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The Frightful Five: Five Questions that are Rarely Used in Retail Stores

Furniture World News


By Gordon Hecht



Hop into any Target, Wal-Mart, or Supermarket around your house any time after Labor Day and you’ll see the Back to School merchandise swept away and replaced with costumes, candy, and décor for Halloween. The change in costume themes may surprise you-there are less Princess, Fairy, Fireman, and Clown choices and more “darker” costumes like Monsters, Zombies, and Evil Movie characters. Frightful and scary is outpacing fun and happy for Beggar’s Night.

It’s probably the opposite at your store! If you took a vote today over which kind of an environment your associates would prefer, HAPPY would probably win over FRIGHTFUL every time. Whether the interaction is external-between your team and your buying public, or internal-between members of your own team, most people will avoid the difficult, uncomfortable and often frightening questions or conversations. Opting for safe questions or small talk is the preferred way to communicate.
Internal or External-you can learn more from asking questions that are thought provoking. You may even find that the questions are easier to answer than to ask. Here are five questions that are rarely used in retail stores, but when answered can provide a clear picture into needs and wants.

  1. What other stores have you shopped? It’s not often that RSAs ask this of their shoppers. Perhaps it’s a fear of reminding the shoppers of the merchandise they saw elsewhere, or maybe it seems too personal. Keep TWO POINTS in mind. First, people love to talk about themselves-so give them a chance to tell you about their shopping journey. Next, if they liked the other store so much, chances are they would not be in your building right now! Your team can take a lot of the fright out of asking the question by knowing the competition. This can be accomplished by a store visit or by studying competitors’ website.

  2. What else have you seen that you liked? The scary part of this question is that RSAs are asking their shoppers to reconsider competing merchandise. Fear can be removed when understanding that while shoppers may have liked something else, there are one or more factors that preventing them from buying it. Also having the knowledge of other goods in the market can help your RSAs know how to compare and contrast your selection. In order to know what the buying roadblocks are take a chance and ask the next question.

  3. Why didn’t you buy it? Sure, it’s a provocative question, take some of the sting out by softening it with “Brand B is a good product, why didn’t you get it?” or “That sounds like a good deal, why didn’t you get it?” Framing the question this way will recognize your shopper for wisely researching their choices while also remind them that there is an obstacle that prevented them purchasing. Learn what that obstacle is and overcome it, and you are on your way to selling.

  4. How do you feel about the price? It’s easy to find your shopper’s right comfort and support level, but it’s downright terrifying to ask about a shopper’s buying budget. The products we sell are infrequent purchases and your shopper is subject to sticker shock. Rarely do people spend FAR LESS than they expected to when buying. Know this-if they like the comfort, support, profile, availability, warranty, and brand name, and they still are resistant to buying-it’s the price! Remove the terror from the situation by asking how they feel about the price (rather than “more than you can afford” or “is the price too high”) allows an honest reply that can help you find the balance between budget and comfort.

  5. Internal Question-How much do you want to earn next year? It happens every year-the day after Halloween is November 1! It’s a great time to plan sales budgets for 2018. You can help your Sales Team plan their sales volume plan too. Rather than ask “how much do you want to sell next year” flip it to “how much do you want to earn”. Don’t be afraid of RSAs who have lofty goals-every sale they make helps keep your business in the black. Some RSAs will answer frighteningly high and others even more frighteningly low! Help them understand the amount they have to sell to reach those levels. For those that plan to earn LESS remind them that most items will cost more in 2018. I heard that the cost of living may go up as much as $2 a twelve-pack!

Our Retail World can be a chilling place. You never know what situation will arise next, or how your shopper will react to your displays, policies, and sales presentations! You’ll get more TREATS than TRICKS when you ask the right questions in the right way. Be different this week. Be FEARLESS!

Gordon Hecht is a Growth and Development Manager for National Bedding Company’s America’s Mattress stores, nearly 400 locally owned and operated bedding stores across the country selling Serta-branded and America’s Mattress-branded mattresses. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver.

He has been recognized for outstanding sales and management achievement with several organizations including Ashley Furniture HomeStores, Drexel-Heritage, RB Furniture, Reliable Stores, and Sofa Express. He has served as Store Manager, Multi-unit manager and National Director of Sales. With his first-hand knowledge of our industry’s front line, Gordon has devoted his career to guiding others to exceed their goals.

Joining National Bedding Company in 2014, as part of the Serta Retail Concepts Group With over 400 stores, America’s Mattress stores is one of the fastest growing bedding retailers in the country.

Co-author of the “Better Bedding Selling Tips” featured on Furniture World Online, Gordon has been a frequent contributor to company newsletters, and contributing writer for industry magazines.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht

Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht