Why All of Your Employees Must SELL!

So You Don’t Want to Sell?

Nothing gets this MBA/entrepreneur’s blood boiling faster than when I interview designers who say that they don’t want to “sell.,” or those who tell me they got into the business to create beautiful designs and that’s all they want to do.

Yeah, and all a five-year-old wants to do is eat ice cream and play games on the iPad.

The interior designer who doesn’t want to sell has exactly the same emotional maturity as that five-year-old, and the same outlook on reality.

Of course I’m mostly talking about employees here; the design firm principal gave up on the possibility of not selling years ago, at least they did if they wanted to make a living. But I’m amazed at how many principals shoulder all of the burden of business development and more or less play the role of martyr in protecting their senior and junior designers from this task that is so dirty, so uncouth, so far beneath their amazing artistry. To that I say…


I’m working with one client now that is large enough to have several different teams, one focuses on residential, one on hospitality, and one on model homes. These markets are so different that different sales campaigns are necessary for each. But if none of the team leaders want to “sell,” it means that the principal’s efforts will be highly diluted by trying to spend time in each of these three markets.

And when she asks the team leaders for reports of work-in-process, the answer is to check with the bookkeeper. Huh? You don’t know? And how about sales in the pipeline and proposals outstanding? And presentations? And projections?

“Talk to the bookkeeper; I’m just trying to make sure our finished products represent the image of the firm.”

Double bull!

That’s so incredibly lazy. It’s so irresponsible for someone trying to build a career. These business are so small that anyone actually doing design work should be made a part of management. They should have responsibility for the whole company, not just their little fantasy world. They should understand the risks that the owner is taking to provide them with a job, and yes, they should be rewarded when they do begin to take on the responsibilities that everyone must take on.

Everyone Is In Sales

In a company of fewer than twenty people, much less one fewer than ten, there should be no secrets. Everyone should know how sales are made, how profits are made, and why the ability to project cash flow is essential to survival. And, they should be held accountable for that.

I’m likely to recommend to this client that she restructure the three teams with more independence, including the responsibility for sales. I understand she’ll need a fainting couch nearby when she tells them. There will be gnashing of teeth, cold sweats, and the vapors. Maybe even some turnover.

Fine. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, is my attitude. It’s called reality, and in every small business in every industry, employees must be responsible for a little bit of everything. The opportunity is for them to grow as an individual and as a manager. They’ll be better off in every way when they, too, have experienced the disappointment of rejection and the joy of success in winning jobs.

I’m working on a series of seminars for this client to make the idea of taking on sales responsibilities exciting for all employees. And a compensation plan to make reward them properly. I’ll share those with you soon.

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