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Make More House Calls

Furniture World Magazine


The road to success leads to your customer's front door

In this article, we are going to fine-tune the skill of making house calls. We will then nurse and rehearse this skill so that you will be able to literally take your new show on the road to "Ethel's!" You'll no longer waste your time, spin your wheels or get your brain picked! No salesperson likes being "used and abused" only to have their customers buy elsewhere or not buy anything at all. We'll talk about the formulas for making this work. Going into homes can be fun and profitable. You can create an environment where you and your client both win! It's the fastest, easiest way to build your company, "Me, Inc." and service your customer so that you stand out, and stand apart from the competition. You are not the store down the street. You are not a "dot com!" You are high-touch, not high tech! You are the professional your customer needs to help her coordinate her room and her home.

When you are invited into her residence, she becomes more than just a customer. She becomes your client! That's how you can build your base and your business.

The national average closing percentage for a first-time customer walking into a retail home furnishings store is approximately 25% (17%-18% may be much more realistic!). The closing percentages for housecalls are between 93%-98%. If a customer trusts you enough to let you in her home, she has bought you already!

Once you get in there, you can see exactly what you have to work with. You'll also have a chance to see what she was really describing when she announced that her carpet was "Desert Mist." Now you can determine what she needs to complete her room. Remember my motto, "When she says sofa, I see living room!" I want that to become your new mantra!


Let's discuss when you should offer this service. It should be at the end of the selling process. Do not offer to make a house call until after you have found out the following information:

  • That they are not going to buy today. If they are going to buy today sell it to them today.
  • You have eliminated the two main stall techniques by getting answers to the crucial qualifying questions. First you must find out their time schedule for completing the new room and discover how long they've been shopping.

There is nothing worse than making a housecall and finding out that your customers have just started to look and that they plan to "get back to you." Another discouraging situation occurs when customers thank you for visiting their home but explain that they are not ready to make a decision. Do not ever think about offering to go to a home until you have the answers to those two questions!

  • You have been calling her "Harriet" for the last forty minutes. You two have bonded. You are buds. She likes you. She trusts you. She wants your help. She realizes that she does need your expertise and assistance.
  • You know what is involved with the project. You can now evaluate if this would demand a trip to her home.

Steps 1-4 are the reasons why waiting is imperative. When you offer house call services too early, you transmit several negative messages to your customers.

  • If you offer to make a house call too early, it appears as if this service is not anything special. It appears as if you offer this service to anyone and everyone. That's what I did when I first started. When you make your offer too early, you end up repeating your desire to make the house call too often. This makes your time seem valueless. You sound like you don't have anything else to do! You are saying that, "I'm free. I'm available. I'm yours! Just let me know when and I'm there!"
  • They haven't bought you, yet!
  • They may not be ready to have you come out.
  • They'll end up picking your brain.
  • They'll steal your ideas!

All of the above can occur when you don't take the time you need to get answers and build rapport.

YOU KNOW WHEN, so LET'S TALK ABOUT HOW You must tell them how you work. The best way to make an offer to assist them in their home is to say something like, "Let me tell you about a service that I offer to my clients who purchase here at Sofas-R-Us."

Let's analyze this statement:

  • You told them that house calls are a service you offer, but you did not say it was a complimentary service. You didn't say the service was free, because it isn't! Your time is your money.
  • You told them that "I" offer this service to my clients. You did not say "we." Remember that "we" are not doing this room by committee! You are not selling "We, Inc.," you are selling "Me Inc." They are buying you. You are the professional who is going to assist them with their needs!
  • You said that you offer this service to your "clients." You are, in essence telling your client that if she is good enough, you will let her be one of your clients. You are telling her that this is her lucky day. The other message transmitted is that you only work with your clients that you are a true professional.
  • You are letting them know right up front that yes, you do expect them to purchase. Please practice this. Do not be afraid. You do expect them to buy, don't you?

It is also a good idea to tell your clients something like; "I can't really give you my best design expertise until I can see the physical space that we are dealing with." It is true. You can't! She could describe her room until the next millennium, and you are still not going to know what it really looks like!


If they ask you, which they may, "Does this mean I have to buy?"
Look them dead in the eye and say, "Yes. I am going to be helping you coordinate your room based on what you tell me you want to create. Why wouldn't you want to own it?"
Some people may not want you to come out to their homes. Some of the reasons for this mindset include:

  • They haven't bought you. There's been no bonding or trust established.
  • There's no urgency to buy. They're not in any hurry. Please find this out up front, or you will end up spinning your wheels!
  • They think they have to purchase the entire room at one time. Dollar signs $$$$ are all they can see! Let them know, "My job is to help you create a "master plan" for your room. It's important that we paint the whole picture so that you know how your new room will look. You can add to it as you'd like." Please notice that I did not say, "you can add to it as your budget allows." They'll think you think they can't afford to buy your products, which is their big fear in the first place.
  • They may be embarrassed to have you see their room. If this is the case, I would tell them, "You don't go to see a doctor when you're well, do you? You go see a professional when you need some help. Just think of me as your 'Room Dr.!' You bring me in when your room needs a little help. That's why I'm here." Please note that the word "sick" was not used anywhere in that sentence!


You can. You could. You might want to... but be careful here. Very Careful! How much are you going to ask? How much is your time worth?

I've had consultants across the country tell me they charge $50.00 and then it is applied to their future purchase. This is fine if all your time and effort is worth is $50! I don't think so! You are much better than that! Don't sell yourself short! If you are going to charge ~ charge! $250.00/hour ~ minimum! Is that about the going rate for the services of today's professional? Are you a professional? Are you talented? Are you the best? You bet! Charge!

Okay, now, pick yourself up off the floor. The point is that you don't have to charge. All you have to do is tell them what the rules are. Tell them, "I am going to do this for you and this is what you are going to do for me!"There are two kinds of housecalls you can make:

Write up the order in the home.

When customers feel that they are not ready to buy, they will often stall by telling you that they have to go home and measure.

Here is your new answer. It is the perfect opportunity for you to say, "Let me come out and verify the measurements. That way, I'm responsible!"

When she hears those two wonderful words, "I'm responsible," most people will drive you to their home! They don't want to be responsible for this stuff fitting. No way!
Another stall that they've perfected that we hear on a daily basis is, "I want to take the fabrics home and see them in my room."

Sure she does. She wants to confer with every friend, neighbor, and relative within a two hundred-mile radius. She will probably also get totally confused. She will forget what she's seen, and now the sale that was forged between you and your client becomes what I call a sale by committee. The whole process has now become too difficult and all because we lost control of the fabric. We allowed her to take the fabric home, without us.

Instead, you can tell her this. "Let me bring the fabrics to your home for you. This way I can assist you in coordinating your entire color scheme. I offer this service to my clients who purchase, so that the process is fun. I will also save you a great deal of time and effort. I will do the work for you."

Note: let them know "up front" when you come out to measure or bring fabrics that, "at that time we will get your sofa/sectional started!"

That way you let them know that you are not a courier service for fabrics or a traveling tape measure. When you make a house call you are taking care of business.

Coordinate the entire room.

The purpose of this kind of housecall is for you to coordinate the entire room. You are designing a floor plan, selecting fabrics, and coordinating accessories to add the finishing touches and complete the total picture.

You go out to the house to measure and interview, then "Fred" and "Ethel" come back in to your showroom to hear your presentation.

Tell them the events that will take place while she/they are in your store before you go on the housecall. Let them know what to expect. Tell them what you are going to do for them and in turn, what you expect them to do for you.

1. Explain that you will be in their home for approximately 1 hour. Always put a time limit on the call up front so that your brain does not get picked, or the call turns into a social event. Your time is your money. Get in. Take care of business and be on your way!

2.You will measure the room.

3. You will be discussing the likes/dislikes of family members, their lifestyle and how they plan on using the room." This is the "interview/talk." This is where you can suggest that your customer share any pictures in trade papers or magazines that caught her eye. There really cannot be enough said for a picture being worth a thousand words. This assignment also gets the consumer involved and makes her feel like she is part of the project. You two are now working as a team!

4. It must be made very clear to "Fred and Ethel" - that both of them be at the presentation.

5. This entire process takes approximately an hour and a half. One hour for the presentation and 30 minutes to take care of the paperwork! This is the best way I know to tell them to bring their checkbook.

Note: set up the housecall appointment and presentation appointment at the same time, while she is in the store. Do not, I repeat, do not go on a housecall appointment unless or until the presentation appointment is confirmed.

If she says she doesn't know his schedule and can't do this, tell her to check and you will call her tomorrow and confirm both appointments at that time.

If "Ethel" will not make the presentation appointment, I guarantee that "Fred" does not even know that she is there. It's your time and your money. You need to be a pro.

Memorize and practice the steps we discussed. Weed out the brain-pickers! Make this a win-win situation. Now that you know and your customers have learned the rules, you are on the road to "Ethel's" house and success!



"I have to go home to measure."

"I want to take the fabrics home and see them in my room."

"I don't know my spouse's schedule."

"If you visit my home, does that mean I have to buy?"

"My room is such a mess. I'm a little embarrassed to have you see it."


"Let me tell you about a service I offer to my clients who purchase here at Sofas-R-Us."

"Yes, I am going to be helping you coordinate your room. Based on what you tell me you want to create. Why wouldn't you want to own it?"

"Let me come out and verify the measurements. That way, I'm responsible!"

"I offer this service to my clients who purchase, so that the process is fun. I will also save you a great deal of time and effort. I will do the work for you."

"Think of me as your room doctor. You bring me in when your room needs a little help."

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"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.