At issue: low-pressure selling vs. low-level selling skills

by

Published: March 14,2005

I went to buy some furniture today. No one seemed to care.
I walked into four furniture stores. I was willing to spend a relatively substantial amount of money on some overpriced furniture, but no one seemed to care.

I needed bedroom furniture, fluffy chairs, a fluffy sofa and some end tables. And no one seemed to care. The first store I walked into was a place where I had done business for six years. There were only two salespeople there, and both were on the phone. So I began walking around — up and down each aisle — looking at price tags and sitting in chairs to determine their fluffy level.

I realized, after walking almost the entire store of about 10 aisles, that no one had approached me. Ten minutes and no salesperson said one word to me. I thought that was a bit odd, so I intentionally walked right by both salespeople. One was talking to a customer; the other was still on the phone.

Neither one made eye contact, even though I looked directly at both of them. So I decided to leave, with my money still in my pocket.

Surely at the next store they would be friendly and engaging. Surely the next store would have a gregarious salesperson. I walked in with the attitude that if they asked me to buy something that I liked, I’d buy. So I began my trek around the store looking at price tags and sitting in fluffy chairs, but no one seemed to care. The two salespeople in this store were deeply engaged in conversation — with each other.

Neither one decided to engage me. As I walked out the door, one salesperson meekly came over to me and said, “Do you have any questions?” I said, “Yes, why did the Eagles lose the Super Bowl this year?” I think the question took him by surprise. He said he didn’t know, so I left.

Third store, same deal. Two salespeople — no engagement. I left.

At the fourth store I was actually greeted within three minutes of my arrival. The salesperson came over and said, “Do you have any questions?” This time I just said, “No.” He said, “Are you just looking around?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He said, “Fine.” I said, “Fine,” and I walked around for five minutes then asked him a question. I wanted to know how much a fluffy chair cost. He immediately said we could make a deal on that. I told him I wasn’t ready to deal yet; I just wanted a price.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly salespeople are willing to lower their price before they’ve even asked a question like, “Do you really like this piece?” or “Where will this piece be going?” Or a statement like, “Why don’t you sit down in the chair for a second so I can see how nice you look.”

But no, he was immediately willing to make “a deal” with me. I ended up leaving — with my money still secure in my wallet and my faith in salespeople somewhat diminished.

Here’s why you need to engage me — the probable purchaser:

• If I walk into a retail store, it’s usually intentional. I am there “for something.” As a salesperson, your biggest job would be to find out what that is and how you might be able to create an atmosphere where I would come to buy it.

• You might want to start out with a welcome, a handshake and a name exchange. Maybe a brief statement like, “When it comes to knowing furniture, I’m one of the best people in the business. Don’t you dare buy anything here or anywhere else without getting an expert’s opinion.” Or, you could say something milder like, “I’m here to help you select the best piece of furniture for your home. Something you will love and something you can afford. What’s the one piece you came here for?”

• Then you might want to take me to the best piece of furniture in the place and ask a question like, “Is this what you had in mind?” That question will lead you to other answers. And then you might proactively bring over a couple of catalogs with various types or motifs of furniture and ask what appeals to me. That’s engagement.

• Then you might want to ask, “When would you like this delivered?” Ask for the sale. That’s why you’re there.

What I felt today was disengagement, displacement and disenchantment. In short, I felt “dissed.”

Retail sellers have high overhead costs that never go away. There’s more than the cost of product. There’s cost of store, cost of advertising and cost of labor. You would think that the owners and managers of the store would invest a few more dollars in making certain that their salespeople were trained in a way that would bring in sales to offset these costs. But based on my experience, you would be thinking wrong. No one seemed to care.

There’s more to the store than the salesperson. How should the store look to set more of a mood to buy? To find out, go to www.gitomer.com — register if you’re a first time visitor — and enter BUYING MOOD in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail
salesman@gitomer.com.

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