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Recursive Nature Of Furniture Sales

Furniture World Magazine
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Sometimes, even the best salespeople need to retreat to an earlier stage in the sales process in order to advance.

Sales Skills by Peter Marino

´╗┐Writing is a process that has three stages: Planning, drafting, and Revising. It is the third stage of the writing process – revising – that makes it recursive. A recursive process is one that repeats itself, potentially indefinitely.
What is true about writing is also true of selling. The most effective selling often results from the salesperson’s retreating to an earlier stage in the selling process.The selling process has five stages:

  • The greeting (in retail selling) and the reply to the customer’s greeting (welcome) in outside selling.
  • The opening.
  • The uncovering of a customer’s needs through probing, both verbal and nonverbal.
  • The supporting of a customer’s needs with personalized features and benefits.
  • The winning of the customer’s buy-in. Woven throughout these five steps are customer objections, whether they come up as concerns or as roadblocks.

Although some furniture salespeople insist on going sequentially through the five steps mechanically, the most effective salespeople know when to retreat to an earlier stage in the process.

In his book, No Bull Selling: Hank Trisler warns against looking at the selling process as if it is etched in stone. Therefore, he advises salespeople not to memorize their lines, since customers have an irritating way of forgetting their own lines. Salespeople should not use a script when selling, something yesteryears’ salespeople refered to as “putting on a dog and pony show.”

For example, let’s say a salesperson arrives at the stage of selling in which she asks for the customer’s commitment. The customer fails to cooperate, and suddenly the salesperson realizes that she has failed to come up with a clear and mutual understanding of the customer’s needs. The salesperson then goes back to probing for customer needs.

How often should the salesperson go back to a prior stage in the selling process? As often as the situation warrants. In her book, The Writer’s Life, Annie Dillard, drawing upon the analogy of building a house, states that the writer, if necessary, must knock down the very framework of that house, namely, the writer’s thesis. Likewise, home furnishings salespeople should do their best to get every step in the sales process right the first time, but should not hesitate to re-evaluate their understanding of a customer’s needs.

Salespeople who are not skilled in applying this rule of recurrence often fail to make the sale. Evidently, the Latin dictum, Non progredi est regredi (Not to go forward is to go backward) is not always valid. In selling, not to go forward can cause the salesperson to go backward.


Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at pmarino@furninfo.com.

Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Scores of his articles are posted to the "Sales Skill Index" on furninfo.com. He is available for in-store training, and speaking.

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