Over 154 Years of Service to the Furniture Industry
 Furniture World Logo

Approaching Customers For Fun And Profit - The Approach - Part 3

Furniture World Magazine


Small talk, Defusers and other insights into the first part of the sales process.

In the July issue of FURNITURE WORLD, Cathy Finney explained how to let your customers know you are there to save them time and provide solutions. She also explored the benefits of looking busy and how salespeople can look at customer rudeness and intimidation as a sales opportunity. This month, the discussion of "the approach" continues with a look at small talk and difusers.


First of all, when they come in, welcome them. Aren't you glad that they're here? Ask them, "Is this your first visit to our showroom?" Does that sound like more of a class act then, "Is this your first time in our store?" Oh yes. They're dealing with you, a pro. This is a showroom!

Talk to them about anything but the product. I call these "warm fuzzies!"

·Weather: If they came to see you through a blizzard or a monsoon, definitely thank them. You do appreciate them making the effort, don't you? Never ever say, "Nice weather we're having." If that's all you have to say about the weather - don't say anything about it!

·Compliments: Only compliment someone on their appearance, child, or, pet if you really mean it. If your Remark is not sincere, don't say anything. Not a syllable! A lot of consumers think that salespeople are not sincere, so don't prove them right! If you're phony, they know!

A top writing sales consultant told me, "I love sales! I get to meet and help all kinds of people. I treat them as if they are a guest in my home!"

Talk to them like they are a guest, not a customer to be attacked.

Have you ever had a customer say to you, "How do you get out of here?"

When you're entertaining in your home do you tell your guests, "Go up the steps, hang a right, that will put you in the kitchen. Then turn left, go down the hall, and there's the front door." Of course not. Treat this consumer as a guest. When possible walk them to the front door and thank them for stopping in today. I emphasize when possible because I know that we are working in "Kansas" not "Oz!" There are going to be times and days when it's just too hectic to do this. But please show them out whenever possible. This separates you from every other establishment that they've visited. It allows you to keep the "small talk" and "rapport building" process going.

As one of my friends from Birmingham emphasizes to all of her team members; the purpose of "small talk" is to turn "you" & "me" into "we!"


After the "chit chat," if they want to look around, that's great, but let them know you're coming back by giving them an assignment.

Select a collection of your choice and tell them when you return you would like to talk to them. You would like to know their opinion on how they feel about it.

"We just added a new upholstery collection to our display. It's the burgundy leather sectional in the corner room. I'm anxious to hear how you feel about it. Please make yourselves at home and enjoy our showroom. I look forward to stopping back and visiting with you in a few minutes."

Whenever you approach a customer always let them know you're coming back. Don't surprise them by just "showing up." Psychologically now they're prepared for your return. Always set yourself up with a reason to go back.

We've all seen what happens when you don't. This is especially true if "Fred" is with "Ethel." You didn't tell them you'd be returning. "Fred" sees you coming out of the corner of his eye. His next thoughts or words, "oh no, "Ethel" here they come. Now they are really going to try and sell us something. Let's get out of here, now!" They become what I refer to as "instant rabbits." All you see are two brunette flashes bolting for the parking lot! Sound familiar?

This all occurred simply because you didn't tell them that "you would be returning." You surprised them by "showing up!" Always set yourself up with a reason to go back. Never say, "if you need anything, let me know." Who's in control here? Not you! Plus it sounds like a waitress, "if you need any more coffee, just let me know."

The assignment accomplishes several things to help you in building rapport:

1. It makes them feel special. "Did you hear her "Fred?" She wants our opinion. Nobody else in town is doing this. They're all too busy trying to sell them a "green one!"

2. You've told them "you're coming back." They're expecting you.

3. It gives you a reason to go back, "How did you feel about the leather sectional?" You'll get answers like "I guess it's nice, but I don't like leather." To which you can reply, "Oh, really. What types of fabrics do you like?" Bingo! It gets them talking.

4. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself. "I'm sorry I didn't even introduce myself. I'm Cathy Finney, one of the sales consultants, and what is your name?"

Is it important to find out who you are talking to? Absolutely! It's extremely difficult to bond with a "stranger!" Set yourself up to win with the "assignment."


Tell them how you and your company are "unique." You greet them and they let you know in no uncertain terms that they just want to browse. Just like the assignment, set yourself with a reason to re-approach them.

Tell them to get started, but you'll stop back in a few minutes to visit with them. At that time you'll let them know how your company is different or unique from every other place they have visited.

Make a list of how your operation is totally different from the competition! This could include:

  • The many services you offer.
  • How long you've been in business.
  • The fact that you're family owned.
  • The role that you play as their personal consultant.
  • If you have more than one store.
  • What are the advantages?
  • One stop shopping - saves time!
  • I do housecalls.
  • Faster delivery time.
  • Warranty.
  • We stand behind the product.
  • I stand behind you.

This type of "de-fuser" creates a sense of curiosity or mystery. Now they're wondering how you're different from the competition!

They are not only expecting you to show back up. Now they are looking forward to it.

Don't tell them everything when you first approach them. If you do you look and sound just like a robot. It is not necessary to spill your guts and tell them everything you know at the front door.

Without using the "de-fusers" your job just became ten times harder. Here is what you sound like:

  • Did you see anything?" "No!"
  • Do you have any questions for me?" "No!"
  • Is there anything special I can show you?" "Uh-Uh!"

Please note: They are all "lizard words" (see the April issue of FURNITURE WORLD). Sound familiar??? Yes! You're done! You have absolutely nowhere to go!

The "de-fusers" get them talking every time! Select either one of these "ice breakers" and you're on your way to "meeting, greeting, and assisting" today's consumer.

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "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