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Gender Awareness - Part 2

Furniture World Magazine


Part 2: Adjust your sales presentation. Men and women shop differently.

Sales & Management Skills by Margarett DeGange, M.Ed.

´╗┐In the November/December 2010 issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine we discussed how your business will vault 10 steps ahead if you take gender differences seriously and adjust your approach to attempt to meet the requirements, needs and wants of male and female customers. Part 1 looked at differences in the way men and women research purchases and what they expect, in general, from their shopping experiences. Part 2 continues to shed light on how women buy, and presents tips furniture retailers can use to sell more by creating sales initiatives that integrate well with this organic process.

Why Women Visit Your Showroom

Frequently, women shop almost as a form of entertainment. That’s how many men see it, but there is actually something else at work. A woman may go into a store just to look around, to see what is there, to gather possibilities, and to “dream”. This “dreaming” is usually in line with a deep desire she has about her home or her life that is probably unvoiced. It is a desire to add something meaningful, to create a richer reality, to build better home experiences. This desire has very little to do with buying “stuff”.

Women visit showrooms initially to prepare both mentally and emotionally for later purchases. This is especially true for big ticket items. A woman may come into your showroom just to browse. As she meanders, she will begin to visualize what her home could look like, feel like, and be like with new furnishings. This mental picture will factor in the many relationships she has with close friends, family, business associates, and the people she entertains.

She may formulate her thoughts and search for ideas for weeks, or in some cases even months. With your help and skill, those thoughts can easily turn into a sale.
Women are powerful participants in the economy, and it is incredibly ironic how often they have been dismissed and even disrespected. A woman will run out the door and never come back if you look down on her, correct her disrespectfully, tell her what she needs instead of hearing what she needs, treat her like she is not intelligent, or trivialize her knowledge.

Tip #1: When a woman comes into your store, the last thing you should do is pressure her into giving you a definitive reason why she is there when she is not sure herself. Although it is alright to ask, “what brings you into the store today”, it is never O.K. to try to pin her down for a specific reason if she does not have one. Again, she may be just fantasizing right now, deciding if this new furniture route is even the path she wants to go on. Your response to her at this time will either support or hinder that decision and ultimately, the sale.

If she has been shopping around, acknowledge and even compliment her efforts, instead of putting them down, even if you are afraid that she may buy somewhere else. Listen carefully to what she is saying and you will learn what her truest needs are.

Don’t try to sell. Instead, try to connect. When you are in the midst of making the connection and building the relationship, don’t jump the gun simply because you gave your version of a sales pitch and the woman nodded or gave a gesture of “acceptance”. This only means she is listening and taking in what you are saying (good or bad). She may be miles away from making a decision. She needs more interaction, ideas, and information, and she needs to be heard.

Communicate to her that you understand her desire to just “get a feel for things”. Slowly and steadily, and most importantly, conversationally, build on a dialog that starts with something like...

Salesperson: “Are you browsing to peek at some of the new designs and get some new thoughts and ideas?”
Later in the sales process you might say something like this...

Salesperson: “If you were at a place to begin refurnishing your space, which style do you think you would likely lean towards.”

These questions will help you to collect valuable information in order to continue to guide and educate your customer while preserving the sense of freedom she requires to talk freely. In other words, you have prevented her from putting up a wall that will cause her to leave and not come back.

This is a very soft sell that conflicts with the mindsets and selling environments found in many high volume, promotionally oriented stores. If your store competes with stores that rely on high traffic volume and can live with low closing percentages, then working to be a friend and not a pushy salesperson will be an important point of differentiation for you. At the same time you will be building the most valuable component of all, trust.

When dialoguing, don’t just focus on the benefits such as “this is a real-time saver”, or, this bed saves space”, instead, create a visual of the benefit through your words, in such a way so she can see it playing out in her life. For example, say something like...

Salesperson: “We both know how much kids prize their own space. When your children have their friends over to read or do homework, they’ll be so proud of how much spare room they have with this bedding set. They’ll have more room for hobbies and playtime, too. This is a kid’s dream!”

Just because you are selling home interior products, it’s not enough to say, “this sofa is beautiful”—that’s way too flat and won’t create an emotional connection. You’ve got to re-frame it for her life. Instead, try something along the lines of, “This is such an attractive sofa in many ways. For one it’s beautiful, and more importantly, it’s so roomy that mom, dad, and all the kids can snuggle up on it very comfortably and read or watch movies. The kids will love that.”

Tip #2: To be successful, male and some female salespeople working with female customers must allow the social interaction and the communication process to play out. The male salesperson may have to go against his nature a bit, and interact “social-emotionally” and really listen to get a glimpse of that big picture that is so vitally important to women. Women will be loyal customers if they feel they are truly seen and heard, and they will even pay more for products and services if these fundamentals are in place.

Old Dogs May Disagree

I know that a lot of old dogs will disagree with me on this. But let’s face it, most, if not all, of the sales processes used today were created by men who sold to women, not by women who sold to women. Furthermore, they were created in a day when many products were new, novel and choices for shopping were more limited. Just because a tactic works sometimes does not mean it is the best strategy... or as Joe Capillo says, “Nothing fails like success.” Women do not think like men, and therefore they do not make decisions like men. Women today also do not shop the way they used to years ago because their lives have changed. Embrace this, and your sales can dramatically increase.

Tip #3: Make a definite connection, and don’t push too hard to make a sale before your prospect is ready. A furniture showroom is not necessarily the place to make a sale the first time on the spot. Work to establish a meaningful relationship with your client. In a conversational and friendly, no-pressure manner, let her know you would love to keep her posted on any information, style ideas, or new pieces that you may come across in the very near future. If you have a regular newsletter filled with home and décor tips and not filled with ads, invite her to receive it, which means you will need her name and email address. Be very low-pressure but very engaged, caring, and friendly in your manner. Let her know you are watching out for her and you will be there when she decides to look again and when she decides to buy.

You must be patient, a concept most sales people don’t want to accept. However, if you are really making a connection, and sending out “vibes” and words that communicate, “I’m on your side”, and “I really want to help you as you make this journey” as opposed to “I really want to sell you something”, you do not have to fear that the prospect won’t return. When she does, you’ll know her name and you will continue your conversation and make the sale.

In between visits you can communicate through regular one-on-one email if you have something you think she will be interested in, or if you just want to touch base. Remember to always keep it no-pressure, just an “I’m totally here to help my friend” attitude.

Get Customers To Know, Like & Trust You

With all of the options and outlets available for individual shopping, people are more likely to do business with those they are fully comfortable with. That does not happen when you pounce on someone as soon as they hit the door, and it doesn’t happen through a larger than life canned sales process. This isn’t the 50s, 60s or 70s. The old selling model is trash. Hey peeps, it’s 2011 and beyond!

People are smart, really smart. Did I mention to you that people are incredibly smart? The world has changed, business has changed, and the way that your customers think about shopping has changed. They know that they are the ones in control now.

Tip #4: Be someone that people want to get to know, someone people like, and someone people know they can trust. You cannot do this if you have a selfish agenda. You have to be fully there for your customers. If they know you, like you, and trust you, they will be pleased to give you their business. You cannot take it, no matter how clever you think your sales process is.

Tip #5: Sell consultation style which requires that you make a friend, like that friend, and build trust with that friend. Create a dialog throughout the process to get to your friend’s true needs and concerns, so that you can solve all of their problems and meet all of their wishes as you close up the sale. You’ll be happy to know that consultation selling is a very natural and easy way to sell.

Tip #6: When selling to women, don’t overly-focus on the item being purchased, especially at first. Focus instead on the big picture; on the emotional benefits that will come because of the purchase. Later on in the sales process you can focus a little more on the products themselves, once she feels you have a nuanced understanding of her situation.

Tip #7: Help the customer to visualize a better way of living, and greater connection with family or friends. Remember, people don’t buy things, they buy the way the things make them feel, and with women, these feelings are almost always tied to the people they love and the deeper and richer life connections that the “things” can help to achieve. Help them to produce a visual image of the way that their interior spaces will be used with the new furnishings. Dialog with the client so she can “see” the interactions that will take place in the home around these new purchases, and how people will FEEL and INTERACT within the newly furnished and redesigned spaces.

Tip #8: Offer her assistance, but give her room. She can tell a mile away if you are insincere. Seek first to genuinely help her, and the sales WILL follow. Women are loyal to people whom they trust. Your dialog should help her to verbalize her thoughts and wishes for a better home so you can meet those needs.

The Male Shopper

Approach all customers in a friendly, conversational tone, and try to find out what they want, rather than seeking to impose your sales agenda on them. If you miss this step you will lose most sales.

The way you sell to a man is the same way you should sell to a woman, with a few adjustments made along the way, since men tend to dream less and decide quicker.

Men will tend to let you know when it is time to cut to the chase. The important point here is that if you give all of the support to a male shopper that you give to a woman shopper, in his eyes you will be going above and beyond the call of duty. He may not want to “go all the way there” in terms of social or emotional dialog, and he may redirect things, but you still have to let him know that you are more interested in him and how the purchase will help him create a better life than in just getting the sale. Everyone, be they male or female, appreciates that.

Tip #9: Female, and some male salespeople working with a male customer have to be careful not to be overly social. Of course friendliness and making the connection are absolutely essential no matter what the gender of the customer is, but many men want to get right to the punch and will become impatient with too much trivial talk. When dealing with most men, focus a little more on the result, and stress the benefits in a way that relate to his goal. Be prepared to discuss manufacturing and warranty information in a bit more detail than usual when the customer shows that this is very important to him.

Men and Sports

Men love sports (I know, women do too), and more men than women watch the mainstream sports like basketball and football. Men take Monday Night Football and the Super Bowl pretty seriously. Guys want their football environment to be very comfortable, roomy, and guy-buddy friendly. They want the T.V. or media room to help set the sports and camaraderie mood. As a salesperson, this gives you great motivation when selling to a couple who visits your showroom just before or just during the start of football season.

Tip #10: Be their cheerleader in getting ready for sports season and for that great life that TV sports and entertaining bring. Help them to see and to want that fabulous new sofa or sectional, and that sturdy, stylish coffee table to hold all of the snacks and drinks. Help them to visualize how it will all look, and more importantly, how it will feel.

Don’t focus on product features, and don’t overly stress benefits in a sterile way as if reading from a list. You have to bring benefits into the scene they are dreaming of.

Let’s say a leather sofa and chairs they are considering clean up easily. Don’t say, “This sofa is so easy to clean, and it will stay beautiful for years to come”. Instead say something like, “You know, when all of your friends are gathered in the media room, sitting on this fabulous sofa and these large comfy chairs, one of your buddies might get excited over a play and spill a drink. No worries, this sofa cleans up so easily, it won’t even interrupt the game!”


In the March/April issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine, this three-part series will continue to look at the differences between the way men and women shop. Margo will also present ways to deal with shoppers who bring children into your stores and conclude with a sample script for opening up a meaningful dialogue with your customers.

Margarett (Margo) DeGange, M.Ed. is a Business and Design Coach in the Home Fashions Industry. She creates and delivers custom training programs for managed businesses and their sales consultants to help them communicate better with customers and increase sales and profits. Margarett is a Writer and Professional Speaker, and the President of The DeGangi Group and The DeGangi School of Interior Decoration, with both on sight and on-line courses in Interior Decorating, Marketing, and Redesign. For almost 20 years she has helped individuals and managed business owners in the interior fashions and decorating industries to earn more while fully enjoying the process.

Two of Margo’s popular products for furniture store owners and their sales professionals are The Decorating School Crash Course Power-Ed Pack (9 design lessons on video/audio with 12 hours of content), and the matching Decorating School Crash Course Learner Files to measure learning, provide added interactivity, and motivate sales consultants to own their opportunities for growth.

Visit Margo DeGange’s website at www.DecoratingForProfits.com for more information. Send email and questions to her at Margarett@furninfo.com.