It's a fact that:

"Presenting products that homeowners can see and touch, combined with explaining the benefits of accessories and upgrades, can ensure customers purchase the best products for their needs." (LBM Journal, May 2013)

Think about the car buying process. You wouldn't purchase a new vehicle without taking a test drive first, right? Well, the same is true for building products and millwork. Your builder and homeowner customers want to "test drive", or experience, your products firsthand before they reach into their wallets or pull out a pen to place an order.

So how can you create a memorable "test drive" experience for your customers? You'll first need a spectacular showroom. We've reached out to some Huttig experts who outlined great advice on utilizing showroom space effectively, incorporating the right displays with the right sales techniques, ultimately taking your customers on the "test drive" that lands a sale.

Make it memorable — seeing is believing

To make your customers' showroom experience result in a sale, you have to make it memorable. Displays are what "provide tangible, consistent sales tools that create sales," says John Drinen, Huttig Sacramento general manager. That means you have to make the space.

The first step to creating a memorable experience is simple: "make sure there is room for customers to view and touch displays," says Drinen.

Nobody wants to bump into displays while awkwardly maneuvering around the room to see everything you offer. The process should be literally smooth and painless!

The second step to making it memorable is to create an experience. "While your customers may have seen your products online," says Mark Gluhosky, Huttig Newington general manager, "when they come to a showroom, they are looking to visually and physically review everything before making a final decision."

It's your job to lead customers around the room and make sure they reach up to feel that smooth finish or knock on the solid core door to feel its quality. "It gives them more confidence in the buying process," adds Everett Gonzales, Huttig Albuquerque general manager.

Drinen even recommends including "hands on product demos that make noise, like nail guns and screws" to further enhance the experience. It's this firsthand involvement with the products that will stick with the builder, remodeler or even homeowner.

Lead with the best — show the best, sell the best

To help you maximize your space for the best "test drive", select the right products to display.

All displays are important, but Dan Driggers, Huttig Florida sales manager, advises to lead with your best, top-of-the-line products.

"The best showroom I ever walked into exhibited only their better and best offering, showing only premium lines." To accompany the beautiful and clean room, the sales people were standing next to the displays. They were not using a promotional sales pitch, however; instead they simply presented the facts. This fact-focused approach closed the sale before customers even walked out of the building.

Don't forget to consider your target audience, too. Doing so will help you choose how to maximize your space even more. "Customize your showroom with the right products for the right audience," Driggers says. "If you take displays to an event, make sure they will appeal to the market you're in." For example, if you're in a region that demands high impact glass, make sure to bring samples and display all the options so you can use them to upsell the audience you know will want it, leading to higher margins. 

Keep it clean — it reflects on your image

The tidiness of your showroom will reflect on the products you sell, as well as your business. Just as you wouldn't be impressed test driving a defective car, your prospects won't jump to purchase poorly presented products. 

Surprisingly, it is not uncommon to see displays or exhibits with nicks, cracks and coffee stains. These things happen, but companies would do well to remember that for many customers, these showrooms are representations of your company, brand and style of delivery—even if only on an unconscious level. Make sure your brand stays neat and clean.

Follow through on regular cleaning and display updating to make sure the image of your brand or company is not damaged by something like a nick, crack or coffee stain. Attention to detail will bring your efforts full circle. 

If you're bringing your show on the road, Rick Dorwart, Huttig Columbus general manager, recommends going the extra mile with the details. "Bring matching tablecloths, backdrops and pull-up banners." The uniformity will help to paint a strong brand image. 

Gluhosky adds, "Make sure the displays are current and up-to-date and set up without clutter." This is part of keeping it neat and clean. Your customers want to experience the most up-to-date version of your product lines, plus, less clutter means less distraction, and less distraction means a greater chance at closing the sale. 

Know your stuff — you know they will

Just like the car industry, buyers become educated online. It's the final step they take before making a purchase. Most likely, your customers won't be hearing about your products for the first time in your showroom. That's why it's so important, "to make sure your sales staff is well educated on all the features and benefits on every display in the showroom," says Gluhosky.

Regular product training sessions help to ensure your staff is well educated and that they are able to address any customer questions or concerns about anything on display. Knowing the product is important, but Gonzales and Driggers both stress to know the logistics too, like lead times and pricing. 

"Regardless of the product, have pricing on it." It's a great conversation starter. If your sales staff is knowledgeable about the product, they will be able to explain why a 'door' costs a premium price. It's a great opportunity to explain "what they are going to get for their money." 

Driggers recommends a door design configurator such as Huttig Doorway Configurator as the best tool to help with door pricing on the showroom floor. "Your sales team can plug-in door and glass configurations, show the customer, who then walks away knowing exactly what they want — price it, view it, print it, close the deal with Doorway," explains Driggers.

Remember, regular product training sessions are essential to keep your team updated on all products on display in your showroom. Using tools like a door pricing configurator will help ensure their expectations match what you deliver.

Put it all together — make it spectacular

Overall, "all products sell better when a prospective customer can see and handle the product. It creates more interest and the customer is more likely to engage in a conversation with you about the product line," concludes Dorwart.

Your customers are looking for a firsthand experience that allows them to "test drive" your products before reaching into their pockets to make a purchase.

Make sure you lead with your premium products and you know your target market. It will help you maximize your showroom space.

Never slack on updating, tidying and keeping the displays in your showroom neat and clean. This small effort will strengthen your brand image and reflect on you as a business.

Lastly, be sure to schedule regular training sessions with your staff and don't neglect the logistics behind your offering. It's vital that your staff is knowledgeable about products on display, pricing and lead times so your customers know exactly what they will get and when they'll get it.

Follow these helpful guidelines to create, update and maintain a spectacular showroom. Then, take your customers on the "test drive" that will ultimately land a sale. Ask your local Huttig rep if you need assistance!

Written with input from: Dan Driggers, Huttig Florida sales manager; Mark Gluhosky, Huttig Newington general manager; Rick Dorwart, Huttig Columbus general manager; Everett Gonzales, Huttig Albuquerque general manager; John Drinen, Huttig Sacramento general manager