"A better option to outside sales?" - 08/17/21 Edition
Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I’ve spent the past twelve years as an A&D rep for a contract furniture manufacturer. My experience includes calling on commercial design firms, working with our dealers, and occasionally end-users. My main focus, however, was A&D accounts because I am an interior designer. However, I think I’m going to start following my passion, and move to residential sales. You know what I mean, home furnishings, outdoors… the cute stuff!

There are tons of openings right now with high end luxury brands in both inside and outside sales. What I’ve discovered about myself is that I do not like making outside sales calls and I want to work from a home base, in a showroom. Beyond that, I do not like working with contract furniture dealers. Even if it means occasionally working on weekends because it’s retail, I’m excited to move into the home sector. It seems to be a job seeker’s market at the moment since I’m seeing seemingly unlimited postings for positions at Restoration Hardware, Design Within Reach, Roche Bobois, Luminaire, Janus Et Cie, and Molteni Dada. You name ‘em – they’re hiring! Working in a showroom is also appealing to me because, whether it’s a family or a residential designer, the customer gets to walk in, and I have the privilege to assist them in an organized work environment. At the show room or the store, I’ll have my own desk, sophisticated software, and high net-worth clients. On the flip side of the coin, high-end residential designers will come in with their clients, as well. In both cases, I’ve discovered that the money is way better than I’ve ever realized. Competitive to outside sales in most cases. And I don’t have to trek around the city dealing with showing my ID every time I want to get into a building to make a sales call. Which has turned out to be a really unpleasant situation for me.

Lately I’ve been looking on Glassdoor.com to see reviews of some of the companies I mentioned, and others. Like you said last week, it seems like right now is a great time to switch positions. Anyways, I’m writing to you because my experience is that reviews on Glassdoor can be a lot like Yelp and reviews often seem personal and emotionally motivated. In other words, bad reviewer = scorned former employee. I’d love if you could give me your five favorite companies that you think are great places to work in residential.

Where Should I Work Next

Dear Where To,

I like what you have to say. It’s definitely time to make the switch to residential if you’re getting burned out in contract. Whether it’s a trade showroom or a high-end retail luxury brand, they’re all great jobs with a lot of money to be made! Many people in outside sales have written me to tell me they are burned out outside… Tired from the leg work involved going to customers, driving around, or getting on the subway all the time. So, what you’re describing is very common.

Before I tell you some of my favorite places to work, I want to remind you that in inside sales (retail or trade), you’re definitely inside, meaning, working in a close proximity to your co-workers, your boss, the assistants, everyone. And I’m not talking about COVID for once! I mean, you’re gonna have to get along with them! And therefore, the advice I give those who are looking to make this change is to spend a lot of time with their boss during the interview process and to interview with their co-workers to be, as well. The close proximity and cooperation on the little things are something you don’t have to do in outside sales. Since you’ll have to share space with them every day, you better make sure that you like them first. Most inside sales situations tend to be very tight-knit, a bit clique-ish, where seniority rules the roost. There is often a prima donna who is the top salesperson who also thinks they’re the boss. These are all things you need to observe through a series of interviews. My experience is that the faster a company is trying to hire you, the more difficult the job must be. Even be sure to take note on the way people dress – you want to be sure you like the vibe. I’ve recently told a friend of mine who was making the switch to go in as a customer just to observe what the place was like.

Now – as to where to work; it’s difficult for me as a recruiter to tell you the best places to work because naturally I am going to suggest my clients. So let me tell you this: do NOT ignore Glassdoor! Your hypothesis is only half correct. There is some validity to the reviews but take everything with a grain of salt. That being said, interview everywhere. A place that your friend may not have liked working at all may be somewhere you will thrive at. After many of years of being a recruiter and a workplace author, I have discovered that the best jobs are when there is a good cultural fit between you, the company, your co-workers and even the clients. Therefore, don’t make your decision based on loving the product. Some of the hottest, coolest products end up being the worst places to work. So, I know design is important to you, but don’t let it be your guide. If it were me, I’d interview with at least five to six different places before making a decision. And yes! There are that many jobs open today. Those companies include: RH, DWR, Luminaire, Luxury Living Group, Lenny Rose. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Apply directly to the companies through their websites. Best of luck!

Sincerely yours,
Stephen Viscusi