Devin Shaffer of Decorilla: “Don’t sound desperate”

Building trust with prospective buyers is key and at times this does require a degree of hyperbolic communication methods. For example, I use a strategy with email sequences that keep me on people’s radar and push them to either say, “yes I want to chat” or “please stop emailing me”. Being confident in your service […]

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Building trust with prospective buyers is key and at times this does require a degree of hyperbolic communication methods. For example, I use a strategy with email sequences that keep me on people’s radar and push them to either say, “yes I want to chat” or “please stop emailing me”. Being confident in your service or product allows you to use salesy tactics while maintaining an honest and reliable relationship with people.

As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Devin Shaffer.

Devin Shaffer is the Lead Sales Designer at Decorilla Online Interior Design, a service that connects customers with vetted professional interior designers who create curated 3D and VR spaces based on customer style preferences and budget. Decorilla also serves clients in-home in 20 major cities across the US for 80% less than traditional interior design.

In the span of almost 4 years, Devin has helped thousands of clients create custom design solutions for a range of projects including, but not limited to, retail, commercial, hospitality, industrial and residential spaces. This has been accomplished by developing individualized solutions and by listening to and understanding each client’s needs, personal expectations, and matters at hand. His work impacted and helped Decorilla’s team growth of over 300 interior designers and 200 furniture partners.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

My love for design started very early in my childhood as I set my sights on making every environment around me beautiful. After college, I had the opportunity to design people’s homes, something most important to them, and began to love the human component of interior design. Being able to give people the opportunity to love their homes and surroundings became a conviction. After a few years of designing, the founder of Decorilla approached me with a new role. She had observed my review and client engagements and from what she saw, she felt client relations was my strong suit. Feeling a bit blindsided, I took the promotion and much to my suprise found my true calling, filling a role that allowed me to truly serve people and realize the importance of interior design.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to grow our sales team and manage new team members. With the holiday season upon us, I’ve been focused on the referral program at Decorilla. This means learning how to grow the “Decorilla family” by listening to current clients and understanding the mutual benefit to continuing the relationship that’s been created. It’s been an exciting initiative for me, as it motivates the sales team to not lose sight of their clients and to revisit the journey their clients have been on in their design process.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I lean on people so much not only in the workplace, but also in my personal life. Each and every day, I reflect on how my parents built my character by being role models and allowing me to tap into the life experiences each of them have had and lessons learned along the way.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

It’s interesting to be considered an authority figure, as I am seeking out tips and strategies daily from other salespeople in different fields of products and services.

During my time as an interior designer, before becoming a sales designer, I didn’t realize the degree to which a person’s home impacts their everyday life and beyond that, their physical health and mental well being. Because of this, I’m continually humbled by offering a solution to the problems people face with their homes, offices, and businesses.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

COVID-19 is teaching us all many life lessons. The importance of health and safety is an overarching truth that has been ruling our lives for several months now.

From the perspective of a salesperson in the interior design industry, I’m given the opportunity to listen to each prospective client and understand their family systems and personal situation. During these trying times living in a global health crisis, a much larger percentage of calls and emails with clients have turned to the impacts their decisions have on their family and friends- a nice reminder of empathy and it’s stronghold in our existence.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

From a personal perspective, K-12 schooling and current curriculums are failing students in a lot of ways, mostly ways that pertain to real life and basic life skills. With that said, there are disciplines including public speaking, personal finance, and computer science that prepare students for success in the workplace. As the workplace changes and more and more jobs become remote and online, I feel that sales strategies should be part of high school curriculums as they reveal a two sided process that can and should be mutually beneficial for the buyer and seller.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

Building trust with prospective buyers is key and at times this does require a degree of hyperbolic communication methods. For example, I use a strategy with email sequences that keep me on people’s radar and push them to either say, “yes I want to chat” or “please stop emailing me”. Being confident in your service or product allows you to use salesy tactics while maintaining an honest and reliable relationship with people.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

Presentation is my strong suit. Having the ability to listen and allow a sales client and customer to speak at least 70% of the time, gives me the opportunity to truly understand their needs and recommend the best solution for their situation.

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Word of mouth is imperative to the success of any interior design firm. Providing top notch service that people remember and can’t stop talking about brings new business to us daily and also creates a close knit relationship with referrals and new clients. Having strong reviews from past clients is also a great way to quickly and smoothly onboard new clients and leads.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

Providing examples of other clients I have dealt with allows me to talk to those with objections. Letting them know that we’ve helped someone in a very similar situation to theirs makes all the difference and also helps the relationship stay special. Pricing objections are the most difficult part of my job, and because of that I strive to help my clients understand how interior design as a service can be a true investment.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

Closing a sale no matter how large or small is one of the best feelings in the world and I always feel a mental pat on the back when it happens. 5 things that lead to this are:

  1. Timing: know your client or customer well enough that the timing of your follow ups aligns with where they’re at in the buying process.
  2. Phone calls and one-on-one chats: Don’t rely just on email when providing information. Get on a 3–5 minute call to make your customers feel more confident in making their decision.
  3. Attention to detail: Using the same language as a client and mirroring their communication style builds immediate trust and rapport
  4. Make it easy for them to move forward: Provide all the information and tools they need to start the process or purchase the product you’re offering
  5. Don’t sound desperate: Be careful with the language being used and get an understanding of when the client should come to you opposed to you following up.

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

I’ve noticed during my training with sales designers a desire to make everyone happy and overpromise the service so they can close a sale. Unfortunately, this strategy leads to disappointment. Having the confidence to move a client out of the sales pipeline because of factors such as budget constraints, unaligned need for service or product, or unwavering friction, isn’t something to have guilt from and understanding that you’re not going to onboard everyone you speak to is a truth that can be a gamechanger.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

Phones are a salesperson’s greatest asset and those that use them as a tool in their process will almost always show top performance. It can be a daunting task to be on the phone with someone and being put on the spot isn’t a comfortable feeling. Getting outside of your comfort zone is crucial and as cozy as hiding behind emails can be, people want to know who they’re talking to and a relationship will not blossom until a true phone or in person conversation happens.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Frank Zappa put it perfectly when saying “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” Having just talked about communication styles, that’s a great example of the belief in having an open mind. Getting uncomfortable and calling a stranger and converting them to a customer is just one example of the power of trying something new and seeing the results of one’s ingenuity. Similarly, although we have a very clear process and product to offer people, the sky’s the limit with design and therefore a simple conversation can create new realities and new worlds for people unfamiliar with interior design.

How can our readers follow you online?

Check us out:

LinkedIn: Devin Shaffer

Twitter: @Decorilla

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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