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The Golden Rules Of Presenting

Furniture World Magazine


Presenting goes by various names such as supporting, demonstrating and my own expression, benefeaturing.

Presenting goes by various names such as supporting, demonstrating, and my own expression, benefeaturing. Each of these words has its own connotive advantages. Supporting conveys the idea of helping to hold up the customer's needs with the strength of relevant features and benefits. Demonstrating carries the image of involving the customer's senses to get an overall better feel for those relevant features and benefits. Benefeaturing puts emphasis on just how features can satisfy a customer's needs. Presenting, in as much as the word derives from the Latin verb praesum, draws attention to the necessity of doing the supporting, the demonstrating, and the benefeaturing in the presence of the customer, face to face.

Selling is supporting a customer's needs. A presentation without a demonstration is merely a conversation. Customers don't buy features, they buy benefits, that is, they buy what those features can do for them.

In this article I'd like to discuss the twelve rules of presenting, rules mainly borrowed from the Lacy Techniques named after the legendary sales author, Jack Lacy. I've added a few of my own.

RULE 1: Never Explain What You Can More Easily Demonstrate.

This rule is based on a scientific maxim which is echoed in the folksy saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Too many salespeople prefer "the thousand words," thereby confirming the customer's mindset about salespeople as logorrheic, or running at the mouth. This is especially sad in the case of furniture salespeople whose product features are easily demonstrable. 8-way hand tied coils, exquisite configurations highlighted by meticulously applied finishes, chair rails finger-jointed to corner blocks, and on and on. How foolish of salespeople to talk about features without demonstrating them.

RULE 2: Fit Your Demonstration To The Customer's Needs And Not Vice versa.

Your demonstration must be planned, not canned. First find out the customer's specific needs and then fit your demonstration to those needs. No sense in demonstrating each and every product feature regardless of relevancy. Keep the Roman Cicero's words in mind, Cui bono? For whose benefit? Customers don't care about irrelevant features and benefits.

Authors Chuck Langlin and Karen Sage state this well in their book, "Samurai Selling": "If a product has 150 features and 300 benefits, there are those who teach you that you must share each and every one of them with your prospect. Try it, and you'll either beat your prospect to death, or he or she will beat a hasty retreat."

RULE 3: Listen For Feedback.

How do you test the effectiveness of your presentation. Listen for feedback in the way of agreement or disagreement. Nor should you listen for verbal feedback alone. The feedback you receive through the customer's body language is often more important than their verbal feedback. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears, and with your mind too. This kind of listening is qualifying.

RULE 4: Involve The Customer.

Until you involve your customer you're probably not winning their interest. Good salespeople find ways to involve them. For example, they don't simply measure an item for their customers; they ask them to hold one end of the measuring tape. They don't simply open a table to insert a leaf; they invite the customer to open it with them so that they can "feel" how easy it is to do.

If you tell them, they forget. If you teach them, they remember. If you involve them, they buy.

RULE 5: Tailor Your Language To The Customer's Level.

Tailor your language to each customer, making sure that it neither rises above nor falls short of their comfort level. In other words, be neither pretentious nor condescending.

RULE 6: Control The Demonstra-tion; Don't Dominate It.

To dominate is to lord over like a master over a slave. To control is to take charge the way Native Americans learned to ride their horses without ever breaking their spirit. The result was that rider and horse appeared as one unit working together, synergistically.

RULE 7: Make Your Demonstrations Memorable.

The authors of "Samurai Selling" write,"A demo is a selling event, not a telling event." To make it so, the authors say, "Bewitch 'em; don't bore 'em."

RULE 8: Keep Your demonstration Simple, Even When Your Product Is Complex.

Avoid abstract words as much as you can. Use concrete words, the kind that cater to the customer's imagination. Avoid the vague use of numbers when a concrete example would be much easier to understand and remember. Don't tell customers the average thickness of your leather is 3/64 of and inch when you can more effectively tell them it is as thick as a penny. Don't just tell the customers that the coils on your mattresses have been tempered. Instead, have them reflect on how easily a steel clothes hanger breaks after very little repeated bending because it has not been tempered. Don't tell them leather is cool in summer. Tell them that on the Southwest's hottest days, drivers wrap their car's steering wheels with leather stripping or they'd be unable to take hold of them without burning their hands. Do the same when you want to illustrated the benefits of fabrics, wood finishes, and construction features.

RULE 9: Do Not Demonstrate What The Product Is (Feature), But What The Product Can Do For The Customer (Benefit).

The word I coined-Benefeaturing-refers to this rule. The authors of "Samurai Selling" have an excellent analogy to help put Rule 9 into perspective. Imagine, the authors write, that your customer is pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with problems. Along you come as a salesperson and dump your features on that wheelbarrow, thus making an already heavy load heavier. The customer was looking for someone to make the wheelbarrow lighter not heavier. The customer was looking for solutions in the way of relevant benefits. Benefits that are not relevant are no better than relevant features not presented as benefits. Ask not what the customer can do for your features, but what your features can do for your customer.

RULE 10: Appeal To Their Senses.

An ancient philosophical dictum stated that nothing reaches our intellect unless it first passes through our senses. A corollary to this in selling is that customers purchase with their emotions first and then with their intellect. The emotions are the mainsprings of conduct. That mainspring is wound up by the senses: sight, touch, hearing, etc.

In your demonstrations see to it that your customers feel the comfort of your sleepsets by lying on them. Let them sniff the tanned fragrance of your leathers, peer into the multi-stepped finishes of your case goods, listen to the enchanting chimes of your clocks, feel the hand of your fabrics. It is not far fetched to make your customers thrill to the fine features of your furniture, to leave them feeling ecstatic. The failure to do so is less often the failure of your furniture than it is your failure to know and appreciate what you have to offer. Think of it. Time was when only royalty or the very affluent could afford veneering. Now many salespeople present it apologetically.

Unless your presentation involves your customers' senses, they won't consistently buy into what your are presenting. You must create a sense of urgency in your customers. To use the words of one author, you should make them feel "as if a fire were raging in their hair." Elmer Wheeler, that great salesman of the forties, was fond of saying that, regarding customers, you can't make 'em drink unless you first make 'em thirsty. Bewitch 'em don't bore 'em.

RULE 11: Know When To Stop.

In rule 1 we mentioned that some salespeople run at the mouth. Most customers don't have time to waste. Charles B. Roth, in his "Secrets of Closing Sales," illustrated this point well with his story of Mark Twain and the preacher who asked his congregation for money to aid the China missions. So moved was Mark Twain as he sat in the back row that he decided to give $25.00, a hefty donation in those days. But the preacher didn't know when to stop. Fifteen minutes later Mark Twain decided to give $10.00. Ten minutes later he cut it to $5.00. Still the preacher continued. Completely bored by now, Mark Twain resolved to give only $1.00. By the time the preacher had finished his preaching and the collection plate passed, Mark Twain took one dollar out!

RULE 12: Presenting Is Not An End In Itself. Its Purpose Is To Help You Win Commitment.

Keep this rule in mind every time you present your product. The purpose of presenting is to bring the sale to as favorable a closing climate as possible. Nor should you believe that any presentation-no matter how brilliant-automatically wins the customer's commitment. True, there are times that owing to an excellent presentation the customer seems to close himself. Don't bank on that. Many customers need to be coaxed into the sale because of their timidity which makes it virtually impossible to say on their own, "I'll take it." Others have such serious doubts about the benefits you promise that they are too cautious to close themselves. Selling is like courting. You've got to ask.

Put these twelve rules into practice every time you do your presenting. They're the Golden Rules of Presenting.

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