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Sales By Appointment - The Impossible Dream

Furniture World Magazine


Don't wait for the be-back bus... make appointments!

When I first started selling, I not only believed in the "be-back bus," I counted on it to really show up! My customers said they'd "be back." They liked me! They wouldn't lie! Maybe not intentionally. I found out later that the "be-back bus" was their polite way out! "I'll be back" was their exit line!

It let them off the hook so they could exit gracefully! They used it the same way they announced, "just browsing" when they entered!

What was really bad, is that coming in or going out, I believed them!

One day I was jumping up and down and giving myself a lot of "atta girls" for a job well done. I felt, "I really had this job nailed, I sure knew how to handle those customers!" Then the he owner approached me & wanted to know what happened. "I just closed a dining room for $9,000.00!" I proudly proclaimed. Yes, life was good!

Ten minutes later he caught up with me, "Cathy, where's the order for the dining room? I can't find the paperwork."

"Oh, they didn't buy it today. But, they'll be-back, they said they'd be-back!"

This grown man dropped to his knees and started laughing so hard tears streamed down his face! He could not believe that I was gullible enough to believe they'd "be-back!


How about you? Do you still believe in the bus? Don't get me wrong, every now & then, the bus does pull into your parking lot. All those be-backs pile out at the same time!

When that happens, you end up waiting on six people simultaneously. You feel like Baskins Robbins & pick a number!

Your stress level increases twenty notches on the retail stress meter because you're running a relay trying to accommodate everyone at the same time. You get more & more exhausted & your customers get less and less service. Even Houdini couldn't handle this juggling act!

These are the customers who like you. They were nice enough to ask for you, and now you cannot give them the special attention they deserve!

Is this fair to you or your customers? No-o-o! It's a lose-lose for everyone.

And it's not the way for you "the professional" to operate your company "Me, Inc."


I don't want you waiting for the bus anymore, or handing out numbers for them to wait. I want you driving that bus! I want you in control of your sales career and in control of your business. I call this control/service. No, this doesn't mean that you have to become Attilla the Hun! What we're talking about is relationship selling. If you're not in control of the selling situation you can't service your customer properly.

In this business, your time is your money. The more value you put on your time, the more value your customer will put on your time!

Why do you set up appointments with doctors, dentists, attorneys, and of course our hair stylists? These people are professionals. They're busy. Their time is important. Aren't you a professional? Aren't you busy? Isn't your time important? Isn't your client's time important?

I cannot emphasize this enough. Time is our most valued commodity. You can't buy it beg, steal, or borrow it. Once it's gone... it's gone forever.

Memorize the following lines to explain to the consumer how you work. Practice so it sounds like you've been verbalizing this for the past five years! These words should just spill forth from your lips!

Salesperson: "The way I like to work with my clients is by appointment. I know how busy you both are. This way I can devote "special time" just to you "Fred."

This last line is telling them why you work by appointment. It's the "What's In It For Them" line. You work by appointment to accommodate them, because you really value their time!

Is this pushy??? No! It shows your client that her time & your time are important . It also says, "if you're good I'll let you be one of my clients. But, only if you play your cards right!"

When I started in this business it never occurred to me to work by appointment. It wasn't necessary because I truly believed that they would "be-back! I believed that they wouldn't lie to me, would they? Maybe not intentionally, but never forget that once they walk out that door they are "up for grabs." Their loyalty is floating "out there". somewhere! They just dropped 1000 points on the be-back barometer!


I'd let them know, "Tuesday is my day off. But, I'll be glad to come in and wait for you. You just stop back in at your convenience." So I'd sit there, and sit there, and sit there. Sometimes they'd show up. Sometimes!

I really felt like a martyr. Please don't do that! First, your time is much too valuable. Second, the world doesn't need anymore martyrs. Remember what happened to Joan of Arc!


Never ask permission: Never say, "would you like to set up an appointment?" What will they say? No-o-o!

On many occasions sales consultants say, "this appointment stuff doesn't work. They just won't set up one."

My response is, "Tell me how you're handling the appointment. What exactly are you saying?/'

The reply usually sounds something like this, "Well, I just ask them, would you like to set up an appointment?" They all say, "no, I'll just stop back."

That's why rule #1 for appointments is never, ever, ever, ask permission! Never!!!

The appointment must be a definite time: Monday at 6:30 p.m. is an appointment. Monday between 2:00 and 4:00 is not! Monday evening is not! There is no commitment unless it is a definite time!

Never tell them your hours! I work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday from 12:00 to 9:00.

Why would they set up an appointment? You just told them when you're going to be there! Be careful here. R-e-a-l careful! If they volunteer, "we'll stop back this evening. " And you say, "that's great I work until 9:00." These words just come flying right out of our mouths before we know it! Don't do that! No! No! No!

What should come out of your mouth - the words that should be uttered are... "That's great! Let me check my appointment book and see what times I have available to spend with you and your husband."

If the hours that you work are printed on your business card... get 'em off of there! When they see this, it signals, in flashing lights, stop in anytime. I'll be here!!!

If she says, "I can't set up an appointment. I don't know "Fred's" schedule." That's okay! Tell her, "check with "Fred. I will call you tomorrow to confirm the appointment." Don't let her off the hook!

When setting up appointments, the group that will give you the hardest time is other professionals! They often say, "I can't possibly set up an appointment with you. My schedule is too hectic, and I am too busy to do that."

The way you can handle this is really quite simple. Just say, "Your schedule does sounds as hectic as mine. I know as one professional to another, you, of all people, can appreciate the fact that I work by appointment. With an appointment, I can get you right in and save you a lot of time."

Your time is just as valuable as theirs. You just have to let them know that!

Write the designated time on the back of your business card. Now it's official! And they have it on writing!

After you have qualified her and found out her husband gets home at 5:30 give her two options.

"I have Monday at 6.30 available or would Wednesday at 7:00 be more convenient?" Either way you are guaranteed the appointment.

Never say, "when would you like to stop back in?" You sound busy & the be-back bus just started its engines!!!

Your time is your money. The more value you put on your time, the more valuable your time becomes to your client.


If you're not busy , how good are you? People like to Work with people who are busy! Go out and get an appointment book. Fill it up.

  • Huey, Dewey, & Louie!
  • The Seven Dwarfs!
  • Your mother's maiden name!
  • Go through the phone book!
  • When you open up your appointment book, it better be full.

    Set-up appointments at "your" convenience! Be careful ! Don't shoot yourself in the foot with these appointments! When your customers book specific times with you they've already bought you. Don't bring them back in during peak traffic times. If they insist on coming back on the weekends, bring them in first thing. Let them know, "I'm already booked on Saturday. The only time I have available is 10:00." Don't ever tell them. "Saturday is our busiest day. I have to be available to cover the floor." Cover the floor? You have just entered "clerkdom!" That's what clerks do!

    Working retail by appointment helps to eliminate a lot of stress of this job. You have enough stress. You don't need to worry if and when they will "re-appear" at your door!


    Check your appointment book at the beginning of each week. You have $20,000.00 worth of appointments scheduled. You know you're going to close these appointments.

    If you only have $800.00 worth of appointments set-up, get on the phone and book more appointments!

    Don't bet on the bus. Control service and you will be able to service your clients. Control your business and your time, and you can control your destiny. Now instead of waiting for the bus, you're driving it.

    Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "T'NT" (Trained & Talented). She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.