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The Merits of “Show & Tell”

Furniture World Magazine


Not only do we communicate through words, we reveal our “hidden thoughts” through inadvertent expression such as vocal medley, inflection of voice, body posture and facial expression.

When excitement or anger manifests itself, the flushing of the face frequently occurs. Often when a product pleases the psyche, the pupils of the eye widen without conscious effort.
All of these communicate expressions of pride or pleasure, doubt or fear and factor into the selling situation. Astute sales personnel or students of nature do not fail to capitalize on these expressions as meaningful forms of communication.

Some suggest that less than 10% of communication occurs through the words we use. In many instances words may be a small percentage of inner-personal communication but have a major impact on understanding. For that reason we must weigh our words carefully – it is especially true when we are involved in the process of persuasion.

Current educational process puts great significance on reading, writing and speaking. Yet seldom are we trained to listen, although almost 50% of interactive communications involves listening on our part.

Furniture Industry Language

For retail sales associates, active listening necessarily coexists, hand-in-glove with the equally important task of showing and telling about our products. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 500,000 words. The average person uses less than 200,000 with a degree of regularity. Many words and expressions are specific to certain industries and not well understood by the public.

Physicians use terminologies that are meaningful to the medical community but seldom understood outside their profession. Examples are the term “conjunctivitis” more commonly called “pink eye” or “traumatic malocclusion” meaning a “slight overbite”.

Likewise, professional marketers in the furniture industry use words that may not be understood by the average consumer who is in search of quality.

It’s important to be knowledgeable, but how we share our knowledge to insure that the consumer understands the value of an item is tantamount to successfully closing the sale.

How We Are Persuaded

It has been suggested that people are not persuaded by what we say but rather what they understand.

Properly addressed, few if any potential purchasers are offended when you take the time to define characteristics and features that we take for granted.

Show & Tell

The simplistic “Show and Tell” concept we are introduced to in kindergarten still has merit in the professional world. The marriage of both verbalization and visualization strengthens understanding and retention.

You will be 8 times more effective in the selling situation when you use visuals to illustrate your “talking point”. For example:
  • We may be schooled in the benefits of catalyzed varnish, but few consumers understand the merit of chemical cross-linking and how it insures the long lasting beauty and protection of a tabletop.
  • We may understand that 1½” solid tabletops minimize the potential for warping or splitting but few consumers are aware of that fact until or unless they are advised.
  • We may understand the merit of mortise and tenon construction for chairs but few customers understand the manner in which it adds strength to the product.
  • We may understand strength of dovetailed drawer construction but few consumers know why it keeps the drawers rigid and square with extensive use.
  • We may understand the benefits of full extension, concealed, undermount, soft close drawers but few consumers experience their benefit until put into use.
So, if you are in doubt about how to present a feature in a way that will be useful to your customer, ask permission, and then Show and Tell.

Robert Caldini, in his book “The Influence of Persuasion” states that being an “authority” on products or services is meaningful in the act of persuasion. When you speak industry “lingo” with authority, you command authority.

Sales personnel who fail to explain industry terminology and the unique features that benefit the potential buyer, frequently fall back on price and discounts to close the sale.

Chiseled in stone over a respected Midwestern law school are the words from Alexander Pope’s poem An Essay of Criticism: “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring”. That quote is applicable to both the buyer and the seller.

Educating your customers about industry phraseologies in a meaningful manner as a “servant salesperson” leads to being a successful person.

Simplify & clarify. Speak in terms the customer understands. It’s an excellent means of separating you, your products and your organization from the competition.

There is a noteworthy statement that is applicable about the rewards of sharing knowledge. “If you think education is costly, try ignorance”. It’s as applicable in the showroom as it is in the classroom.

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.