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Sales Strategies That Fail - OOPS - Part 1

Furniture World Magazine


Salespeople, subject to bad moods and old habits often slip up and fall down. Avoid these four major sales mistakes.

"Do you buy into all the bad press that bombards us on the front pages? Have threats of war, oil shortages, terror, declining consumer confidence, corporate scandals and stock market woes undermined your confidence? If you buy into negative mindsets, your business fortunes will follow along. Your attitude will plummet and you will dive in a free fall. If you think that you or a colleague may be susceptible to suggestions of doom and gloom, pay close attention. You will find ways to avoid making the following major sales mistakes.

OOPS #1: Bambi In The Headlights Syndrome

You get scared. Your sales are down. People who were supposed to buy - just didn’t. They changed their minds. They went away. Where did they go? You were counting on them. Now what? Now who?

Fear has a body and a face. It has a name and that name is your name! Everything about you is screaming, “deer in the headlights!” Nobody wants to play with someone who is just about to be run over, is in the process of a free fall, or on the verge of going into an apoplectic state!

If you feel desperate, customers can read it, sense it, and feel it. It’s hard to conduct business when they can see you sweat and or twitch! They want to flee and you want to hide. OOOPS!

Don’t you BUY into what those around you and the media are promoting. Yes, the economy is down, but one thing is sure; you can’t be. If you have fewer people coming through your door, they must be serious! You must get going! Re-shape your thinking. Re-ignite the business plan for your company, “Me, Inc.” Yes, it’s time to write your own press, a process that’s called “Customer-Message Management.” To quote the editor of SELLING POWER MAGAZINE, Gerhard Gschwandtner, “Now is the time for you to refine your customer message, and expand your sales effort…. Top sales consultants create their own messages and close sales, while other salespeople miss sales opportunities…. The top performers boldly redesign their messages, refocus their USP, and sharpen their tools so that they capture the hearts and minds of their customers.”

Now it is time to face that challenge, sharpen your tools, and make those changes. Look at change as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Change will help you to grow into someone greater than you already are.

You must create your own message for clients. It is time to “write your own press,” Instead of letting them “see you sweat,” let them hear you roar!

OOPS #2: Writing Them Off Instead Of Writing Them Up

Imagine that your next UP is approaching. She won’t look at or speak to you. Perhaps you got someone who is catatonic, having a really bad day or just can’t focus. You may be lucky enough to have drawn “Mr. Get-Out-Of-My-Face,” who announces that he wants you out of his space and to go as far away as humanly possible. Your first instinct may be to flee to the “fort”! Lisa Woods, the Manager of the Norwalk store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has labeled this sales pathology as “meeting, greeting, and retreating.” Yep, that’s what you may want to do… just write them off. In fact, you may describe them in great detail on the “UP sheet” as being rude, wicked, evil, mad, a witch, on-something, not serious, browsing or just a waste of your time. You consider them another “lookey-loo!” You erase them from your brain. You are disengaged. They are dismissed… excused. OOOPS!

Don’t write anyone off. You don’t have that luxury. Remember that you’re in charge of your company. It is your business. It’s also your UP and your time. Nobody has any extra time today. Everyone, including this person who just walked in the door is “time poor.” How many of you have a couple of extra hours left over at the end of each day? If a customer makes the time to drive into your parking lot, and come through your door, then they are there for a reason. They may not be ready today, but it is your responsibility to find out when they will be ready. Then stay in touch with them. Do your follow-up so that you can capitalize on the time you are spending together.
When customers are rude, instead of referring to them as jerks, be bold. Don’t let them leave until you find out why they came into your store. Remember, this is your UP. Find out why they are taking the time to take up your time! Your sales skills, product expertise and your time are worth something, so why give up without attempting to engage your customer. Would you give your checkbook to a stranger, and let them make a withdrawal?

Don’t give your peers control of your bank balance either. Don’t let them cost you money by bringing you down. Don’t compare yourself to them. When you do that you catch a disease that Dr. Joyce Brothers calls, “Comparisonitis!” It can be contagious and deadly! OOOPS!

Don’t be like everyone else. Don’t believe the “browsers,” and don’t run from the ones who are ranting and raving. Don’t let rude customers win. Show them that you are different from all the other “clerks” they’ve met. Put a value on them and their time, and they’ll do the same for you. Let them know that you are the one they need to help them with their home.

Oops #3: Handing Them A Brochure

Another tactic you might be tempted to use to preempt potentially disagreeable customers is to come up with an “ice breaker.” Your hope is that this will give customers a good reason to invite you into their space. You can “give them a gift,” explain that you have a sale going on or offer a catalog/ brochure.

This tactic does open the door… sort of. You can now pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You didn’t bother to find out who they were, or what they wanted, but, hey, you gave them something. It might have even had your card stapled to it. Having used these tactics, you feel confident that you have done your job. They are dismissed. It’s their ticket to walk, and your excuse to run! You will probably never see them again! Are you sure your card was on there? OOOPS!

Giving them something is a good idea, but why give away your “gift” up front. Make it special. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sales brochure that’s been sent to a zillion people. What matters is that they are physically here and you can tell them all about the “special event that is now taking place in your showroom!” This sounds a little better than, “Yes, we’re having a promotion/ clearance/ sale right now.” Don’t you think?

Present your brochure in the middle or towards the end of the selling relationship. Instead of using it as a crutch, use it as a tool:

•It can help you introduce yourself, and get their name.

•You can use it to set yourself up for the re-approach. Say that you will return in a few minutes to give them one.

•It’s an easy way to find out WHO they are.

•WHY they came in.

•WHAT ROOM they’re working on.

•WHEN they want it completed.

•You can start sketching instead of scramming!

•You can start “bonding” instead of “bounding” back to the fort! If they happen to be one of the lucky zillion who already received the brochure, tell them:

•“That’s great! What did you see in there that brings you in?”

•“How did you feel about the brochure? I’d like to hear YOUR opinion.”

•If they tell you that they’re using the brochure for ideas say, “That’s terrific! “Where will you be using these ideas? What rooms?”

Take no prisoners here! Make them feel special.

Oops #4: Using Dead End Lizard Words!

You are a sales professional trained to establish rapport and to build an enduring relationship with your customers. In a perfect world, inhabited by perfect customers this is no big deal. If, however, you are like many in our industry, you may occasionally have trouble applying these important lessons. Rude customers, customers who are just looking, distracted or lacking social graces appear on your sales floor. All of a sudden, an alien being materializes wearing the same outfit you put on that morning, and he or she looks just like you! Who is this? You slide back into your old comfort zone. You start saying the same tired things you’ve been saying for years. In other words… you are transformed from an effective professional into a clerk. You find yourself saying things like, “Can I help you?” Your customers say, “No, No, & No!” Then you spit out either, “Let me know if you need anything,” or the other infamous phrase, “I’m Cathy. I’ll check back and see if you have any questions.”

These are LIZARD WORDS! These closed-ended (dead-ended) questions often start with do, is, will and are. They can suck the life and vitality out of an UP. Every time you ask closed-ended questions this way, you receive a “yes” or “no” answer. Most of the time it’s a No! Sometimes instead of a polite little no, you hear a resounding NO. Then you have a “five alarm lizard alert” and are tempted to flee back to the “you know what” as fast as your little legs will carry you! These Lizards enrage consumers because they hear them from every other clerk at every other store they’ve visited!

So what happened? Do you often get kidnapped by the lizards? You’re not a clerk. Remember that you are a sales professional. When did you revert back to speaking in “clerkeze?” B-I-G-


Instead of asking questions containing Lizard words, ask questions that are open ended. These questions can’t be answered with a simple Yes, or No response. Your goal is to get customers talking so you can get the answers you need to assist them.

Start questions with the words who, why, when, what or where. You can also begin queries with how, tell me, describe, elaborate or explain.

Ask questions they already know the answers to, such as:

•Where will you be using your new sofa?
•What room?
•Who will be using your new room?

Get customers talking about themselves. The best salespeople know that they are there to help “Louise” to buy, not for them to sell her a “green one”.

Professionals find out what customers want while clerks want to talk about what they know - regardless of whether the facts support customer needs.

When you dwell in “Clerkdom,” you start speaking in “Clerkeze.” Move out so you can start to communicate with customers and turn them into your clients.


This topic will be continued in the April/May issue of FURNITURE WORLD with a discussion of ways to avoid ethical problems that occur in selling situations. Should you share information that may “kill” a sale? Should you blindly believe everything customers tell you about their needs? Is being “nice” always the most professional attitude?


Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Her latest audio tape series on follow-up is called "The Marketing of "Me, Inc." -Taking Your Company Into the Next Millennium--10 audio tapes plus a comprehensive "how-to" manual that helps your people turn all the customers into "clients!" Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.