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Become A Power Talker - Part 3

Furniture World Magazine


More "Lizard" words you shouldn't say!

In the February and March issues of FURNITURE WORLD we talked about the "'power tools" that you need for communicating with today's consumer. Now we will venture into the problems salespeople often create for themselves when they use closed-ended questions!

So please come with me now as we explore the world of the "Lizard words!"

You may be thinking, "What is she talking about? What are Lizard words?"

Have you ever said something to a customer, and as soon as the words came out of your mouth you would have done anything in the whole wide world to stuff them back in?

When this momentous occasion occurs, I always say that those words spilling forth from our lips are like lizards. They just keep popping out! If this particular event is particularly "brutal," the lizards are all around your feet ... dancing with glee!

Every time you use a "lizard word" in the presence of a customer, you will know because you will get a negative response.

We really do an amazing job at setting ourselves up for this one. It's as if we're begging them to tell us to "get lost!" Then we believe them and run for cover!


In the box below are listed some of those nasty "Lizard" words and the most likely responses your customers will either say or think when they pop out.

Do we have all the lizards? Can you think of any more that we need to round up? I asked that questions in one of my sessions. One gentleman said, "that's enough!"

Are you re-working your greeting (OK ... So I used a lizard word, but I need a yes or a no here)?

Take heed. There are going to be occasions when you need to ask "lizards" or "close-ended" questions. This will normally be at the end of the selling process when you must get a commitment from the consumer. However, in the beginning you must build rapport and let her do the talking. Don't wake up the lizards too early!

Now that I have you afraid to open your mouth, let's talk about the questions you should be asking to get your customer talking to you. These are questions she cannot answer with a simple "yes" or a "no."


You get more information and establish dialogue more quickly and professionally when you concentrate on asking open-ended questions. You can't answer an open-ended question with a "yes" or a "no." Well, you can, but it sounds extremely weird. For example: "how may I assist you?"

The words: what, which, who, where, why, when, how and "tell me" are all excellent for starting an open-ended question. These include the famous "w's" + "how," you've heard many times before.

The phrase you may not be familiar with is "tell me," which in retail this is equivalent of Joan Rivers saying, "can we talk?" It gets them talking every time. They've been described as the two most important words in sales. People love to talk about themselves (see "Talk-To-Me" in box above.)

We're not in the habit of using open-ended questions. We keep strangling on the lizards. Practice them. Think before you speak so that the "lizards" don't spill forth!

Listen to each other on the sales floor for the "dreaded" words. Every time you hear a "lizard"- announce it. "Lizard Alert!" "Lizard Alert!" Have fun with this. Practice and then practice some more!

Dennis Waitley says, "practice makes permanent." Don Shula puts it another way, "you play at the level of your practice!"

When you use open-ended questions you'll be able to get the information you need to help your customer make the best possible buying decision. She'll start talking and you'll be listening!

Sounds like a win-win to me - and best of all - the lizards are back at the zoo - for now!

Chart Below: What Customers Think Or Say When Lizard Words Slip Out

May I help you?  "NO, GO AWAY!"
Is there anything special I can show you?   "UH - UH!"
Do you have a favorite color? "NOPE!"
Can I point you in a particular direction? "NO- GET LOST!"
Did you see anything you can't live without? "NO-O-O!"
Will you be taking this with you? "NO, I HATE IT!"
Has this been a fun experience? "NO!"
Are you browsing for anything special? "NO, I'LL COME FIND YOU IF I NEED YOU."
Was there anything special I could show you? "NO. NO. NO."
Have you seen anything that you have to own? "UH, UH."
 Could I write this up?  "NO, NOT NOW!"
Were you shopping for ideas? "NO, I REALLY JUST WANT TO BROWSE!"
Should we get your order started? "NO, THANK YOU."
Would you like me to write this up? "NO, I'M LEAVING."

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "T'NT". She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer and management consultant. She has just produced an audio management tape series called "pass the power please." 10 audio tapes plus an instructors manual that has been receiving rave reviews. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.