They can help or hurt the sale... know the difference!
This is another article in an ongoing series written by Ron Wolinski, Manager of Sales Education at Simmons to provide information to retail sales consultants for performance improvement.
Someone once said, "Tell me, and I hear; show me, and I watch; involve me, and I will understand."
Research has told us for years that consumers find that shopping for home furnishings is very difficult and, in fact, intimidating. The public is asking us to make the buying process easier and, in one word, fun!
Because there are so many products, brands and construction approaches, it is up to us as professionals to help educate
consumers so they can make informed investment decisions. Professional product demonstrations that involve customers play a major role in helping them understand the specific benefits of our products and make the buying process informative, enjoyable and satisfying.
Let us take a look at some do's and don'ts of product demonstrations:
One of the first things I learned some years ago was to make sure all of the products on the sales floor were in excellent condition, so when I demonstrated a product it did not fall apart and functioned with ease.
For example, make sure all of the drawers in case pieces have proper drawer guides and do not stick when you have the customer "appreciate the quality smooth operation." Please make sure all the drawers are in the proper slots when you talk about "individually fitted drawers." This is also important when you attempt to illustrate "matching veneer patterns." It can be embarrassing if the veneer patterns are running all over when you are attempting to illustrate the "quality of hand cut and hand matched veneer." Check all the doors for proper opening and closing of case pieces before you have your customer "experience the quality of double roller catches." Make sure all doors line up properly when you put case pieces on the floor, so the customer does not say, "will my armoire look like this?
When you are going to demonstrate recliners, first make sure that they are free to operate and not tied down, as so often is the case when they first come on the floor. It can be rather embarrassing when you attempt to demonstrate the "ease of quality" and you cannot open the footrest because it is still tied down. In addition, please remember to put yourself in that recliner first, demo the operation, then ask the customer to experience the "quality linkage mechanism and nylon gears" for ease of operation. Chances are, if a customer attempts to operate that recliner with no instruction, they will get frustrated and lose interest because "it's too hard to operate."
The same philosophy holds true when demonstrating sleepers. First of all, make sure you know which frames are sofas and which frames are sleepers. I have seen many sales associates look very silly when they attempted to "open" a sofa. Your customer just might lose confidence and respect for you. In addition, please make sure you take the time to practice with every product on the floor that can have a demonstration and customer involvement. Remember, many products of the same category will operate differently. Also, make sure that your sleepers are all in good operating condition so that you don't have to make any excuse for them not operating easily. As with recliners, make sure your sleepers are untied. I have also seen many sales associates almost break their arms when they attempt to open a tied sleeper mechanism.
Adjustable power beds must also be demonstrated professionally and with ease. Please have the customer lie down on the power bed without the remote control. You must have the control so you can demo the comfort, convenience and luxury of your adjustable beds. Once you have illustrated the ease of operation, then you can have your customer experience the "simple operation."
Obviously, in selling sleep systems, the demonstration and customer involvement are paramount. Remember to put customers at complete ease so they will not feel intimidated when lying down on a mattress. Make the experience enjoyable. Lie down first so they see how easy it is. Make sure that they take their time and really relax on the mattress; don't rush them. Have them remove jackets or coats so they can truly feel the comfort and support. People do not sleep with coats, do they?
In my opinion, if they ask for the firmest mattress, do not take them to a specific mattress and say, "Here it is!" Remember comfort and firmness are relative to the individual. What would you do when they say, "It's too soft"? You cannot say, "I was just kidding, can't you take a joke?" Remember to introduce your mattress selection with the phrase "We have many different levels of comfort, support and firmness; let's see which one is right for you!" I also do not believe we should show more than three mattresses because it can become too confusing. All the bedding starts to feel the same, and there is too much information to consider.
I am sure none of this article is a revelation to the veterans out there. But I feel it's my role to remind everyone of the good, professional habits that were used to make you successful originally. Sometimes, as we get older we start to take short cuts and fail to do the fundamentals that made us winners in the first place. The person who taught me this business said, "People are like apples: First they are green, then they are ripe, then, when they have all the answers, they are rotten." I hope none of us ever get to that "rotten stage."
Please keep in mind, our customers need involvement and product demonstrations to help educate them in making informed decisions. Demonstrations can help the customer or hurt us depending upon our mind-set, preparation, approach and product knowledge. All of the samples on your sales floor are your selling tools. Please make sure they are all in great condition and use them wisely.
Good luck and good selling!
Ron Wolinski is Manager of Simmons Education. Questions can be sent to Ron care of Furniture World at firstname.lastname@example.org.