What's the best way for companies to increase sales to leading interior designers? Help them help themselves.

Manufacturers, showrooms, local retailers, independent sales reps and others looking to boost their business with designers should help them build their businesses. They should partner with them, providing guidance on how the designers can differentiate themselves, promote their expertise and build their database.

Designers need that assistance because they often don't get the kind of business training that other professionals receive. Interior design schools typically provide few, if any, sales and marketing courses, and their students graduate with a far greater understanding of furniture, fabrics and flooring than of how to run a business.

Vendors and suppliers can fill that void by offering business-building education for their designer clients. That education can include seminars, videos, blog posts, podcasts and online newsletters on topics like how to overcome price objections, set and get higher fees, and convert single sales into long-term client relationships.

If you're a design industry partner, you're well aware that an important part of this education process is to inform designers on the best ways to sell your product lines.

But you should also be aware that design professionals don't care all that much about your products. They care about how they benefit from selling those products. That's why you need to clearly explain how your products will make them money, save them money, save them stress, help them differentiate themselves, etc.

While it's essential for design pros to know more about best business practices, it's also essential for design industry partners to know more about their "stars." The stars are those individuals who sell more of company's goods and commodities than anyone else.

These top-selling design pros have the answers.

That's what Hunter Douglas discovered a while back when they hired me to survey the top 100 North American dealers of Luminette Privacy Sheers. I then shared their strategies in a series of best practices webinars.

Those dealers, we found, simply did the little things better. Like displaying Luminettes prominently in their showrooms, and presenting them with enthusiasm and confidence. And cross-selling them with furniture and carpeting. And offering 24/7 customer service and extended showroom hours. And following up quickly and regularly with customers. And asking for referrals. And promoting Luminettes in brochures and home shows.

Why was it that one dealer sold so many more of the higher-priced motorized Luminettes than anyone else? That's all he discussed and presented, that's why.

Little things. Big sales.

Sharing the selling insights of the sales leaders can make sales leaders out of a company's other designer clients, as well.

Those companies that are thriving in these competitive times exhibit a "we're in this together attitude" toward their designer clients. They understand that the best way to sell to interior design professionals is to partner with them, providing them with business advice and other assistance whenever and however they can.

Bottom line: When it comes to selling to design professionals, there's power in partnership.

Those vendors and suppliers reluctant to spend the time and money to make the partnership work should remember this basic fact: The better your designer clients do, the better you do.