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The Merits of Questions & Answers

Furniture World Magazine


Personalities factor into the furniture purchasing process. So do customers’ needs, income, age and the state of the economy. Yet, it is a rare occurrence when retail salespeople are able to gather enough of this valuable information so that they can determine how all of these variables factor into a potential buying decision.

Retail salespeople are often taught to make declarative statements about features and benefits. Declarative statements, however, offer little insight into the needs and wants of potential buyers unless we first ask questions.


Just as it is imperative that we become skilled communicators in the selling situation, it is also a fact that we learn little while we’re talking. Listening is an important and critical communication skill. The Greek Sage Diogenes advised: “We have 2 ears and 1 mouth – would that we listen more and talk less”. It’s amazing how we often talk twice as much as we listen.

Late night talk show hosts are masters at preparing to ask the next question while the previous question is being answered by their guests. It is an art form that we could benefit from if we would master it during the time we are exercising our persuasive power in the selling situation.


Recent research suggests that retail furniture salespeople only regularly ask questions 38% of the time, and only ask for the order 28% of the time.

When, instead of waiting for an opportunity to present our memorized declarative statements, salespeople involve the customer by asking questions, they achieve the following five critical steps in managing the thought process toward a successful conclusion.

  • They encourage our customers to focus on the decision at hand.
  • They help them crystallize their thought process.
  • They manage our tendency to talk too much.
  • They avoid differences of opinion.
  • They elevate the person with whom they converse. 


Rationalization is one of the 3 major reasons salespeople fail to close the sale. They may blame the economy, the competition, price or the customer.

If other than “blame-placing”, they ask questions, offer choices, and make a comparative analysis, they may find that their closing rate for 2012 and 2013 will dramatically increase.
The Socratic philosophy of encouraging people to arrive at logical conclusions by asking questions and offering choices was espoused 3,000 years ago.

Plan to upgrade your selling skills. The more questions you ask, the more answers you are provided.

As long as you are in conversation, you are in contention. The more answers you receive, the closer you move toward closing the sale.


Research has shown that the major reason salespeople fail to close the sale is that they give up too easily.

Persistence pays dividends. Every “no” brings you closer to a “yes.”

That’s important because when we analyze frequency of word usage, the word “no” ranks 87th. The word “yes” ranks in frequency at 366th.

In conversation with family, friends and customers there is a tendency to use the word “no” 4 times more frequently than we use the word “yes.”

Yet customers have a need or a want that begs for satisfaction, or they would not be engaging you in conversation.

Plan your questions. Sales personnel that talk less may actually sell more. Expand your ability to gather information to close that sale by keying off of customer’s answers as you make additional inquiries.

Notable leaders are persuaded that the second major reason that most businesses fail is failure to plan. Planning your presentation by carefully conceiving your questions may dramatically increase your closing ratio as the economy rebounds and responds to the pent up demand for the products you represent during the next 12 months.

To quote a famous principle: “Ask and ye shall receive.”

Ray Morefield has been affiliated with leading corporations in the housewares, hardware and coatings industries. He has also served other industries in an advisory capacity through Common Goals, Inc. Questions or comments can be sent to him by emailing editor@furninfo.com.