 minutes. You want to give great, reliable, and usable information that they can put to use immediately, but you also want to keep them wanting more. This is incentive for them to visit you at your store or call you later for an appointment.

Open with a warm tone and a big thank you to all your guests for coming. Let them know this is a time to relax and have fun, and learn some decorating topics that will help them to create a beautiful home. Remind them that this is one in a series of seminars you are holding for them. If the turnout is not too large, break the ice by having guests quickly introduce themselves and tell why they came and what they hope to gain from the seminar.

Begin the seminar with a meaningful or humorous quote related to decorating, or with a very short story about why you began selling furniture, or about a particular decorating dilemma one of your client’s had that prompted you to share your solutions with others. Use this to smoothly transition to your topic, which means your quote or story should be directly tied to the seminar topic.

Now that you are on topic, present your material in “chunks” of information. Each chunk or point should provide solutions to decorating obstacles or dilemmas such as “which colors should I choose in my home?” or “how do I arrange furnishings in my home for optimal space and enjoyment?” Limit your content to about three to five major points. For example, if you are doing the seminar on color psychology and mood in the home (from Decorating School Crash Course lesson #2) your four points can be:

  • Color definitely has an impact on us in the home.
  • Examples of how specific color choices can be used as design tools.
  • How color can serve a purpose in the home.
  • Good color choices for specific rooms in your home.

Each of your Crash Course lessons will be set up this way, making it easy for you to present your seminar content. You can use the content directly from your lessons, but be sure to cite your information source.

It is perfectly fine and even desirable to use props in your presentation. Just keep them to a few well chosen pieces. You may use fabric swatches, an accessory, or a large color wheel to point out colors, for example. Just make sure everyone can clearly see the prop without straining. If you are using PowerPoint, keep each slide very simple and uncluttered. Really, you can do a fantastic seminar without the aid of a computer program. If you need to, use index cards to help you remember your points, but keep them to a minimum, and just write a few trigger words on each so it is not distracting. It is important that you make eye contact with your audience rather than with your props or cards.

While you are speaking, be yourself. Let your audience know—through your tone of voice and mannerisms—that you care about them. Just relax and have fun. If you are enjoying yourself, your participants will too. Know your purpose for being there is to give out good, reliable information and to make friends. Try to get excited, and evoke emotion in your audience. Steer clear of just listing a bunch of boring facts. Tie the information to specific ways it can be used in the home. Make your audience laugh. It makes you seem more “human”, but steer clear of jokes, because they can offend. Instead, try a bit of charm and wit that relates to the topic.

Give solutions to your audience—ideas they can use that are specific to their situation. Once you finish your last major point, recommend some action steps they can implement when they leave. This is what actually motivates the audience. For example, suggest they choose a color scheme for just one room in the next 3 weeks.

Bring the seminar to a clear conclusion. You may transition by saying something like “now that you have gotten some great tips and information for your home, I bet you feel just like a decorator.” You may then continue towards your conclusion by touching again on your beginning story or quote, or leave them with another wonderful quote related to the topic. Remind everyone of the date of the next seminar, and end by thanking them for coming. Your seminar will be a great success, leading to increased leads, referrals, and sales.

Margarett DeGange, M.Ed. is a Home Fashions Designer, Writer, and Professional Speaker. She is the creator of Communicate 2 Connect Seminars for business and personal development, and she is the Founder and Director of The DeGangi School of Interior Decoration (DecoratingSchool.com), with both on-site and on-line courses in Interior Decorating and Redesign. Margarett earned both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Texas A&M University with studies in Business Development, Leadership and Communication, and Adult Learning. She also holds a degree in Speech Communications. She has helped many business owners in the Interior Fashions and Decorating industries to communicate better with customers, run their businesses more effectively, and increase sales and profits as a result. Questions on any aspect of this article, on interior decoration or working with clients in retail stores can be sent to her at decoratingschool@furninfo.com.


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