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Be the Ted Lasso of NeoCon

Dear Stephen,

I am an interior designer that works for a major architectural design firm in NYC. I was at #ICFF last week (and it seemed like there were a lot fewer exhibitors this year) and I saw a woman I had not seen in a couple of years. I reached out to say hello and reintroduce myself. Stacey, I said (not her real name; she’s an executive at one of the A&D brands that #HNI owns), it’s Barry from Mensler (yes, not my real place of work!) and I got a definite cold shoulder from her.

She acknowledged knowing me, just barely, but the bottom line of my story is that she was a grouch. This isn’t my ego talking, it’s just business, and I am, after all, the customer. I thought, well, if you don’t have time to even say a polite hello with a smile, then I won’t have time to specify your product. The salesperson should know that they represent the brand they sell, not just themselves. The back story on “Stacey” is that she worked at one of the fancy design brands for years, a darling of the A&D community, and I think her career hit a roadblock so she needed a job and took the position at the HNI brand. Ok, I get it, not quite the design panache as her former employer, but that’s even more reason to be nice to everyone.

With #NeoCon and #DesignDays coming up it occurred to me that companies need to realize that they need to train their salespeople how to work a trade show. It is not enough to just be “present” at the showroom during NeoCon, but rather be like a “show dog”. Salespeople working the showroom should all want their company to be the “best of show”. Just my 2 cents as someone who goes to trade shows to see new products for myself and my clients. There is training for everything nowadays, so maybe #BIFMA should have “Tradeshow etiquette 101” for contract furniture rep’s. What do you think?


If You Want Me to Spec You, Show Some ReSpec!


Dear Needs ReSpec,

Trade show etiquette is certainly needed. On both ends of the spectrum. From the showroom you are visiting to those of you who are the visitors. As far as your isolated incident with the woman executive from the HNI subsidiary: it could be anything. Maybe she had a bad day, or one of her kids may have been sick. Not everything may be about you. I know plenty of people who work for the HNI brands and they are friendly and engaging. I think she was just having an off day – it happens to all of us. By the way, I was at #ICFF myself and that alone was enough to make someone grouchy. 

However, as we approach NeoCon, every manufacturer should explain to the salespeople working the show on their behalf, that they represent the brand both in the showroom and out. If you have your name tag on and you work for #Steelcase and you’re in the men’s room, please wash your hands on the way out! Why, because you are representing Steelcase as long as you have that name tag on, and yes, I have seen plenty of sales rep’s from various companies leaving without washing their hands!

Salespeople: when you are in the showroom you are there to meet customers from all across the country, not chat away with your colleagues that you haven’t seen in a year and for goodness sake stay off your phone unless you are on Instagram to post photos of the happenings in your showroom! Your company will be introducing new products so make sure you know about them and know how to present them to those customers who walk in. That’s the reason your employer spent $2,000 to $5,000 on travel – hotel, plane fare, meals – to get you to Chicago!

Remember, this is #Neocon2022, the Covid NeoCon…. Meaning, not meant to be the “hugging” Neocon. Do not make a colleague or client uncomfortable by initiating a hug or getting too close. Covid is still out there with new variants coming out faster than #Haworth can flip a dealer. Assume that some people will not even offer you a handshake. If you are in my elevator, I will have a mask on. You may not recognize me, but I will see you.

Avoid hangovers, too much drinking means bad breath and bad attitude and that generally tired look. And of course: don’t get drunk at a party and make a fool of yourself! It’s not one of those things you want to be famous for.

Mostly just be nice to everyone. Your customers, your dealers and to each other. Don't be like the grouch this reader wrote me about. No gum chewing and light cologne and perfume please! Wear comfortable shoes and explain with excitement your new products. Make NeoCon and Design Days fun! Smile and be the #TedLasso of your showroom – or maybe the Ted Lasso of all of Neocon.

Remember, The Viscusi Group has a waiting list now to meet with one of our recruiters so if you’re considering a job change send us your resume. Right after NeoCon is an ideal time to change jobs. If you are hiring, please contact us. We are here to help!

Smile, It’s NeoCon 2022!