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Become A Power Talker - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


Words that comfort and words that may enrage your customers.

"W hen I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean-nothing more nor less."
-Lewis Carroll

George Walther points out in his book "Power Talking" that, "Power talking shows you how to speak the language of success. Power talkers project positive expectations, both for themselves & others."

99% of your job as a retail manager is psychology, is it not? It follows that what you say & how you say it will either earn your client's trust or ignite their true passions of anger!


There are some words out there that are real hot buttons for today's consumer. They hear these words and just go nuts! It's like waving a red flag, pulling their chain, & pushing all their buttons (the wrong ones) at the same time. They self-destruct right there on the spot.

What words cause them to ignite & take off? Put another way... what makes "Ethel" tick & what "ticks" her off? Let us analyze these words that push their buttons.

Budget: At my first sales job, the owner told me, "when you are working with these people, you must, must get their budget. You must."

Attempting to comply, I would look my customer directly in the eye & say in my most professional speaking voice, "what is your b-b-b-b-b! ?" I couldn't get the word out of my mouth!!!

It's too personal. It's the other "B" word! Everyone hates this word. It's like me saying, "excuse me Mrs. Consumer, but how much do you have in your savings?" "Can you really afford to be in here?" You see, it's personal.

She's looking at you and thinking, "excuse me? But, do I look like I have to live on a budget? So I had to come up with another word, another way to ask this question & get the information that I needed. There had to be a better, softer way to ask this and find out. There is!

Instead, use invest: Try asking your customers, "how much were you planning on investing?" You might also ask, "what I need, in order to assist you, is some kind of price range." Use these words instead of budget! Home furnishings are an investment your customers are going to own and cherish for a long time.

The term price range is excellent, because your customers don't feel as if they're being nailed to the wall with a specific price. They have to give you two figures. Your customer might say, "I didn't want to spend anymore than $800.00 - $1000.00." Bingo! You just picked up $200.00 and they don't feel as pressured.

Using invest & price range is much less threatening for the consumer. They will feel more comfortable, they'll talk and you'll get the information you need to know to assist them.

Spend doesn't work either! People don't like to spend. They feel as if they are depleting their limited resources. They have to open their wallets! They like to own. . . so give them "ownership!"

Sign is another word to avoid. It is a four letter word to most consumers.

What do most people think of when they hear the word sign? They think of a contract with fine print. Do they like to hear the word commit? No. When you ask them for their commitment, they feel like they are signing their life away. There is a finality to using the world commitment that scares them. Their decision is now "etched in stone." There's no turning back!

What words can you substitute here? Ask them to OK, or approve. It's not nearly as threatening. They will feel as if they are involved in a partnership with you.

For the consumer (male or female) whose ego comes through the front door three feet ahead of their body, ask them to authorize. They will think, "yes, I authorize things all day long. I will be glad to." Play to their ego. Use it!

What about the word, invoice. When they hear the word invoice, customers think, "now I'm really being ripped off! Is this thing legal? Is this thing binding?"

Let's change invoice immediately to paperwork. It's softer, more professional, and much less threatening. There, that's better, much better.

Never under any circumstances utter the words Policy, Deposit and Have To, to another "human!" When you use those words with your consumer, not only are you pushing the wrong buttons, they will explode into flames right before your very eyes! On one occasion, I heard a consultant say to her client, "now, the policy of the store is that you have to put down a 25% deposit. That comes to $3987.69." It sounded like she was trying to break into Fort Knox! I got exhausted just listening to this! There is a consumer out there who is going to get right in your face and say, "excuse me, I don't care what the policy of your store is and I don't have to do anything!

To make this easier, the consultant might have shortened her speech and taken out the words policy, deposit and have to. She might have said, "to get your new room started. It's only $4,000.00." It's that simple and that painless!

Always round the deposit figure off and up and never tell customers what it is you can't do. By saying, "I won't be able to call you until Monday," you present your call as a drawback. Instead, you might say, "I'll be happy to call you Monday with that information." If you say, "I'm afraid we won't be able to deliver your order until Saturday," it sounds bad. What are you afraid of? Why not state, "we'll be glad to deliver your order on Saturday." Very good! If you would love to see them take advantage of a special savings, then say that. It is much worse to exclaim, "I'd hate to see you miss out on the sale price."

Please and thank you are two of the most under-used phrases in the English language. Use them and use them often. Why tell them you are sorry, when you could thank them for waiting. It's all in how you say it!

In the March issue we will look at more words that have the power to comfort or enrage your customers. When your sales people learn these, they will be on their way to become Power Talking Pros!

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "T'NT". She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer and management consultant. She has just produced an audio management tape series called "pass the power please." 10 audio tapes plus an instructors manual that has been receiving rave reviews. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.