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Speaking Your Customer's Language

Furniture World Magazine


Customers like to do business with salespeople they relate to.

All things being equal, customers like to do business with salespeople they can relate to. If your prices are pretty much the same as your competitors' and customer service seems to be equal among stores, customers are more apt to do business with someone they like. They buy on emotion. They shy away from salespeople who annoy or irritate them. It's common sense.

So, how can you relate better to your customers? Speaking and understanding your customers' language is a good place to start. That doesn't mean just Spanish, Korean, Japanese, or any number of recognized languages. It means being able to understand and converse in Southern, Jive, Hip-Hop, Adult, Cool, Senior-Citizen, Urban, Suburban, Country, and hundreds of other dialects.

People like people who are like themselves. In other words, if people can relate to you, they will like you. If they like you they will trust you. If they trust you, they are more apt to buy from you.

If your furniture store is in an ethnic section of your city, or if you have a lot of customers who speak another language as well as English, learning a few words of their native language shows you're trying to be one of them. You don't have to speak fluently. They understand English.

Try to understand a few words of their language. I have a friend who has many Spanish-speaking customers. On his business card, he has the words "El Grande Queso" under his name. That's his title. People who speak Spanish chuckle, and people who don't speak Spanish ask, "What does that mean?" Translated, it means he's the "big cheese." When you get a customer to smile, you're a lot closer to making a sale.

If you're a younger salesperson talking to an older person (that's anyone 10 years older than you), you might want to put yourself in their shoes. Talk in terms they can understand. Don't use the latest slang or overly technical terms. They probably also wouldn't appreciate being called "dude" or even "ma'am."

Someone from New York City has a presence, an attitude, a speech pattern all their own. You have to figure it out for yourself. Same goes with customers from LA, Minneapolis, and Miami. You have to adapt to their style. It's called "mirroring."

We've all had customers who want to beat us up verbally so they can buy something for less than cost, then tell us they'll be back, but end up buying down the street. Maybe we just haven't spoken their language. Maybe it's not the price, the service, or the furniture. Maybe it's us.

Speaking your customers' language doesn't mean taking a three-day Berlitz course. It means talking to them in terms they understand, words they recognize, and phrases they can relate to. If you know all the furniture industry jargon and your customer is a complete uneducated novice, it's like speaking Portuguese to a Ukrainian.

Don't talk over your customers' heads. Don't be too cool, too clever, too technical. Know where that fine line is. Talk to your customers in language they'll understand but first, find out what their language actually is. Everything else will be easy.


Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative SellingĀ®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented nationwide to major companies and industries. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to popyk@furninfo.com.