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It's Buying, Silly - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


If you think you are in the business of selling furniture to consumers... you may want to think again.

Someone once wrote that we eventually understand the obscure. It’s the obvious that takes us a little longer. That statement is certainly true of selling. Eventually we began to understand concepts like value-added selling and relationship selling. It takes most of us a bit longer to begin to learn that the salesperson’s focus should be on buying instead of selling. Now what does this statement mean? Simply this: the salesperson’s objective is not really to sell the customer; it is to help

The founder of Marshall Fields must have been familiar with this concept. Otherwise he could not have come up with the slogan, "Give the Lady What She Wants." Nor could the great salespeople of the past and present – people like Elmer Wheeler and Frank Boetger and Zig Ziglar – have achieved their success in selling, had they not looked at it from the perspective of buying. It is in this spirit that Zig Ziglar came up with one of the best formulas for selling: "You can have all of the things you want if you will just help enough others get what they want."

One thing should be obvious to most salespeople. Customers don’t agree to work with salespeople in order to give them an opportunity to sell. In fact, the word "sell" has always had a negative connotation. When consumers are happy with their purchases, they say, "I bought this at…" When they are unhappy with their purchases they say, "That salesman (or sales lady at… sold me this." We have more than one pejorative saying that uses the word sell: "Never trust a salesman" and "They sold us down the river" and "That guy will sell you anything" and "He can sell ice to an Eskimo." It is not only used car salespeople who continue to contribute to the unfortunate image of salespeople. Research study after research study continues to identify common mindsets customers have about salespeople.

We are not talking about the mindsets consumers have about specific salespeople. This negative picture is the one customers have about salespeople in general. It guides the way they act when they first encounter a salesperson they’ve never worked with before. It is a picture that consumers develop through countless negative sales experiences.

That’s the bad news. But let’s move away from this bad news rising from the stereotypical image customers have about salespeople, and look at the good news. In other words, let’s look at how we can use that stereotypical image as a stepping-stone rather than a stumbling block.

Since consumers have low expectations for salespeople, it does not take much effort to rise high above that image by working to embody the three roles emphasized in Learning International’s (now a division of Achieve Global) flagship seminar, "Professional Selling Skills." Those three are partner and consultant, long-term relater, and differentiator. More about this later. Customers are always happy to work with salespeople who perform those three roles, for while they may not expect to work with professional salespeople, they always hope to find them.

If it is true – and it is true – that customers don’t agree to meet with us in order to give us an opportunity to sell, we should be ecstatic. Why so? Because we can only sell when customers buy. The "obvious" truth of this statement will be the subject of this series of FURNITURE WORLD articles on selling.


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 at pmarino@furninfo.com.