Tips for Working With A&D
Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • June 12, 2023
Whether or not you are at NeoCon right now, if you work in the commercial interiors industry, you’ve probably scratched your head and wondered, “How can I do a better job working with the architecture and design community?”
The A&D community is one of the cornerstones of the industry. They are the fickle gatekeepers of many projects. If they like your brand and products, they probably will specify them. If they don’t know you or have a negative impression, they likely won’t.
The question of how to connect with this important community has baffled many in the industry for years, but it shouldn’t. As I began thinking about this column, a lightbulb went off: Dealing with the A&D community is a lot like dealing with industry journalists. We are a fickle group as well. Many brands try to court favor with us to promote their brands. There are many similarities, which gives me a unique perspective on how you might connect to the A&D community (and industry journalists too).
Here are a few tips:
Get to know them personally — It is shocking to me how many companies forget this simple tip. The best way to make connections with the A&D community is to get to know them. Sponsor local IIDA and ASID chapter events and attend them. Introduce yourself to the designers there. If you connect with any of them, invite them to have coffee or lunch. If you make these connections in a casual setting, you will be able to contact them when you really need them and they will probably take your call.
Respect their time — Designers are busy people who are pulled in hundreds of directions. Our industry has been so pushy and has done such a ham-handed job in the past of connecting with them, it is no wonder they circle the wagons when they are contacted by office furniture dealers and manufacturers. They’ve been burned in the past by our over-aggressive industry. If they say they are too busy to listen to your pitch, back off.
Contact them only when you have something to say — This tip piggybacks off the last one. Unless you are a new brand, they already know who you are. Sending email after email, week after week will not keep you “top of mind,” it will irritate them to the point of creating a negative image of you and your brand. On the other hand, if you have a personal relationship with them (see tip 1) and only reach out when you have something important to tell them, they will respect you for respecting them. If you try to meet with them weekly and have nothing to say, they are going to sour on the relationship. If you contact them when you have a new product or helpful idea, they will appreciate it and value you as an important connection.
No means no — There will be times when you will do everything right and still get a no. Don’t take it personally; instead take it as a sign to walk away. Designers do not like pushy dealers, reps and manufacturers. If they tell you they don’t have the time for you, I suggest you take them at their word.
Be a resource (and not just about commercial interiors) — If you read an article that you think would benefit your A&D contact, share it with them. Be a resource beyond your desire to sell them something. If you have a contact that they could benefit from, share it or introduce them. Reach out to them if one of your business contacts needs A&D work. Help them build their business and they will help you build yours.
All of these tips are common sense and speak more to connecting with someone as a human being. You probably know all these things, though it is easy to fall into bad habits, especially when it comes to connecting with the A&D community.
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