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Fear Factor - Salesforce Edition

Furniture World Magazine


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We’ve looked at how to perform an Extreme Makeover on our sales  skills. Now it is time to face the most difficult test... the Fear Factor!

Editor’s Note: In the June/July issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine we explored how shows such as “Extreme Makeover For the Home” and “Queer Eye” have changed our customers’ buying expectations (see sales skills article archives on the new www.furninfo.com). It presented seven makeover tips for retail salespeople. This article will look at the single biggest impediment to becoming a fully actualized retail sales professional.


“To keep our faces toward change and behave
like free spirits in the presence of fate is
strength and undefeatable.” - Helen Keller



It’s time for our next adventure together. Okay, get out your crayons. This time, you will need to use a different color because we’re going to draw outside of the lines. Yep, we’re talking Change. I know, I know, you’ve decided that you don’t want to play. Who wants to change? The only groups I have encountered that embrace the possibility of change are babies in wet diapers, busy cashiers and flight attendants serving alcohol in coach! Webster defines the word “as a new experience… a transformation.” Change can be exciting and a professional necessity, but this is Kansas, not Oz, so most of us have some degree of comfort with the status quo, thank you very much. The word “FEAR” comes out of our collective mouths the same way that Maynard G. Krebs expressed his feelings for “WORK” on “The Dobie Gillis Show.” (For those of you not familiar with “Maynard,” just imagine a skinny body screeching into the night and you get the picture!)

The problem with resisting change is that we can’t go from ordinary to extraordinary and stay the same. Some screeching may be involved. Sweaty palms and twitching limbs also come to mind. But in retail and in life, “plugging in on purpose” is mandatory.
We wouldn’t be in this business if we weren’t willing to change. That would be average and part of the status quo. That would be settling, and I know you don’t want to do that!
Sark, in her new book, “Make Your Creative Dreams Real,” points out, “Our willingness to learn, grow… and apply ourselves can be practiced and made stronger. Willingness is the ability to move without proof. Our willingness has the power and the force to make changes. Willingness = change. Change is our Choice.”


Fear #1 - The Greeting
Are you afraid that when you greet your customer, he or she is going to brush you off? Instead of allowing them to see you as just another clerk... decide to make them your new challenge. Find out why they decided to visit your store. Prove to them that you are a professional. If it doesn’t work this time, ask yourself these questions. “Did I sound like a clerk? Did I look like a clerk? Is that the reason she brushed me off?”

Fear #2 - Being Too Pushy
If you worried about being pushy, or let  opportunities to ask for the order pass you by, you should reconsider how you think about your job.

You should not be pushing goods at your customers so you can get what you want. You should, instead, be helping them to get what they want by creating home furnishings solutions. They came in with a need or a problem and you can be their problem solver. Clerks can be pushy and salespeople may be overbearing in a way that problem solvers can never be.

Fear #3 - Rejection
Are you afraid of rejection and so avoid asking for the order? If fear of rejection is a problem, make sure that you listen to your customers and give them what they ask for. Present the product in a way that they can picture it, so they have to own it. If you  follow these simple steps, then there is no need to be afraid.

Fear #4 - Objections
When your customer has an objection, a problem or a concern, don’t make it “their” problem. Clerks look at objections as obstacles. Professionals see them as opportunities to find solutions. The first step is always getting them to tell you what they need.
Framing objections in a negative way is a classic case of False Expectations Appearing Real (FEAR). Just remember to give your clients what they ask for and you will have nothing to fear. Avoid objections by presenting your product or idea in a way that helps them to create a positive mental picture. When this happens, they will “have” to own it.

Fear #5 - No Safety Net
Are you afraid of straying from your prepared script of product features and store services even if the customer you are working with cannot possibly benefit from them? Is this your safety net? Remember not to “spray and pray” and that “selling isn’t telling.”

Fear#6 - Follow-up
Are you afraid that if you follow-up after the sale you will uncover unpleasant problems or difficulties that will sap your time and energy? When something gets discontinued or delayed, are you afraid to call your client? Don’t buy into this fear. If Louise calls you before you call her, than you will be in real
trouble! Clerks don’t call, but professionals stay in touch. Professionals create clients for life and have nothing to fear.

Fear #7 - Prospecting
Are you afraid to prospect for new customers? First you will need to delete the word prospect from your vocabulary! You are not prospecting... you are networking. Change the label and you can turn fear around. Clerks prospect, professionals network for their careers.


Choose Wisely
Change, to me, means growth. It means we’re moving, we’re doing, we’re being, we’re creating. We are realizing our full potential as a Professional, and as the leader of our company “Me, Inc.” one day at a time… one step at a time.

Clerks stand still. They do this job the way they’ve always done it.  “Many of us are resistant to change because it’s usually out of our control.” Says John Putzier in “Get Weird! 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great place to Work.” He says that you should, “train your brain to the benefit of shaking things up.”

In other words, create your own lines. Experience what new and different feels like. Go home a different way. Hey, get lost… explore. Run away from home for two hours (or more!). Play in the rain. Hug a tree! Have fun with something new, different, and unexpected. Treat each and every new “UP” as an opportunity for you to grow. Make it your time to shine. Find out, who they are, what they want, why they’re here and how you (and only you) can help them. Treat each customer as a unique opportunity to establish yourself as the ultimate professional. Look at each one with a new and different pair of eyes. Change your style based on their personality. This is where we learn. This is how we grow. But stretching can hurt, especially when we don’t know how far we have to bend, and where we’re going to end up.

This means leaving our comfort zones. That’s when the 4-letter “F” word – fear takes over. We give it too much power. In one of my favorite books, “Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation,” Parker J. Palmer points out that, “We ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray our true self.” We forget how special and unique each human is. We forget that growing leads to knowing where we’re headed and catapults us, so we can get to where we want to go.
Sark says it best: “Our main fear is usually that we’ll fail. Of course, the real failure is in not trying.”

Panic, anxiety, distress, dread and worry set in and we’re back to focusing on being afraid. The “What-if-I-fall-on-my-face” monster invades our brain cells so that fear takes over and shouts in our ear. “What if I can’t do new? What if I don’t like new? What if I don’t ever want to do NEW again? I’m ditching those crayons!” Ugh! No wonder it’s a four-letter word! Did you know that, “40% of the issues a typical person worries about each day never occur.” That is according to Michael Clarkson in his book, “Quick Fixes for Everyday Fears.” No wonder we get tired! That’s a lot of energy for something that never happens. We’re getting gray, wrinkled, and paranoid over things that may never happen!

My definition of fear is, False, Expectations, Appearing, Real. Now that you have been told that your fears are unreasonable, why don’t you feel better? That’s because fear is real. It is a powerful force, so… let’s use it.

“The most successful remedy for fear has been curiosity,” wrote Cambridge historian Theodore Zeldin in “An Intimate History of Humanity.” He says, “It is only curiosity that knows no boundaries which can be effective against fear.”

Frances Moore Lappe agrees. In her book, “You Have the Power,” she tells us to “listen to our curiosity. When we really listen, curiosity becomes a direction; all it asks is that we consider another way of looking at things. Curiosity can help us engage fear differently. Instead of our being blocked by fear, curiosity allows us to inquire where the fear is coming from. We become intrigued by its source.... It is the voice that asks: What about this? We start to listen... and when we do, we will not rest with an answer but will continue asking the next question. We will create new voids opening us to new possibilities, and we will discover the very act of showing up generates new patterns that have never been foreseen.”

We’ve heard about curiosity from our very earliest days. Who was it in “Alice” who was “curioser and curioser?”

Judith Orloff in her book, “Positive Energy” agrees. “Staying curious is always good. I’m nosy about everything. Always be nosy. That will energize you.” Don’t be afraid to want to go create your own “ lines.” Let your curiosity help you to listen, to pay attention… to raise the bar and go to the next level.

A radio interviewer in Missouri put it this way, “In today’s world, it’s impossible to avoid fear. It’s everywhere. Since we’re going to feel it, we might as well feel it because we’re doing something important.” Ms. Lappe agrees because she makes the point we all need to think about and remember. “You can thank fear for reminding you that you are choosing to do things differently, and that’s what’s important.” You are among the select few that have learned, “Shifting from, ‘fear means stop’, to ‘fear means listen more closely’ requires first that we recognize fear is actually what’s motivating us.”

Going from Fearful to FEARLESS!
Instead of being afraid of change, we’re going to make it work. Suzanne Zoglio, author of “Recharge in Minutes,” explains how beneficial this metamorphosing process can be. “We’re energized by change. Each time you try something new, you’re rewarded with a feeling of power. When nothing changes in your life, certain brain cells die. Basically, new experiences keep your mind young.” Forget Botox!


“We live in the lap of immense intelligence and we are receptors.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

We must remember that we are all a work in progress. First, we have to slow down to see where we want to progress to. I think one of the other reasons that we don’t want to think about expanding our horizons is because we’re moving at warp speed in the Land of Workaholism. Judith Orloff defines her previous life in the fast lane this way, “I was rushing to relax!

Ultimately I rushed my way right into an energy crisis.” Does this sound familiar? We’re fighting to gain more minutes each day, and trying not too drown in those minutes from the overwhelming tidal wave we feel of “Technodespair”. I really like Judith Orloff’s label for all of us who are challenged in Cyberland! To be Fearless, we have to get in control of the clock and the computer. Remember, just like one size does not fit all when dealing with consumers, we also need to know that one pace does not fit all.

We have to slow down to show up. We need to listen to “Louise,” and to ourselves. This is the way Quincy Jones talks about the power of listening and feeling in an interview:

“Listening gives us energy and inner power. What you feel… that’s what it’s all about. I live by goose bumps. I get them every time something touches me – music, movies, poetry, an emotion. Then I know I’ve got the right take. Nothing to talk about unless I get the goose bumps.”
In an industry like ours where it’s all about E-motion let’s focus on and promote the power of goose bumps. Our presentations to bring that room to life just went up a notch. We’re talking makeover!

What did you learn from yesterday? What are you going to plug in today? What are you going to polish tomorrow?


We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” --- Ray Bradbury

A Final Word About Fear
Just about every store has sales and design consultants who are afraid to admit to themselves and their customers that they are professionals. They make appointments with their doctors, lawyers, massage therapists and hairdressers because they value the time, the advice and the skills these people bring to their client’s lives.

Aren’t you busy? Isn’t your time and your advice valuable? Don’t you make a positive impact on the lives of your clients? Aren’t you the best, the most professional and most talented person your clients can get to guide them through the process of furnishing their homes? You bet you are!

Also remember that your customer is probably afraid of buying from the wrong person, in the wrong store. If they don’t know you, and haven’t purchased from your store before, they may fear that you are going to sell them something and they will never hear from you again.
That’s why it is so important that you establish trust, prove to them that you are a professional and not a clerk. Establish a client/ professional relationship and neither you or Louise will have anything to fear.


Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates\”T ‘N T.” She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions on any aspect of sales training or sales management can be sent to Cathy care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at  finney@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.