"It looks great," my co-worker Beth said.

"But it's discontinued," I reminded her.

"It really goes well with the cabinets."

"It does."

Tad Troilo "They will give it to us for free," she said.

"Because it's discontinued."

"Still, it looks great." Beth was not going to give up.

"I don't want to show a discontinued product."

We were replacing a cabinet display, and we were trying to select the countertop. This decision wasn't the only difficult part of this project. It had been a battle every step of the way. I blame myself.

Replacing a display is a significant disruption to daily work. And considering that our sales have been very strong, the idea that we shouldn't fix what wasn't broken made me leery about letting loose the commotion of a construction project.

Ultimately, I realized that our showroom has to always be inspiring. After all, it is your "silent salesperson," tasked with the formidable job of convincing uncommitted browsers that yes, they should take on that remodeling project rolling around in the back of their heads, and yes, your company should supply all the material. Showing the latest and greatest products in your categories is essential to that goal.

My second problem was that planning the display competes for staff time with other essential activities, like selling. I found it very easy to push the new display plans to the back of the desk in favor of working on an estimate a good customer had just given me or an appointment with a new lead or just about anything. (I fully recognize that time management is a weakness I have and I promise I will seek therapy for it, if I can ever find time to fit it into my schedule.)

The final and most significant hurdle, and the one that was causing the holdup with the countertop selection, was deciding exactly what to display.

Your company is linked strongly to the products on display in your showroom. Their mere presence is an endorsement. Before endorsing a product, there is a lot to consider–things beyond the product itself. How is the price point? Is the company reliable? Are the distributors easy to work with? So not only does a display have to motivate the buyer, it has to motivate the seller as well. You want your salespeople to be able to discuss the product and the company that sells it with confidence and enthusiasm. I'm sure we've all had displays that looked great but that were difficult to promote with confidence because the manufacturer was hard to deal with or maybe it was too expensive. Or, like the countertop we loved, the product was discontinued.

I kept staring at our unfinished kitchen display and felt my mind seizing up–I simply didn't know what to do. The cabinets looked naked with no countertop. I shook my head, bewildered.

"At least we know what our customers go through," Beth said, smiling at my anguish.

Which was true. Replacing a display does remind you that at the end of the remodeling and home building supply chain are real customers who are doing their best to make selections that will meet their desires.

But knowing that didn't help me pick the top for our display, which, as I write this, remains unfinished.

Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa. 215.493.8600 E-mail: [email protected]