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Suggestive Selling

Furniture World Magazine


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Use Your Personality and charm, along with some common sense and a little push, and your sales could increase dramatically.

I had an interesting conversation last week with an order taker from Heartland America. Actually the call was a learning experience. Heartland America is a catalog company that deals with closeouts, overstocked, discounted, and reconditioned items. If an informercial doesn’t do well, the too-good-to-be-true item ends up in the catalog. I called to order a set of Adams golf wedges that were $200 off the retail price, plus I had a $20 discount coupon, and was entitled to free shipping. After a series of telephone prompts, a woman answered and asked how she could help me. I started by giving her the account code on the back of the catalog, but she said Wait, tell me what you want to order first, so in case it isn’t available you wont waste a lot of time. That sounded like great customer service, so I told her the item number of the golf clubs, and she said they were in stock. She also said, that’s not one of the items everybody calls about. So I asked her, what items do a lot of people call about? She said one of them is the AT&T cordless phone with digital answering machine. They are normally priced at $114, but they’re in the catalog for $39, less 10% off. There are only a few left. Do you want one? I thought about this for a minute. Everybody is ordering them and there are only a few left. Of course, put me down for one, I told her. So then I asked her what else was everybody ordering? She told me about the Panasonic fax/copier of which there were only a very few left in stock. The suggested retail for the machine was $249.95, but the catalog price was $129 with a $20 mail-in rebate, less my 10 percent discount. She asked me if I would like one and I said, sure.

Then she said, I don’t want you to think I’m telling you about these things because I’m on commission. You sound like a sharp person, and I just want you to be aware of some incredible buys. I was hooked. My $99 order turned into $624.50. I asked her if she always handled her phone orders this way. She told me that most callers are quick and to the point, and get annoyed if their item isn’t available. She also said that she found that many people don’t look through the whole catalog and don’t know what else is in there. Besides, many items don’t last very long. She took great pride in telling me the value of getting people to trust you over the phone. She also said people sometimes like to be guided in their purchase and can’t make a decision, so you have to help them. She thought that by telling a customer everybody else was buying a product, they would want one too. Also, previous customers know that many items have extremely limited quantities, and time can be of the essence. I told her this was great suggestive selling, and she had been trained pretty well. She said this was her own idea, and it helped establish some rapport with the customers. I thought this was great, and to help her along, I suggested she tell some of the customers that she owned or tried the product as well, to give it some credibility. She said she doesn’t get the opportunity to try many items, and she can’t afford to buy most of them. She was only 18 and was still in school. Wow! Is that great or what? I thought I was speaking to someone much older. She was just out of high school and had already figured out what it takes to get additional sales, selling products through using her own personality along with some street smarts.

Think about it. Do you try and help customers with their decision to purchase? Do you suggest add-ons such as lamps, area rugs and wall decor, or are you just so happy they bought something that you rush to get their money before they change their mind? If you own the product yourself, do you tell them how happy you are with it? Do you tell customers what the really hot items are that you have in stock and that everyone must have? Do you let them know that some items have limited availability, particularly when everybody is interested? Not only that, how about telling your customers about other people who own the product and are very happy? They could be past customers, well-known people, or even local celebrities. If the mayor of your town, the football coach, or the sports anchor on local TV owns what you sell, tell your customer. They might feel that if those people like it and use it, they will like it as well.

Suggestive selling is not R-rated, or X-rated. It is G-rated. It appeals to everybody. Everybody wants some help in making up their mind, and its up to you to help them. Use your personality and charm, along with some common sense and a little push, and your sales could increase dramatically.


Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative Selling®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented worldwide to major companies and industries. If you'd like to read all the ways to use your business card to actually create more business, just go into Border's, Barnes & Noble, or any local bookstore and ask for Here's My Card. or access Amazon.com.Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at bobpopyk@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.