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Compel, Dont, Repel Customers

Furniture World Magazine


If customers find that you are exciting to work with, you will be able to create urgency rather than just pressuring them to buy.


At one point of Horace’s Ars Poetica, an ancient compendium of rubrics for writers, the author offers this advice: “If you wish to excite your audience, first become excited yourself.” I believe this piece of advice is as valid for salespeople as it has always been for writers.

How can salespeople, in particular retail furniture salespeople, become excited about selling? First, the excitement we are talking about is not synonymous with exuberance or exhilaration or euphoria. Nor is it synonymous with a Pollyanna spirit. Selling is not a Pollyanna activity, especially on those days that match the kind of calm narrated in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Second, we are not talking about the excitement associated with extroverts. An exciting salesperson need not stand on her head, learn to juggle or pretend to be overwhelmed by the store’s latest promotion or product line. I have known some highly successful introverted salespeople who manage to create excitement in their customers, much like some introverted teachers do. I believe that the best way for us to come up with a stipulated definition of the kind of excitement our customers are looking for is to ask ourselves the kind of excitement we look for when we go out shopping. The following are the attributes that help make salespeople exciting.

1. They have a positive attitude. Positive salespeople arrive at the store to put in an honest day’s work, even if they are experiencing personal problems. They hold themselves accountable for every sale and not their store’s merchandise or its delivery system or its customer service department or its office help.

2. They work smart, that is, they manage their time efficiently and make use of every tool (training, fabric racks, vender catalogues, follow-up software, sales statistics, etc.) their company makes available. The first ones to recognize how smart they work are their customers, because their customers benefit the most from these efficient salespeople. After all, today’s customers have less time to shop than ever before. Efficient salespeople save customers time, something we all have too little of.

3. They work hard. They put in the hours and appear to be always busy. You seldom see these salespeople looking at their watches. Whatever needs to be done they do it: move furniture around; replace a missing lamp, returning fabric samples to a rack.

4. They greet every customer with a genuine smile and with words that truly make them feel at home. They manage to do the same on the phone by never seeming rushed or distracted. They use the proper voice quality that transmits a genuine smile.

5. They have bought into the wise saying that we can never know too much about our products but we can talk too much about them. For these salespeople know that their customers don’t come into their stores to learn how to build a mattress or any other item. They want the benefit that that mattress or any other item can provide. That is the reason why these salespeople sell only personalized benefits. As a result, they neither undersell nor oversell their products.

6. They appreciate the good work anyone in the store does that helps customers to buy successfully. They know full well that, like a chain, a store is only as strong as its weakest link. Drivers, office workers, warehouse people, receptionists, managers, buyers, other good salespeople, and owners all respect this type of salesperson.

7. They show customers the common courtesies and listen to them empathetically. In that way they build the kind of rapport that creates a mutual trust.

8. They continue to work on their selling skills: the three-step opening, probing, supporting with personalized benefits, asking professionally for the sale, handling the various kinds of objections as implied needs, and not attacking their customers needs by attempting to overcome them. They realize that the word overcome is an adversarial word.

9. They do not tell a customer looking at a fabric that it will go well with the beige carpet because “beige goes with everything.” They ask about the other colors in the room and then add how exciting those combinations will be.

No wonder customers find salespeople with these attributes exciting. For these salespeople create urgency in their customers instead of mere outward pressure on them. Mere outward pressure repels customers; urgency compels them. We can all become more exciting salespeople by listening to Horace’s advice: “If you wish to excite your audience, first become excited yourself.”

Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD.