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Read 'Em & Reap (Customers)

Furniture World Magazine
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Article Summary: Do your salespeople meet, greet and sell every customer the same? Cathy Finney gives practical tips on how to serve customers the way they are comfortable being served. It's about learning to speak their language. It's about understanding them and their needs, and figuring out how you can help them.

View all articles by Cathy Finney


Before you can serve your customers the way they want to be served, and reap the rewards, you need to get out of the rut of selling by rote!

Several years ago, I was working with a young woman whose sales were plummeting! She told me, "I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I'm treating everybody the same." H-E-L-O-O! Was THAT the problem? You bet. It's the Old Three R's of Retail versus the New Three R's! The old way we do the same job the same way everyday. We Recite the same dialogue to everyone we meet and greet. We get into a Rut and we end up Reciting our rhymes by Rote. We sound like a robot. Meeting, greeting and treating everyone the same.

Today, it's more important than ever to adopt the New Three R's. Read-React-Respond.

  • Read the customers. What type of personality are they.
  • React to them as "individuals."
  • Respond to customers' moods, and mannerisms.

It's about "mirroring" each customer so that you can become like him/her. Build rapport so that you can establish a relationship. It's not about being phony, someone you're not. It's about caring about THIS person. It's about learning to speak his/her language. It's about understanding the customer and his/her needs, and figuring out how you can HELP them.

You must set yourself apart from the other salespeople down the street. You need to let them know that you are different. You are there to assist them, not just "sell" them one time. They should not be just customers. They are your clients. You are there to make a commitment and establish a relationship. Isn't that your job as the ultimate professional? So let's move out of clerkdom. We're going to fine-tune our skills and increase our awareness, our expertise and put "Me, Inc." on the map!

One of the biggest secrets in sales is that people only buy from people who they trust. Would you buy from someone you didn't trust? I didn't think so! Here's the secret: People trust people who are like themselves. The faster you can become like them, the faster they will buy YOU.

We all know the Golden Rule. Tony Alessandra says that to be really successful in retail you need to follow what he calls the Platinum Rule. "Do unto others as they'd like done unto them." In other words, treat them the way that they want to be treated, NOT the way that you would want to be treated. It's taking the time to really listen to the people around us and to make them more comfortable. They're defensive enough when they come through the front door. When you put them at ease, they're less likely to want to take prisoners!

Tony points out that; "Your communication is only as good as your understanding of the person you're communicating with." What we're really doing is "polishing" the Golden Rule.

Each person has his or her own way of looking at the world. They communicate their style in the way they look, move, walk, and talk. The skill is realized by recognizing those signals, identifying their distinct style, and then adjusting your style to relate to them. In this way, you lessen any conflict. It is NOT about pre-judging them. It IS about looking, really looking at them, LISTENING to them, their concerns, and learning to respond in the appropriate manner to build rapport.
Personality styles have been categorized using various systems denoted by the letters of the alphabet, animal names and colors. They've been dissected into 32 and even 64 different categories. We'll be keeping it simple and making it fun. We'll be mastering the four main groups plus one more that really relate to the world of retail.

Dominant/Director
Let's start with everyone's favorite personality type. The man or woman who walks through the front door and looks like they came out of the womb with a briefcase or cellular phone attached to their arm. She looks "in charge" in sweats! Ever since birth she has been on a mission, and her favorite pastime is intimidating humans. Meet the Dominant/Director.
Their Motto: "When I want your opinion, I will surely give it to you."

Their Battle Cry: "Ready, Fire, Aim!"

Read: They are people with a purpose. They come through your front door quickly. They walk fast. They talk deliberately. They have a specific agenda. No time for pleasantries. These are the bank presidents, entrepreneurs, CEO's and high-powered attorneys. Think Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher, F. Lee Bailey, "Murphy Brown" and you've got the picture! "Risk" is their favorite four-letter word. They are terrific at creating the big-picture. Their ideas are revolutionary and exciting. For them, the devil really is in the details. They come up with the idea and want you to make it happen! Time is their enemy. Don't waste their time with the particulars.

React: Let them know that you recognize busy people when you see them, and that your main job is to save them valuable time. Then - find out WHAT they want, HOW they want it and WHEN they want it. Listen carefully, answer their questions, and write it up. They don't want to be chatty. They don't want to be your friend. They want a transaction to take place. They don't want a relationship or to bond with you!

At the risk of dating myself, it's like hearing Jack Webb from Dragnet say, "Just the facts, ma'am." My previous boss attended the Jack Webb school as well. "Just give me the net-net," was her mantra! Dominant/Director's operate the same way on the phone. They do not "do" chitchat. They talk in shorthand. When dealing with them remember your "A-B-C's." Keep your conversation abridged, brief and concise.

Respond: The key to dealing with this professional is for you to be professional. Stand your ground. In fact, no matter how tall you are, stand up straighter. Look 'em dead in the eye, even if you are more introverted and quiet. Bring everything up a couple of notches. Ladies, watch your voice. If you talk very softly and you are shy, they will try to have you for lunch! All you have to do is smile and talk a little louder. Remember that you are the expert, not the main course. They need your help. They cannot do what you can do. Do not let them intimidate you. They are testing you. They want to see if you know your stuff! Make this your new motto. Tell yourself that, "This is a test. It is only a test. I am not going to let this person win!" Once you prove yourself credible, they will be your lifelong client and your biggest fan. They will help you expand your business. One entrepreneur to another!

If your personality is more extroverted and out-going, bring everything down. Smile, but if you talk with your hands the way that I do - don't. This is not the time for flailing arm movements and cheerleader bounciness without the pompoms. Dominant/Director's were always my biggest challenge. They will warm up and have a good working relationship with you, but not in the first two minutes. Not until you pass their test!

A good general characteristic of the Dominant/Director is that they will not shop you. They don't have, and will not take the time. They want to accumulate enough information so that they can determine performance. Just answer their questions. You do not have to romance the product. When you get too wordy, they'll tune you out and depart.
Hot Buttons: Emphasize "long term Investment," and discuss the "probability of success." Use terms such as "bottom line," "accrue," "amortize," and any other "fiscally responsible" phrase that you can think of, or emulate any other verbiage that they tend to favor!

Expressive/Socializer
Now that we've sweated through and faced off with the dominant, let's lighten things up and welcome the "Expressive/Socializer" to our gathering. They want to play. They're the smooth-talking dreamers who love people! They're in the people business! They also want you to make them feel good about themselves. You'll recognize them immediately. They are the tornado that just blew in!

Their motto: "Winning isn't everything. It's how you look!"

Their Battle Cry: "FIRE!"

Read: Expressive/Socializer's too, are entering with a purpose. They want to play and to be entertained. They walk fast. They talk fast with their arms flailing (if it's a woman). If it's a man, he's smiling, nodding, and looking all around. Their energy levels and their spirits are soaring into the next ozone. These are your entertainers, public relations executives, fundraisers, motivational speakers, some politicians, and talk show hosts. Picture Carol Burnett, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, Tony Robbins and you get the idea. They are like their Dominant counterpart in that they love coming up with the ideas. They are, after all, the dreamers. The details, however, for them are totally irrelevant. "Details! Who has time to worry about details!" It's like the bumper sticker that reads, "Never try to teach a duck to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the duck!" Don't tell them it's double doweled, glued, and screwed. Get them to curl up, lie down, stretch out and get comfortable.

React: SMILE when you see them coming. Get in play mode! If you don't want to play, they'll find someone who will!
They buy purely on true, raw emotion. They perceive life through feelings. Use phrases like, "I feel this will work best." "I can just picture you..." Romance, romance some more. They need to experience ownership. They pride themselves on their sense of style and have a flair for the dramatic. Complement them on their selections. Paint the picture, and they will want all of it. They want the product and the presentation to feel great!

Respond: If you are expressive and outgoing, enjoy them. Have a good time. However, remember why you are there. Don't let them get you so carried away that you forget to take care of the business of assisting them. You're there to fulfill their needs as a professional, not to become attached at the hip!

If you're more introverted and laid back don't let them overwhelm you. All you have to do is smile and pick up the pace. When you smile, endorphins are released. Your metabolic rate increases and you too will get into play mode!

Hot Buttons: They buy for three reasons: recognition, status, and excitement. Drop names. They purchase by the "band wagon approach." "If it's good enough for Robert, it's good enough for me!" Get them excited about the project, but remember two key words when working with this consumer: control, and focus. If you are not in control they will run amuck. They will have every fabric off the wall and pull every catalog from the shelf. Slow them down enough to concentrate on one project at a time. If you're not in control the Expressive/Socializer can drive you crazy and waste your time. Keep them focused.

BEWARE: Their purchase decisions are based on pure emotion, excitement and a feeling that they've "got to have it!" They are the part of the population that ages all of us as they experience buyers remorse! Re-affirm what a beautiful decision they have made. Do this at the time of purchase, and the next day. If they find themselves in "panic mode," come to their rescue and reassure them. Let them know, one more time, what a beautiful and excellent choice they made.

Solid/Relator
Now that we've handled the intimidator, and survived the tornado, let's meet your next new friend. The Solid/Relator values relationships. They must trust you explicitly before even considering doing business with you. They must like you as a person. They may be wary when they enter, because they expect you to be a fast talking salesperson. Don't prove them right!

Their Motto: Winning isn't everything. It's the friendship that counts.

Their Battle Cry: "Ready, Ready, Ready."

Read: They are conservative in their dress and mannerisms. They want to be liked, and to like you. Think about your favorite clients. They're probably Solids. When they enter, you may get a shy smile, and limited eye contact. They walk and talk slowly, and speak in soft short sentences. They're examining and watching you in a thoughtful manner. If you have a best friend, they are probably a Solid. Your secrets are safe with them. You can always count on them to be there for you. Risk is an ugly word and they do not like change. They tread softly, and you must do the same. They are terrific listeners. Make sure you follow suit - listen with your eyes and your ears! You find them in the nursing field, teaching, and serving as social workers. Think Barbara Bush, Mother Teresa, Mr. Rogers, Dwight Eisenhower, Walter Cronkite and you have the Solid personality. They will send you thank you notes for your thank you notes!

React: One of the other biggest secrets in sales - "People love to talk about themselves." Ask them questions about themselves, their family, and how they use the rooms in their home. This is especially true of the Solid/Relator and the Expressive/ Socializer personalities. Show the Solid that you care (genuinely care) about her needs and wants. Talk slowly and softly. If you come on too strong you will make them apprehensive, and they will become suspicious. Study their needs and show them step-by-step the best solutions for their needs and concerns. Ask gentle questions and employ lots of tact and sincerity. Define their goals and offer support. Let them know, "I'll be with you every step of the way." Change makes them uncomfortable. "Paint the picture" of their new room so that it comes to life. They may have a difficult time picturing what "new" is. Reinforce that this is the solution you would "recommend" for them. Making a definite decision can be hard for this personality. Compliment them on their selection, and why it is the best one for them. Answer their concerns about the "how" and the "what."

Respond: If you operate on a higher metabolic rate, slow everything down. Talk softer, and slower. Keep hand gestures to a minimum so that you don't scare or confuse them.

If you are more subdued and a Solid, just be yourself, but make sure that you stay in control. You want to be friendly, but not become their best friend who also doubles as their new therapist!

Gain commitment from them. Offer a specific action plan. Relate to them with gentle, helpful nudges. Personalize the plan. Show them how it will benefit "them." Assure them customer satisfaction. Let them know that you will be following-up and following-through with their project until completion. They want to be reassured that this relationship will be ongoing. This is very important to the Solid/Relator.

Hot Buttons: Security, comfort, and guarantees are what motivate them to take action. Always tell this personality about the warranties that are available. They want to know that the company is going to stand behind the products, and that you are going to stand behind them! Use words like safe, secure, comforting, warm, inviting. I call them "warm fuzzies." They want to feel good and know that they've made a good decision.

Analytical/Thinker
Our next consumers need no introduction. You can recognize them halfway across the parking lot. They walk slowly and deliberately. Their faces are "set" in determination and accomplishing the task (and for them it is a task) at hand. Paper and pen may complement their outfit. The gentlemen may have chosen to accessorize and complete their look by wearing a plastic pen protector in their breast pocket. The female version finishes her ensemble with files, and folders under her arm from her research. Their mind is on everything but their surroundings and the humans who happen to inhabit planet earth. As you've already figured out, this is the Analytical/Thinker. They hate making decisions because now the entire evaluation process has to take place. Paralysis by over-analysis is the best way to describe how they operate. Did you see the movie, "Sleeping With The Enemy" with Julia Roberts? To this day I can't look at towels hanging on a towel rack, or cans on shelves in the same way. This is the analytical!

Their motto: "Winning isn't everything. It's how you play the game, the more technically and strategically correct the better!"

Their Battle Cry: "Aim, Aim, Aim!"

Read: They enter slowly, taking in the product. Now they are concerned with their surroundings. Tasks are more important to them than people. They may have a hard time making eye contact with you. Taking notes, and measuring are a sure tip off for you in reading and recognizing the Analytical. They are task-oriented and don't want to waste a minute. Computer experts, engineers, accountants, inventors, actors, and some attorneys are the careers in which they flourish. Bill Gates, Leonardo DaVinci, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman (who else but an Analytical could go from "Rainman" to "Tootsie"), and Stephen Hawkins are just a few of the famous "Thinkers."

React: They see themselves as problem solvers. The why is what they are concerned about. This is the only customer that you are allowed to "spray & pray." You know, where you tell them everything you know and pray something will stick! Everyone else would be overwhelmed, but not the Analytical. They want to be informed about everything. They will file what they need to keep, and throw out the rest. They need the information as part of their decision making process, and to determine how much of an expert you are at your profession. They, like the Dominant, will only work with people who they consider credible.

Respond: Listen carefully to their questions, and respond accordingly. Talk slowly, and again limit those hand gestures. If you are more extroverted, s-l-o-w down. Listen, nod, look them in the eye and demonstrate features. Let them know why it will benefit them, and meet their requirements. "Peppy" doesn't compute with them! Don't get carried away with your presentation of the product. Keep it factual, and matter of fact. They want specifics-not sizzle!
If you are more introverted, don't be shy. Let them know that "you know what you're talking about." You have the answers for them. You can help them.

Hot Buttons: They are purchasing for three reasons: Logic, accuracy and value. You may want to use phrases such as, "This is the most logical decision for you. This is the best value for your particular requirements. This is the most accurate solution..." Of all the personalities, the Analytical will shop you. They must be convinced that they have completed all of the necessary research before they make a commitment, and finalize their decision. (Remember, "paralysis by over-analysis"). Encourage them to "shop and compare." However, let them know that this is an "important decision" not a "big investment," and that you want to be the one to answer their questions and assist them in their decision making. Follow-up is very important here. You will not only be helping them make an intelligent decision, you'll also show that you are a professional. You care about them and their needs. Nobody else will be saying this. Instead, your competitors will tell them, "please shop, come back, and do not hesitate to ask for me." I don't want you just putting them on the "Be-Back Bus," I want you driving it! Follow-up and follow-through. You are the best one to assist them here.

The "Minnie"
The final psyche that we will be exploring is what I call the "Minnie" (as in mouse) personality. This is the only consumer that you should not mirror! You can spot them immediately. They look like "Bambi in the headlights!"

Their Mantra: "I don't know what I want. I guess I like it. Do Y-O-O-O-U-U-U like it???

Their Actions: They are hesitant and cautious. They speak softly. They'll use words like maybe, perhaps, sometimes, and I guess. They speak in vague, incomplete, disjointed sentences. Their voices may crack, and they are just not really sure about what they like and don't like. It is extremely difficult for them to make a decision. They really need your help. They demand lots of patience and understanding. Think... your biggest accomplishment or your worst nightmare! You may feel yourself aging right before their eyes. Yes, they are the ultimate test in the land of retail. You may feel you'll be retired or quit before you complete this transaction. Their hands tremble. Their fists are clenched, and the rapidly scanning eye movements that they portray are all the reasons that you do not want to mirror this consumer.

Your Response: Calm them down and make them comfortable. Speak in calming, reassuring tones. It is necessary to slow down your speech and soften your mannerisms. You must relax! Here are some phrases that will help you build rapport and gain their confidence :

  • "Let me share a comforting thought with you."
  • "I have good news that will put your mind at ease."
  • "Here is one way to make you feel more comfortable."
  • NEVER SAY: "There is nothing to worry about."

Focus on one or two benefits to get them anchored. Use words like: acceptable, agreeable, satisfied, normal, safe, comfortable, certain, content, and quiet.

Empathize with them. They really need and want your assistance. Your patience and understanding play a major role here. They will be your biggest challenge, and your most satisfying reward. Hey, anybody can help the easy ones!

There you have it. Your five major personality groups. After today, as you approach them at the door, from the front, head on, face to face, toe-to-toe... analyze them. Who is this person? Are they the Dominating Intimidator, the Expressive Tornado, the Solid Relator, the I have one more question Analyzer, or Min?

Make it a game. Have fun with this. It's a sofa! Get out of the Rut of doing the job by Rote! When you learn to respond and identify with them on their level, everybody wins! You've taken them from being a consumer to your new client. You'll be expanding and building your business. You're the professional. You're the entrepreneur. You're on your way. So come on. Now's the time to - Read 'Em And "Reap!"

Note: All "Mottoes" and "Battle Cries" were taken from the "Relationship Selling" series by Tony Alessandra.


Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.

 


Cathy Finney, effervescent sales educator, motivator and  management consultant was a longtime contributing editor to FURNITURE WORLD Magazine. Cathy helped retail furniture store sales and design associates to turn customers (she called them Fred and Ethel) into clients. An enthusiastic mentor and friend to up-and-coming salespeople, she told them to remember that they are skilled professionals and that “Ethel” needs them to get the best possible result for her room or project. 

Finney got her start in the furniture business with Ethan Allen where she worked closely with Furniture Hall of Fame member Nathan Ancell. Her company, Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T" resulted from that close relationship. She passed away at 59 years of age after a long struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. For more information about Cathy and here work email editor@furninfo.com. 




View all articles by Cathy Finney

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