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Sales Ah-Ha’s

Furniture World Magazine
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Article Summary: Insights, advice, and practical information that can turn your retail sales Uh,Oh’s, “Oh, No’s,” into “Ah Ha's!” and even “Eureka moments!”

View all articles by Cathy Finney


A few simple techniques and attitude adjustments can work wonders.

In the December/January issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine, the article “The Wizard of Awes” discussed ways to make your sales presentations “awesome” by really connecting with customers. This time The “Wizard” has more insights, advice, and practical information that can turn your retail sales Uh, Oh’s, Oh, No’s, the Oops, and the Oh, Great’s into Ah Ha's! and even Eureka Moments!

Wizard Wizdom
Stand Up, Stand Out or Stand Down

Today, differentiation is a key to success. Differentiation is defined as, “adapting or adjusting to becoming different by growing and developing.” If you differentiate yourself and the services you offer, you are not like the other clerks selling furniture in every store up and down the street. Refine and define who you are and what you’re about. How are you making a difference and standing out? By your 3P’s, of course! That is, your Personal Performance as a Professional. What picture are you painting for each and every new sales ‘opportunity’ you meet. How are you handling each customer engagement?

All the world’s a stage
What kind of Player are you?
The publisher of “Selling Power” Gerhard Gschwandter, says to first ask yourself, What story are you telling?” and then, “How are you unique?” What are your rules of engagement? How are you reaching out to each customer?

Dianna Booher, author of “From Contact to Contract,” says to “never stop looking for an edge. Top performers are the ones who are back time after time, asking how can I change my proposal, my approach. It’s those tweaky questions and observations that put them at the top.” Review this quote again one more time, and one more time after that.

Sales is so much more than a set of selling skills. It is a profession. It is a profession that takes years to master. How are you preparing as a professional? Are you prepared for each presentation you will be making as you approach them at the front door? Ah Ha!

The “SOFA” Formula

S = Are you Smiling?

O = Are you Open to who they are, and treating them as a unique individual, not spouting forth the same script to everyone you encounter?

F = Are you Friendly and looking Forward to Finding out who they are, or dreading taking another turn in the rotation at the door? Are you hiding out in “Fortdom,” behind the counter, your desk, or lunchroom?

A = Attitude = Altitude. The better your attitude, the higher you will soar!

Pam Brill, author of “The Winner’s Way,” says that “Attitude can either set us up to do our best, or it can derail us and put us into a state where sub-par, also- rans are the norm.”

Whoa! Who wants to be sub-par, an also-ran or the norm? No really good sales professional does. How about you? How’s your attitude? If you’re having problems, do you check them at the door? In the “Words of the Wizard” . . . in sales and in life, attitude isn’t everything. Nope, It’s the ONLY thing!” How you doin? Uh, Oh!

Do You See Just
What You Expect To See?
To quote Ms Brill, “The attention ingredient is your focus. It’s what we focus on, and it’s also what we screen out... Whatever we are tuned into becomes our point of view, our perspective. It becomes our reality.”

Ladies, have you ever gotten 3 inches cut off your beautiful hairdo, and your husband/significant other doesn’t even notice? Even after you subtly ask, “How do I look, honey? Notice anything different?” His reply, since he has no idea what you’re talking about, “You always look great.”

Gentlemen, did you shave off your mustache over the weekend? It’s now Tuesday, and your “honey”, who you did it for hasn’t said one single word about your sacrifice!

No, neither partner needs eye drops. We see what we have grown used to, what we expect to see.

How about you when you see your new “UP?” Have you put these “humans” into categories so that you are pre-wired as to how you’ll respond? Do you expect them to act in a certain way, and do you respond in kind? Uh, Oh!

It’s Not About YOUR EXPECTATIONS!
As “The Wizard of Ads” pointed out in the December/January issue of FURNITURE WORLD (posted to the sales skill article index on www.furninfo.com), 67% of your customers (every Mr. and Ms. Jones that comes into your store) intend to return home with what they want. However, only 24% do so! Oops!

Why? What happened? What are you hearing? What are they trying to tell you? What aren’t you getting? And why?

You forget. We all forget. Selling isn’t telling! In fact 80% of selling is listening! 80%!

Those Jonses’ come in all different shapes and sizes. They tend to overload you with all sorts of information that’s being transmitted visually as well as verbally. How unplugged are your ears? How open are your eyes?

You need to “Listen” to each one of the “Jonses” with your eyes, ears, and respond in the proper dialect of their language.
now don’t interrupt!

Listening is an Art that must we fine-tuned each and everyday with each and every new encounter.

We humans are great at hearing words. We’re just not really proficient at listening. Listening to what the words really mean according to “Ethel” What IS she telling you?

The book “Selling Power,” outlines some of the following great tips to fine-tune your “lobe,” to improve, to increase your bottom line.
Silence is a sales ally. Use silence as a tool to control the flow of conversation and to draw out the prospect.

When you interrupt Ethel, you stop listening and impose your agenda. The interruption also has the effect of stopping her “Ethel” from wanting to tell you more. So-o-o- you need to be quiet when it is her turn to speak.

Remember, people love to talk about themselves. It’s one of the greatest secrets in sales. When you listen and let her tell you all about her, she not only thinks you’re great, you’ll become her new best friend! That’s the power of listening to what your customers are really saying.

Place your energy on hearing not only the words, but the non-verbal messages she is transmitting to you. Her body language will tell you what her words may not.

Don’t be distracted. Don’t worry or be concerned about the other UPs coming through the door. Don’t focus on what or who you might be missing. This is your UP, so focus on your customer. You may not get another chance.

Employ the practice of “Reflective Listening” and repeat back what they just told you. Say, “In other words, what you’re telling me is...” This way you make sure you’re both communicating on the same wavelength.

Successful sales professionals cannot afford to be listening-impaired. We must hear, listen, understand, and converse in fluent “Consumereze.” We must tune-in to the melodious tones of “Ethel.” This is her song. This is her time in the spotlight, and she wants to sing! Nobody ever listened themselves out of a Sale! Ah, ha!

Dealing with the “Browser!”
In her terrific book, “Talk to the hand,” Lynne Truss points out that, “Everyone else has bad manners; we have bad occasional moments. Everyone else is rude; we are a bit pre-occupied.” This is quite an understatement in the world of home furnishings retail. You may not only get the “hand,” you may get the voice. Yes, before you even get a chance to take a breath to address the the customer who is waving you off, you hear, “Just looking!”

But if you could see their face they’d have the expression of “Bambi in the headlights.” They’re scared, and they believe that you are the enemy! Ms. Truss tells us, “that we learned as children if we make the right noises, we may deflate danger, or disarm aggression.” So, how can you avoid getting the brush-off?

Approach slowly, with a smile, and a lot of patience. Let them know, “It’s okay to look. We have a wonderful showroom for you to browse in. Please make yourself at home.” (Let them see your palms. It’s called mirroring, and it’s okay to do just this! It lets them know how they look).

This next member of the “Jonses’” clan is in full attack mode. Don’t Retreat. Stand up to him, and become his new ally.

Conquering “The Warrior”
This type of customer will make eye contact, face contact and body contact.

They come through your front door, eyes bulging, chests heaving, arms crossed, ready to take you on! You react by going into full battle alert as well. You know how to handle this “kind” of consumer. You become a guerrilla fighter on steroids! You react to their body language, facial expression, and mannerisms, which are not pretty. They are all sending out a resounding cry calling for you to retreat back to the “Fort.”

They’re defensive. So you get defensive.
Your first thought might be, “Well, if that’s the way they want to be – fine, just fine. Who needs this?”

You do. It is your job to disarm them. To help them. They need you. They’re still in full battle mode because at “Sofa’s R Us” they were stalked, harassed, and beaten up. You happen to be the lucky one who is the next human to come in contact with them. To them it’s not about you. It’s about survival!

Remember that they may be the “Warrior,” but you’re the one with all the ammunition. You have answers. You can help them.
Let them know that you empathize with their plight. Tell them, “It Looks like you had a bad shopping experience.” And say this holding up your arms as in the “Browser Stance.” They don’t expect those words or body language from you. It helps to disarm them. Now you can finish your sentence, they’re listening, and now you can help them.

Working With The “S.O.S. - er!”
The Sophisticated On-line Shopper! She’s more educated. She’s more savvy than a lot of consumers. She’s done her homework. This is Graduation Day! You’re her first “live” test. She bounds through your front door with that look in her eye. That look that let’s you know that she’s on a mission. She knows what she wants. She wants confirmation of her decision in a timely, precise manner.
Let her know. “You’ve really done your homework. I enjoy working with clients like you. You really know what you like. Let’s get started.”

Give her the information she wants to complete her task, quickly. Remember, she’s on a mission!

Helping “S.O.S.- er’s” Dysfunctional Twin
This is the one who comes out at midnight, and suffers from paralysis by over-analysis! He has recorded, in his frontal lobe database, everything that you have ever seen, heard, read, or dreamt about construction. He has memorized every detail about the product, and he’s catalogued all the features of every model known to man that has been featured on the internet. His brain is now “under construction.” He’s been transported into cyber confusion. He will age, and so will you before he ever makes a decision.

Take charge! Use the 3 magic words he needs to hear: Logic, accuracy and value. That’s why he did all that research. Tell him which decision will give him the greatest value, and “based on what he told you,” would be his most logical and or accurate choice. Amen!

Monty Hall Doesn’t Work Here!
Now what do you say when your customer says that they want a deal? Well, how much are you going to have to give them off? My advice is to never let them see you sweat!

Just because someone asks for a deal doesn’t necessarily mean that they want one. What they’re really trying to find out is if they can get one. They may want validation that your products are a fair value or that the next customer doesn’t get a better deal. Once you start bargaining, you do become good old “Monty!”

Everyone can get a lower price, somewhere. However, they can’t get you anywhere else. They need you to become their home furnishings advisor and professional consultant. Price is important only as long as the furniture they are considering is also a good value and meets their needs. When price is their main concern, your customer won’t be loyal to you and what you represent. If they’re not looking for you, it will be their loss. What’s that old saying? “The most expensive way to buy furniture is to buy it twice!” Always remember that they can’t get you, your expertise, and the trust of a professional relationship with you on the internet.
Set yourself apart. Become their solution-driven advisor. Help them make this a good investment based on value. An item purchased because it has the lowest price will be sure to cause them to have a huge case of “buyer’s remorse.”

More Wizward Wizdom Don’t Use Lizard Words
Do you remember the “Lizard Words”? The closed ended words, Do you? Are You? Did you? and Would you? that only get you yes and no answers. When opening the cages of the “Lizards” the air becomes contaminated and that becomes a huge OOPS! because that is when you develop the dreaded. Foot in Mouth Disease! Oh Great!

When you start spouting Lizards, you will send customers out the door, and literally stop them from owning what they came into buy.
Then, you may want to tell them, “It’s okay. Think about it. You don’t have to do this today.”

Don’t say this line. Don’t give them permission to “go home and think about it.”

Even worse, you may want to give them all the information to take home and say, “I’ve written everything down for you. You go ahead, take this proposal, quote sheet, copy of the sofa, fabric with you.”

Now you are thinking, “Okay, I’ve given you the information. You can go now. Where’s my next UP? I don’t have to ask you to buy. I’ve done my job. Phew! I AM good!”

Then if you hadn’t already said enough, your mouth continues to spill forth Lizards as you say, “If you come back, make sure to ask for me.”

Will they be back? Will they remember to ask for you? Probably not. You just sent them off into “Furnitureland” armed with all the information you gave them. Your information, your time and your expertise. You sent them off to be harassed by a fast-talking furniture clerk, when they could have been helped by you.
So remember the words of the Wizard. You are a professional. Help them with their decision. Listen to their needs. Become their advisor. Answer their questions as their consultant.

To quote Dianna Booher again, “Never stop looking for an edge.” Top performers differentiate themselves. Set yourself apart.


“Excellence is a function of learning and growth and development and progress.” -Dr. John Elliot, “Overachievement”-


Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates\”T ‘N T.” She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant now doing one-on-one sales coaching for select clients online. Questions on any aspect of sales training or sales management can be sent to Cathy care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.  

See all of Cathy Finney’s articles on www.furninfo.com in the Sales Skills Article Index and check out her audio download presentations for sale in the  furninfo.com online store. These include a 10 part audio series on making more house calls; a 10 part audio series on retail sales follow-up; a 10 part series on sales management and a six-part sales motivational series.


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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