Sometimes you have to say “no” for the customer to say “yes.”
There’s an existing paradigm that salespeople are pushy and high pressure. Of course, some are so it’s important to create a paradigm shift as early in the selling process as you can. You must demonstrate to the customer that you’re interested in what’s right for her, not just in making a sale. This starts with your own definition of your job. This must be a definition that you can feel good about. In my book, Furniture Store Selling Made Easy, I define selling as, “Giving the customer sufficient information to make an intelligent buying decision; whether it be yes or no.”
Customers will most likely look at several pieces of furniture before finding the right one, and if you try to sell the wrong one along the way, you defy this definition and the customer looks for the door. To feel good about your role as a salesperson think about yourself as a “giving person” not a “taking one.”
In other words, “no” to the wrong piece must be okay with you for “yes” to the right piece to be okay with your customer.
It’s not uncommon to find pro-active, high-pressure salespeople. The industry where they are most likely found is used car sales. The customer says, “I don’t really like that color” and the salesperson responds, “That’s a very popular color.” He may as well have said, “Buy it anyway, I need the sale.” That’s what the customer hears.
It’s also common to find inactive and reactive, no-pressure salespeople. They usually reside in retail stores, standing behind counters or sitting at computer desks. They’re aware that people don’t like pressure, and to be sure they don’t apply any, they wait for the customer to become pro-active. At that point they feel safe and become reactive.
Walk into many furniture stores and you’re likely to either be attacked or ignored. Both are wrong. Being pro-active is essential, but to do so without your customer feeling pressure is an art form, and one not usually practiced by far too many salespeople.
Most customers fear salespeople and too many salespeople fear rejection. This combination adds up to many missed opportunities for both. Proactive salespeople make the most sales; they also get the most rejections. Babe Ruth was known for his prolific power, but he was also the king of strikeouts. Why? It’s because he was always swinging the bat.
Salespeople must be in control of the conversation and must know when to back off.
What you want to say next is not as important as how your customer reacted to what you said last. To recognize the customer’s reaction you must be quiet, observe the reaction and then mirror that action.
Mirroring your customer puts you both on the same page—their page. If your customer acts like she doesn’t want to talk to you, act like you were not going to say anything else, and she relaxes. If she acts like she wants to hear more, continue. It’s a matter of being sensitive.
Imagine a customer enters your showroom. You greet the customer in a friendly manner and she says, “I’m not quite ready to talk to you yet. If you will back off and let me look around some I will tell you when I’m ready for you.”
Would you honor that request? You probably would. At least I hope you would.
If on the other hand, after your greeting the customer says, “I’m so glad to have your attention, I have a lot of questions about furnishing my new home. Please stick with me.”
Again, you would most likely honor that request. In both instances you would be on the same page as your customer. But let’s be real here: few customers are that up front about how they feel. They will however communicate how they feel with their body language. The ability and willingness to read customer body language is one of the skills that separate the great salespeople from the order takers.
Anytime you say anything, pause for a reaction before saying anything else. If your customer looks away or even ignores you, anything you say at this point is like sandpaper on her eyeballs. She probably now thinks, “Didn’t he get the message? He only wants my money.”
You must be in it for your customers, and when you are it’s obvious. After all, isn’t it easier to sell what your customer wants to buy than it is to sell what you want to sell?
When a sale is made there are several benefactors. You benefit, your store benefits, your state benefits, our country benefits and the biggest benefactor of all is the customer. Why? Because long after the money is gone for you, the store, the state and the country, the customer still has the furniture. It may even outlive the customer and be passed on to another generation. When you sell with that in mind you sell more and everyone benefits more.