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Approaching Customers For Fun And Profit - Part 2

Furniture World Magazine


Drive by greetings, looking busy, rude customers and other insights into the first part of the sales process.

In the June issue of FURNITURE WORLD, Cathy Finney covered the basics of approaching "buyers" and "browsers." This month the series continues with insights on taking the sales process to the next level.

If your customers take the time to visit your store, then you should make the most of that "opportunity." Make sure you find out why they're there.

Time is our most valued resource. You can't put a price tag on it. You can't beg, steal, buy, or borrow it. Once it's gone - it's gone.

How about you? How many hours do you have left over at the end of the day that you just don't know what to do with?

Is there anybody out there with extra time on their hands? If so, please contact me immediately. I want to know how you do it!

In 1997 when workers were asked what they would prefer - a raise or more free time - time was the selection of two-thirds of the respondents. Two-thirds!

That's why if they are spending this "valued commodity" walking through your doors, they too are on a mission. They may not be ready today. That's okay. But you better find out when they will be!

Tell them, let them know right up front - "the main reason I am here is to assist you so that I can save you a lot of your valuable time." Today's consumers do not want products - They want solutions!

At one of my sessions we were discussing buying signals and what to look for. One young woman was raising her hand vigorously. "Cathy, Cathy," she exclaimed. "do you know the best buying signal that I have found? The one that I always go by - it's when they walk through the front door!"


Do not, I repeat, do not "greet and run." I call these drive-by-greetings! You know what I mean. You approach them, they're rude or they won't talk to you. So you tell them to "go ahead and get started," and you race back to your desk, or the counter. What I lovingly refer to as "the fort." Don't do that!

Attention all "fort" dwellers! Get out of there before the customer comes through your front door. Before!

Do not wait until she comes in and then sit there and have a three minute discussion on whose "up" it is. You know what I mean. It sounds something like this:

Salesperson 1: "Helen, I think she's yours."

Salesperson 2: "No, I had just had one. It must be Mary's"

Salesperson 1: "No, she just went to lunch."

Salesperson 2: "Where did Tom go? I think he's back in the warehouse. I'll see if he wants to take her."

Sound familiar? Sound too familiar? In the meantime this poor consumer is standing there hearing this - and - we wonder why they're rude when we approach them. Whoa! Scares me - and it scares "Ethel."

Always know when it is your turn to be "up." Get out of the fort "before" they come in and stay out of there while they are on the premises.

I cannot emphasize this enough. When you run back to "the fort" you have just entered clerkdom. Yep, you did what every other clerk they met did today. When your "new opportunity" is in the store, please stay out of the fort!

Don't get me wrong, I know that all your information is buried in there. Plus, that's where the phones are! I know that everything that you need to do your job is in said fort. All I am saying is that as long as your customer (they're not your client, yet) is in your store - stay out of the fort! Get out of there.

You're not a clerk. You're a pro. Don't dwell in clerkdom! You can't play in the game if you're stuck sitting on the bench.

How do you handle it? What do you do if you can't run and hide? That's easy. Look busy! People like to work with people who are busy. If you're not busy, are you any good?

Have you ever noticed who consumers gravitate to on the sales floor? It's usually that person who is out there hanging pictures, or making price tickets. Why do consumers seek out those people? It's because that person looks busy. They are perceived as more professional and less threatening. Plus, if they're out there working they must know something. Well, we know something, too. So let's get busy.


When you approach a customer it's like "God gave me these two limbs - now what do I do with them?

You can't put them in your pocket. You can't cross your arms in front of you, and you can't just stand there defiantly with your hands on your hips. I recommend that you carry a good leather portfolio or binder so that you look professional. Do not carry a clipboard. You will look and feel like an order taker!

With your portfolio it gives the appearance that you're working on a project, stopped what you were doing, and came over to assist them.

You didn't hide out, watch them walk through the front door, stand up, step out, from behind the barricade and begin your assault. No, I am not a spy in your operation. I've been there!

I also carried fabrics with me to let them know that I was a professional who could assist them in coordinating their home. This enabled me to stay on the sales floor looking busy, all the while keeping an eye on "Fred & Ethel" to see what was attractive to them. This eliminated any tension for them and me. They didn't feel as if they were being stalked, or that I thought they were going to steal something. It's tough building rapport if they think that you think that they're going to rip you off! Looking busy really works because you don't feel like you're out there without a net! You know what I mean. You end up doing the "salesman stance." Stuck in position with your hands held firmly behind your back. You're just standing there, starting to sweat! Instead look busy. I played with the fabrics, and read price tickets. I wrote notes in my binder like this project was so important that it ranked right up there with national security for the western world! When in fact what I was diligently scrawling was my shopping list consisting of shampoo, pantyhose, and dog food.

If you draw floor plans, pull those out, make them visible. Show them off. Let them know what you do here!


You know, this is the group of humans that have had their sense of humor surgically removed. When I started and I got a rude one, I handled it extremely well. "jerk," I muttered to myself, and then ran back to the (you guessed it) fort! Of course I rationalized this: "I've had enough rejection today." "Great, I wait for three hours to get another up and I end up with a rude one.

Then I learned, if I waited for three hours for this person I was going to find out why they came in. I became a woman on a mission. My thoughts went something like this: "You are in real trouble now Sir /Madame. You were rude to me. H-u-g-e mistake on your part. You shouldn't have done that. Now you are not leaving until I find out why you came in here!"


You can spot this person who is going to try and intimidate you immediately. This is the person whose ego enters three feet ahead of their body! They give the distinct impression that they came out of the womb with a cellular phone or briefcase physically attached to their body. Male or female you can spot them on sight. This type of human only likes to work with people that they consider competent. Their intimidation routine is nothing more than to see if you measure up to their standards.

It doesn't matter if he is a CEO of a major corporation or she is a high-powered attorney. What you must remember is this: They cannot do what you can do. They need your help. That is why they're here!

Let them know that you are THE professional to assist them.

The up-side of working with this consumer is terrific. Once they've bought you, they've bought you for life.

They will become the president of your fan club. They'll tell everyone about you. Their friends and associates will think you're something really special if you can work with this person.

This human has something else going for them. They will never shop you. Time is their enemy. They're counting on you to save them some of their valuable time. They will not shop. They will not compare. Just give them the facts, the net-net. They will make their buying decision. Just go ahead and write it up!

Is 90% of this job attitude? Oh, yes. Make up your mind to disarm the "rude ones." Make it your mission to pass their test. Make them a challenge to be conquered instead of referring to them as a jerk. Remember they need you. They need your help. They just don't know it yet.

As Jim Rohn says, "there are only eight or nine rude people in the world. The problem is the move around a lot!"

Okay, you've disarmed the rude ones, and shaken off the ones affected by the tides!

The door just opened. You're out of the fort and with your leather portfolio in hand. You're looking good. You're looking professional, ready to take care of business and chanting, "here comes ________."

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Her latest audio tape series on follow-up is called "The Marketing of "Me, Inc." - Taking Your Company Into the Next Millennium!" 10 audio tapes plus a comprehensive "how-to" manual that helps your people turn all the customers into "clients!" Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.