Inside Marriott International’s Global Design Resource Library

Name:  Deeni Linton  Company:  Marriott International  Job Title:  Design Resource Coordinator & Liaison, Global Design Strategies

Name: Deeni Linton
Company: Marriott International
Job Title: Design Resource Coordinator & Liaison, Global Design Strategies

The first time I met Deeni was on a cold snowy day at the Marriott Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. I had the good fortune to be observing one of our clients as they navigated a sales presentation in the Marriott resource and material library. The objective of my visit was to help them find a better way to connect with designers, procurement specialists, architects, and engineers. (Which I did, I promise!) I’ll admit that I was pretty useless for the setup and breakdown of the presentation because I was captivated by Deeni’s infectious passion for the library. We started and stopped (it’s a busy place) a handful of conversations—so I knew I had to go back.

Deeni was kind enough to agree to be interviewed over a rather nice lunch at Marriott’s HQ cafe. Her calm vibe is a great compliment to her quick wit and her true passion for all things design. She really loves what she does and it shows.


Q: So you’re the Design Resource Coordinator & Liaison...what’s that?

I believe I have the very best job in the building, actually, I have the very best job. Ever. I am part of the Global Design Strategies Group led by Jeff Voris. It is a diverse group of extremely creative people. I do my best to assist them, and other departments, by conducting material research and selection for current and new projects. As a result, I have the good fortune to interact with numerous vendors and manufacturers. I attempt to provide them an opportunity for exposure through weekly meet and greet presentations.

I am doing my job well when designers find something that they are interested in that they would not have known about unless they came into the library. That’s my success.

Q: Would you describe yourself as the material library gatekeeper?

I do not own the library, rather I maintain it for a whole bunch of people. My goal is to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable coming in. I do not hover, but I am always available—it is a balancing act. My desk is in the library which is helpful because I can catch all the traffic that I otherwise might miss—Marriott is a big company with numerous on-going projects. There are many people who wander in from other floors who had no idea this resource existed. I like to engage these people, and explain the function of the library. It is important to make them feel welcome. It is also crucial that I am present both psychologically and physically—there are so many opportunities around me of which I must be aware.

Q: Who uses the library, and how do they use it?

The many designers, architects, engineers, and procurement specialists at Marriott each have different reasons for spending time in the library. Some are looking for new materials, or reselection, reviewing specific products for approval, and some simply looking for inspiration.

Everyone uses the library in different ways and they all need it to be current and organized.   And at over 2000 square feet, our library showcases hundreds of manufacturers and their products. We have a steady flow of sales reps updating their samples, working with designers and presenting to the teams.

Q: How does your team stay ahead of trends?

We stay current with trends by doing our own research, going to trade shows, reviewing trade magazines and utilizing STYLUS, a subscription-based trend forecasting service. I like to have our STYLUS contact come in regularly and present trending topics to our teams. Many of us believe that it is broadening to study topics, trends, materials and related information that pertain to a large swath of topics rather than focus solely on interiors. I rely on the reps to bring in more than what is new or what they think the designers want to see—instead, I ask them to consider bringing in everything they have of which the designers are not aware.  This gives the manufacturer a greater opportunity to show what they can do and gives the designers access to the newest products and finishes ahead of the trends.

Q: Sales reps have a tough job, what do you see in the best reps?

I completely agree that the job of a sales rep is very challenging, and many companies miss an opportunity when they do not listen to the insight of their reps. I encourage the reps to bring in their senior people so I can show them around the library. It is important to understand the breadth of the competition. It is one thing to see it on paper, quite another to see it right in front of you. Most reps understand that the best way to establish a relationship with a specifier is to be respectful and offer superlative customer service, and not be overly aggressive. There are ways of doing this and doing it successfully, although it can be a challenge if they are being encouraged to take the hard sell approach. If a sales rep can answer my questions, explain the benefits of their product—what problems it solves—then I am happy to give them an opportunity, a chance to come in and present their line to me and the others.

Personally, I believe successful reps are well educated about their line(s), they do not have to know everything, but they need to know a great deal, and just as important, need to know where to go to get information in a timely fashion. I try very hard to meet with most reps, especially those who represent product lines with which I am not familiar as I never know what products I might miss learning about that could otherwise be exactly that which a designer is looking for.

Q: Tell us about those all-important sales presentations. How can companies score a spot?

The library is host to multiple presentations weekly, and the schedule is booked quarterly.

New vendors and those who have not had a recent presentation opportunity are welcome to email a presentation request.  If the product type is a good fit for our projects, then they will be considered for a spot.

Q: What advice do you give to make the best use of their time?

Before the presentation, it is useful to email me relevant information that I can distribute ahead of time to get folks interested in attending. I also encourage reps to bring as many samples as they can comfortably carry or send them to me ahead of time. They should bring business cards, literature and any related information that the designers can keep, and/or I can retain for the library.

A manufacturer needs to produce marketing and sales materials that quickly conveys what they are selling and how they are different from their competitors. The audience for a presentation might include design, procurement, engineering, architecture, and spec writers. It is important to consider all of these people when deciding what marketing materials to bring. The key to an effective sales presentation is in the marketing materials, physical samples if appropriate, and a well-educated rep.

Q: How would you suggest manufacturers approach creating sample kits?

Understanding how their materials will fit and function in the library is critical. It is also important for marketing departments to do the research to understand who their audience is, and if possible, to visit a design library to determine whether it is more materials based, digital, or a combination. It is also important to understand where the materials are going to live within the library, and how they will be used. Whatever system devised, it should not make more work for the reps, the librarian, or designer.

Q: What other opportunities do sales reps have to get their product noticed at Marriott

I have a “What’s New” display in the library. Reps can create a small 1’x1’ display to show off new products/finishes/marketing materials. We also have a large space just outside the library where manufacturers are welcome to submit a rendering and a proposal on how they would compose the space using their products. I encourage the manufacturers to be creative in their product selection to showcase their originality and surprise the design teams.

Q: Do you attend industry trade shows?

I go to shows to see products with which I am not familiar, and that are innovative—I’m looking for what is new. What can I bring back that the teams will find interesting, inspirational, and inventive? I do not go to every show every year—these are the ones on my radar:

  • BDNY

  • Greenbuild

  • ICFF

  • Interzum

  • Living Furniture

  • Maison&Objet

  • Milan Furniture Fair

  • NeoCon

  • Orgatec

Q: This has been amazing! Why are you so easy to talk to?

I could talk about this all day. I have the best job in the building and I feel fortunate to be here.


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SUSAN MILNE

 
 

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or would like find out more about how Epiphany can help you get specified, give me a call: 804.377.0106.