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Paint A Rembrandt... Or Forget It!

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Article Summary: Will Rogers said, “If you are selling something, try and make it so good that you’d rather be the man who bought it than the man who sold it.” Cathy Finney applies this logic to the fine art of working with clients in retail furniture stores.

View all articles by Cathy Finney



“If you are selling something, try and make it so good that you’d rather
be the man who bought it than the man who sold it.” -Will Rogers

Ah, the art of the sales presentation. THIS is what you are all about, what you do. And who you are. Let's talk about how to show your stuff! Tell them a story that you created just for them. Charm them. Surprise them. Show them the power of your passion. Passion is contagious.

The philosopher Rollo May brings this point home when he points out, “There is an energy field between humans, and when you reach out in passion it is met with an answering passion and changes the relationship forever.”

In the book, “Magnetic Service,” the author Chip Bell says that, “Passion is fundamentally a gift that connects with the generosity tendency in another. When we are on the receiving end of passion, we feel favored by the extra ‘helping nature’ of the connection, as though the passionate person is giving us more than normal... Passion is determination and focus. Passion is a ‘making some thing happen’ type of investment.”
If you want to sell more home furnishings and exceed the expectations of your clients, you need many attributes. Perhaps the most important of these is passion. Passion for who you are and for what you do. Don't shake your head in disbelief. This is not New Age armchair philosophy. No, this is you now!

PASSIONATE ABOUT P'S
You are a Professional with a Purpose who is going to make something happen at each Presentation you give. You Present yourself to your clients on a minute-by-minute basis. How does the Presentation of You look? How are You doing? How much Passion are you Perpetrating?

I always said that the “Presentation is everything” and I was so wrong. Presentation isn't everything, it's the only thing!

This rule applies to Presenting to customers who just walked in the store. They told you what they want, and why they stopped in. It also applies when you are Preparing a more elaborate Presentation as a result of a home visit. By bringing their rooms to life, you are helping them, as the Professional, own what they want, need, and love in their home. their Project becomes your Project.

Be careful when making a presentation to give them what they want. This may not be anything like what you want, need or even like. Presenting… it really is about “ETHEL.


Plan + Ponder + Prepare + Practice + Performance = Presentation


When you put together all these ingredients, plus you add your spark of Passion, well then, you have the formula for success!

Let's start dissecting the presentation process by looking at some Primary Principles.
First, remember to ask yourself, who is this person? Why are they here? What do they want?

TELLING ISN'T SELLING
The first tool that you, as a professional, need to use and continually fine-tune are those funny little things attached to the sides of your face. Yep, these would be your ears. So Listen Up! If you get so caught up in talking about what you want to tell them, that you forget to listen to what they are really saying, then you are playing the percentages. Without good listening, it is likely, that a substantial percentage of your customers will simply not want to hear everything you have to say. For a more detailed discussion of this phenomenon of reciprocity, see Peter Marino's three part series “Listening To Your Customers” from FURNITURE WORLD available online in the “sales education article archives” on furninfo.com. Peter says that, “Listening falls within what we might refer to as the law of reciprocity, as much a law as that which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, but with an important difference. The law of equal and opposite reaction carries with it, at times, the notion of destruction upon the impact of two opposing forces. Not so in the case of the reciprocity of those who listen to each other. On the contrary, reciprocity in listening carries with it all the potential for synergy, teamwork, collaboration, and win-win, namely, that of two individuals not only both of them winning, but both of them winning at a higher level than if each of them had gone it alone.”

Once your ears are tuned in, if you are interested in listening at a higher level, two other body parts should become involved.

THE EYES HAVE IT!
In his great book, “I Can See You Naked,” Ron Hoff writes, that “the secret of eye contact is not equal time. Eye contact is a matter of punctuation. It's the registration of an idea, a phrase, maybe even a single word, during a continuous linking up of the eyes… The eyes say it all, talking back and forth, an exchange unique to “live” presentation… Eye contact is doled out by words and thoughts, and measured by body language. There is a bonding that is deeply alive and unique to the eyes.”

Another body part to watch is… well… all of it! Watch how they move and the way they gesture. What are they looking at, and what makes them smile, or not! These non-verbal signals that can tell you what they're really thinking.

Watch your body language. Are you leaning forward as they're speaking? Are you showing curiosity? Are you interested in what they're telling you? Are you “getting” what they want?

It is much better to be interest-ED than interest-ING!
Josh Gordon, who wrote, “Selling 2.0,”says that sales consultants “should engage in deep listening. Deep listening for buying signals is all about seeing and understanding beyond the obvious. Go beyond the superficial to the next level. ”He also points out, “Listening for buying signals is really easy to do badly and really hard to do well.” Remember that nobody ever listened themselves out of a sale!

Step one: Preparation
Okay, now that we have all body parts engaged, let's go on to . . . PREPARING the Presentation. You will be Preparing “Ethel”…That's right. “Ethel!” There can be no surprises at this stage, so let's get her ready first.

RULE #1: Tell her “the rules!” You must let her know what you expect from her and any decision makers that will be involved. Tell her WHAT will be happening and WHY this needs to occur. You must very nicely let her know, “This is what I am going to do for you, and THIS is what you are going to be doing for me.”

RULE #2: Both decision makers will attend the presentation. This rule is not optional. She and Harry will both need to be present at the presentation. If she tells you that, “Harry doesn't need to be present. I make all the buying decisions. He doesn't care what I do.” Be skeptical. It is my experience that the people who say this are lying or dreaming.

One of the following will occur if you do not have both decision makers present:

1) Harry will come in to see it the next day. This will mean that you have to do your presentation again. It's harder the second time. You have to ratchet up enthusiasm, and surprise when “Ethel” has already seen it. One of the greatest commodities your company, “Me, Inc.” has, is time. Unless your company is a non-profit, you probably don't have time to do this again.

2) She will say, “Harry doesn't care what I do, but, I have to take the fabrics home and show him.”

Ask yourself, can she present them the way you can? Can she justify WHY, and WHAT was selected? I think not. Your business is now in her control. Scary, isn't it!

3) She says, “Harry doesn't care what I do, but, will you write down those prices for me. I'll have to show them to Harry.”

Now Harry hasn't seen ANYTHING. Which means, he is basing his decision totally on dollars and cents. So his response will probably sound something like, “Are you nuts? If you want to stay married to me, you better keep on looking!”

Just ask “Louise” the most stupid question, “Is Harry” going to be using the room? Of course he is. That's why it's a stupid question, and that's why you need him present at your presentation. He needs to be involved. If “Louise” ends up running back and forth with fabrics and prices the whole process gets out of your control. It ends up taking too long and becomes too hard. You want to make the buying process easy for your customer. When the buying process gets out of control, it becomes too easy for both you and your customers to lose out!

Don't get me wrong, every now and then there will be times when both decision makers are not required. But it is the exception - not - the rule. Don't play those odds. Don't run your company like a roulette table in Vegas! It's your time, your money, your company.

Step Two: To Choose Or Not To Choose
You are not on a mission to crack the DaVinci Code! Make the sales process fun! You are on a mission to help “Harry” & “Louise” have a beautiful home.

Your job as the professional is to keep this process simple. Limit the number of toys that they have to play with. Give them too many and they won’t know which one to choose. Provide them too many options and they will get confused. They may choose not to play. So for that reason… show them one vignette that you, “selected based on what they told you.”

Have a second group to show them, but only as a back-up. Only show the alternate, if (big IF) they don't like the first selection (and why wouldn't they? You selected it “based on what they told you” so why wouldn't they like it?

Giving too many options makes you look bad, and unprofessional. It's as if you don't know what you are doing. You may seem that you aren't really sure which ones they will like, so you show them a “variety.” Some consultants also like this approach because they want to be “nice” and show them everything. Well... STOP IT!

Neal Roese, the author of, “If Only,” backs up this fact when he emphasizes, “There can be such a thing as too much choice, and too much choice results in consumer apathy and disengagement.... Giving consumers more choices actually reduced sales.... More choices were found to be more frustrating and caused much more stress. Most important, those who had more choices experienced greater regret.... Frustration and difficulty with the choice process, and regret over options left unchosen, contribute to disenchantment with the experience of buying.”

Step Three: "Hey Look Me Over!"
If your “Production” is part of a formal Presentation… do not only dress for success... dress for “Ethel” and “Ralph.” Make sure your wardrobe selection is painting the same color palette as the masterpiece of paints that you are brushing across the canvas of “Ethel” and “Ralph's” home. You got it. Coordinate your outfit to blend with the fabrics you're presenting.

THIS is the first thing your clients will notice. “Look “Ralph,” her dress, his tie matches our new sofa. (Take note of the “our new sofa” part!. They're taking ownership already!)

It also says that you cared enough about them that you took the time, and made the effort to do this for them.

Note: If you don't own “said garment,” then go beige or black so that you don't distract from the beautiful look that you did create.

Step Four: How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?
You all know the answer to this one. It’s Practice, Practice, Practice! As Mr. Hoff points out, “Talk to yourself before you talk to them.” Practice your performance.

  • Analyze WHAT you will be saying.
  • HOW you will be saying it.
  • To WHOM you will be saying it.
  • WHO will be attending.

FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER'S PERSONALITY TRAITS
Your presentation must be focused on the personalities of the ATTENDEES.

“Montgomery,” The Dominant:

  • TIME is his enemy. He doesn't need or want to hear any romance  words. Know your A, B, C's:  Keep your presentation  Abridged, Brief, Concise.
  • Give him/her the facts about  the product.
  • Point out that it's an excellent  INVESTMENT.
  • Ask him to AUTHORIZE the paper work.
  • Mission accomplished. Write it up.
  • He's out of there and onto his next conquest.

“Cathy” The Expressive:

She's here to be entertained and have a good time! If you're ever going to romance, and paint a picture about  what she is going to own, do it during  the presentation.

  • Bring her project to life.
  • Use terms like “fashion-forward,” “sophisticated,” ”It  looks like you.” THAT'S what she wants to hear. “Alice” The Solid:
  • She wants to be REASSURED. Hold her hand.
  • Let her know, “You've made a beautiful decision.”
  • Tell her all about the warranties and guarantees that come with her new furniture. She wants to hear that, ”I'll be with you every step of the way.”

“Jonathon” The Analytical:

  • He's buying for three reasons: Logic, Accuracy and Value.
  • You can “Spray and Pray” with this member of your audience. He wants to know everything you've ever heard, seen, read, or dreamt about construction.
  • Don't get “flowery. Stick to the facts.
  • Don't chit chat. He'll get bored. You'll lose him.
  • Let him know, “This is the most LOGICAL decision  for you. It will give you the results that you want to  achieve,” THAT is what he wants to hear. 

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
As Victoria Chorbajian, founder of Chorbajian Speaking Enterprises, Points out, “A well-scripted talk is going to seem more spontaneous, not less.... Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.... Your audience needs to know where you're going.”
In “I Can See You Naked” it's put another way:

“The presenter's best chance to win is by offering his or her knowledge, talent, ideas, wisdom openly -in a heartfelt desire to help rather than a self-protecting fear of being outgunned or sold down the river.”

The Presentation. It's so easy, and so hard. That's why it's an art and a skill that must be learned and constantly fine tuned. It's your stage. Your arena. Let your passion shine in the spotlight. You are the pro. This is what you do. This is who you are! It's Showtime!


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 Magazine 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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