Creating Inspiration

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

Although you may not have thought about it in these terms, salespeople and designers spend a lot of time trying to inspire others. Don’t you agree? Consider these definitions:

Inspire means to excite, encourage, or breathe life into. Inspire comes from the Latin word that means to inflame or to blow in to. When you inspire something, it is as if you are blowing air over a low flame to make it grow.

A slightly different site wrote, “The definition of inspiration is "the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions; a person, place, experience, etc. that makes someone want to do or create something. Being an inspiration means being the force or influence that inspires someone to do something or to feel a certain way.

To me, that’s what salespeople and designers do every day when they meet with clients. They are trying to “inspire their clients” to reveal their solution or vision for their workplace…and there are many different ways to do this.


One of the most common ways to get customers to identify their needs is to ask questions that help point the client in the right direction. The right questions help inspire the client to see a solution they may not have considered previously. More times than not, the client has a general idea what they need or want, but just needs some “inspiration.”

Here are just a few questions that help the client to focus:

What is the facilities plan or short/long term vision?

Do you have a standards program? Would you like to establish one?

What type of technology do you currently have? Future?

Do you currently have any health or safety issues? ADA? Ergonomics?

There are plenty more, but these types of questions start the thought process and help the client to focus on their needs.

Identifying Compelling Value

Compelling Value…it's the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. It explains how your product solves their problems or improves their situation (relevancy), delivers specific benefits (quantified value), tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).

One of my favorite examples of compelling value has to do with grocery stores. You’re walking through the checkout line and you see all sorts of small items on both sides of the line as you wait. That is not by accident or because there was no other place to put them. This called a point-of-purchase or POP display. It is marketing material or advertising placed next to the merchandise it is promoting. These items are generally located in the checkout area or other location where the purchase decision is made. These are often impulse items. You see gum, breath mints, batteries, lip gloss, etc. as you walk through. You suddenly remember you could use some. If you have children with you, they might see a small toy they can’t live without. You have been passively (or not so passively if the child is screaming) inspired to buy something. At that moment you see the value in that product, compelling you to throw it into your shopping cart and buy it. You have been inspired to make a purchase. Remember one of the definitions of inspiration above; “Being an inspiration means being the force or influence that inspires someone to do something or to feel a certain way.”

The grocer has just inspired you to make a purchase. Very clever marketing, but the same thing applies to any sales opportunity; helping the client identify the compelling value in your product or service so they will be inspired to buy. This is an important responsibility, as clients should ultimately be able, in their own words, to identify the value of their purchase. That leads to happy clients and also referrals.


Although retailing is going through big changes, there are still many products that buyers wants to see up close; cars, appliances, and furniture among them. Retailers go to a lot of trouble to display their products in such a way as to inspire potential buyers to see themselves in or using their products. Office furniture falls into this category.

Even as more and more consumers are happy to purchase products online without seeing them in the flesh, one large retailer wanted to understand how important it is for customers to touch and feel products in a physical store across a number of retail sectors.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the category in which their panel preferred to purchase in-store, was furniture. 73% of the respondents stated it was important and 46% very important. This may be why even pure furniture retailers such as and have showrooms available for people to view products in the flesh.

Seeing, touching, and using furniture is still an important way for clients to make a purchasing decision. Even with the advent and growing use of virtual mock-ups, many people may still want to get a sense of the real thing.

Printed Materials

It wasn’t that long ago that all sales organizations had printed material to market their products. With the growth of the internet and digital marketing some people have come to believe that there is no longer a need for printed material…but nothing could be further from the truth.

Printed catalogs are still relevant and boosting sales for most categories of sellers. Printed catalogs are not going away. In fact, it has been discovered by major retailers that catalogs are boosting sales. ... Now, catalogs serve as the first stop on the buying train guiding buyers towards purchasing online or in the store.

I read an article about Wayfair. It has been online-only since it was established 13 years ago. It has prided itself on its tech-first approach, investing in augmented reality tech to craft an immersive experience that rivals a designer’s visit to the home.

But alongside Wayfair’s investment in innovation, it’s also putting an ad spend toward something decidedly more analog: the print catalog, which is sent alongside a slew of other direct-mail products including postcards and mini-catalogs.

“The catalog offers an incredible opportunity to deliver a rich, tactile shopping experience to our customers,” said Wayfair’s head of North America marketing Bob Sherwin. “We send it out to high-value target customers, or people who have moved into certain neighborhoods — it’s for targeting prospects as well as existing customers.”

Advertising has become increasingly dominated by Facebook and Google. It would be easy to write off the print catalog as a relic. Just look at Sears: the once-iconic catalog retailer has finally filed for bankruptcy. But more e-commerce reliant retailers are rolling out catalogs to hook prospects and keep existing customers loyal, including startups like Everlane, Bonobos, Boll & Branch and Greats, as well as more traditional retailers, including JCPenney, Williams-Sonoma and Lafayette 148. Even Amazon is reportedly planning to launch a toy catalog.

When we try to inspire customers, we’re trying to get them to envision where it is that they’re going to be or look like after they go through the process of what it is, we’re selling. Not every buyer has that type of vision or imagination…they need help.

Publications like INDEAL’s Idea Books or Inspirations Books serve that purpose. They are not typical catalogs, but rather just what their names imply…catalogs that inspire clients to see what their space could look like.

When selling, it’s important to find out what inspires the client. Often, the best way is simply to ask, “What inspires you?”

Jim Heilborn is a business consultant specializing in the office furniture/products industry, working nationwide with dealers, manufacturers, and service providers. Jim has been associated with INDEAL for over seven, specializing in training and dealer development. Jim can be reached at, or by phone at 916.434.8711.