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Third-Level Salespeople

Furniture World Magazine


A first-level retail RSA is focused on product. A second-level RSA is more concerned about usage. But there’s a third- level salesperson that outperforms both by wide margins. Turn The Heat Up On Sales To Level Three!!

Part 15 — by Scott Morris


The development of a salesperson’s “craft” is a process that can take a lifetime! After 50 years in the home furnishings industry, I would like to share with you some observations about how salespeople can expand their understanding, better serve customers and increase their earning potential.


First Level

In the beginning, the primary focus for most stores is to get salespeople up to speed about all they need to know regarding every item for sale, as well as learn good-better-best comparisons. Important store offerings, such as protection plans, delivery, credit options and proper add-on merchandise, must be taught well. Every salesperson must certainly be thoroughly trained about what the store offers and how to “connect” customers with just the right items and services that fit their unique needs.


Second Level

The second phase of a salesperson’s development almost always focuses on learning the selling process. This includes asking better questions initially to guide the sale more skillfully. A good first-year salesperson, for instance, after warmly greeting the customer, might ask, “So which room are you looking to improve—your living room, dining room, or bedroom?” “Oh, you’re looking for a sectional for the living room? Great! Are you interested in reclining or non-reclining? Do you prefer leather or cloth? Wonderful, reclining in leather! Let me get you started; they’re right over here. Do you have any particular color or colors in mind?”

The newly trained salesperson will then show the store’s full assortment without asking further questions about the customer’s other important needs. A more highly trained, veteran salesperson would ask several more qualifying questions about the customer’s complete usage requirements, such as: “Do you have any pets? What kind? How did they treat your current furniture? Will anyone who is elderly or has special health considerations need to be accommodated? Will children be using it? If so, what are their ages? Will it be getting a lot of heavy use? Will anyone, at times, be eating while on the furniture? How long do you need it to last? Do you often move your furniture around in the room? What other furniture pieces will be staying in the room? What are their colors or finishes? How many people need to recline at one time? What specific places on your current sofa show the most wear?”

Within just one minute or two, the “second-level” type of salesperson who asks these questions will immediately be established as an “expert” and indispensable helper whose opinions customers will rely on for every home furnishing purchase! That’s because this salesperson conveyed a genuine interest, along with providing great help!



Third Level

However, there is a “third-level” type of salesperson who will outperform the first two types by being even more helpful! Before continuing, let’s take a moment to reflect on the first two types. The first-level person was only focused on the product. The second-level person was much more concerned about the customer’s “usage” needs, and those of their friends and family. In other words, the first person was primarily focused on the “it,” meaning the merchandise itself. The second person was much more concerned about “them,” meaning the exact needs and requirements of everyone using it!

Yet, to be of the utmost help to every customer, a third-level salesperson needs to focus on something else of great importance. The customer’s new furniture has to be a perfect fit and choice for the environment in which it will be placed! This means that a third-level salesperson will focus on the “where” in addition to the “it,” and “them;” meaning that they will consider the customer’s unique room requirements as well.

“The ‘second-level’ type of salesperson who asks these questions will immediately be established as a true expert and indispensable helper.”


Here are just a few examples to illustrate what I mean.

Choosing the Right Pieces: Customers often come in looking for a sectional but would be better off choosing a sofa and a loveseat instead. Here’s why. A sectional will usually only fit properly into a room just one way, so for customers who like to rearrange their rooms, purchasing a sofa and loveseat combination makes that possible. Also, the long part of a sectional can block easy access to some rooms, making it look awkward and inconvenient for people who need to navigate around it!

Making It Come Together: A third-level type of salesperson knows how to aid customers in determining proper furniture placement within the room, appropriately coordinate the desired colors, and help select all the perfect accessories and accent pieces that’ll make the room come together, making it POP!

Total Expression: Furniture is just part of the expression of a room design, which should coordinate perfectly with flooring or rugs, wall colors and textures, primary and accent lighting, and accessories customers currently own or plan to purchase. The exact type and number of furniture items they should choose will depend on all these things, plus the traffic flow needs of that particular room, the room’s focal point or focal points, activities within the room, and needs for guests and special occasions.

If you are truly this third-level type of salesperson, your customers will never consider buying from anyone else! Once you’ve reached this pinnacle in your career, most of your business will come from previously satisfied customers who are grateful to benefit from your insights and extremely valuable help!

What does it take to become this type of salesperson? Only a mindset focusing on the “room,” plus a little more training. Learning about store offerings during the orientation training is by far the hardest part. The second task is to learn all the “right” questions to ask about every customer’s “usage” needs (salespeople should not be embarrassed to carry around a list of these questions, at least initially). The final step, which can be learned in an hour or so using the right training material, is to learn all about a customer’s unique room requirements.


“Many times, customers come in looking for a sectional but would be better off choosing a sofa and a loveseat instead.”


A Higher Level

So, you say you want to be even better than that? If you are an aspiring future company president and plan to be a real industry mover and shaker, here’s what I advise you to do to take your sales game to an even higher level! Focus also on helping customers improve the overall utility of their purchase. How?

Visit several hardware and home building supply stores to see what items might help customers prolong the life of their furniture purchases and use them more easily. You may even want to take and store pictures of these items on your smartphone.

Familiarize yourself with felt pads that protect floors, touch-up markers and crayons, wood filler, no-skid drawer liners, and furniture floor sliders to help move furniture around. Depending on the type, quality and price point of the furniture you sell, you might also want to take some sample pictures of hardware for bedroom drawers that could be used later should customers want to easily change up the look of, for example, a young child’s dresser as they mature. Be able to advise them about replacement cushion and pillow cores and polyester fiber fill. And don’t forget suggestions for protecting wood surfaces, such as table pads, coasters and placemats (as needed for some finishes), as well as decorative cloth runners for dining tables and dresser tops.


Last But Not Least!

And hey industry mover and shaker! Don’t forget to improve your game every day by actively seeking out new information. HAPPY SELLING!

About Scott Morris

Scott Morris worked for the four largest furniture retail chains in America as a store manager and sales trainer. He is the owner of HSM Publishing. His mission is to stop the high sales associate turnover rate within the furniture industry. He has written and published six books on various topics, in addition to the “Sales Questions” laminate, and designed and produced the advanced level sales training course titled “The Best Furniture Sales Training Ever!!!” He also produced 12 insightful customer “handouts” designed to bring back the “75 percent who leave without buying.” Questions about this article or any aspect of sales education can be directed to him at hsm7777@att.net or visit TheBestFurnitureSalesEver.com.