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I Hope, I Hope I Don't Need To Ask For The Sale

Furniture World Magazine


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When salespeople fail to ask for the sale, or only ask with imidity, they fill their customers with fear and trepidation.



Those who lived during the golden age of radio might remember the timidity of Elmer Blurt, played by Al Pierce on the program that bore his name – the Al Pierce Program. Blurt sold dental supplies. Each week listeners eagerly anticipated Blurt’s line that oozed from his lips with a tone of utter diffidence as he stood before the door that led to the dentist’s office: “Nobody home, I hope – I hope – I hope.” Therein lay the explanation of why the program repeatedly introduced Blurt with the ironic tag, “The world’s greatest low pressure salesman.”

As a salesman, Blurt was utterly inept at closing the sale. The world of retail furniture salespeople is filled with Elmer Blurts. One study reveals that about 80 percent of retail furniture salespeople do not even ask for the sale once, a figure, if it is correct, that must cause a lot of store owners to twist in agony.

Experienced sales trainers and coaches know that too many salespeople belong to the category of “I hope – I hope – I hope.”

A Notre Dame research team some years back revealed that on average the highly successful salespeople it observed, asked for the sale six times! Now if it is a truism that one must ask in order to receive – it follows that those salespeople who rarely ask for the sale had better wake up and smell the crippling perspiration of their timidity.

The Roman historian Livy wrote, “Fear begets fear.” Applied to selling, Livy’s words suggest that any salesperson’s fear tends to increase the fear with which customers enter our stores. Generally speaking, our customers fear making a buying mistake. Their fear is not limited to the loss of their hard earned money. While that kind of fear looms high in the list of their fears, other fears loom even higher. These are their fear of embarrassment, their fear of humiliation and their fear of disappointment. The reason why those three fears loom higher is based on the fact that furniture is the most personal material possession in your customer’s home. It is more personal than her car. After all, the closest a car comes to entering a home is in the garage. We don’t welcome our guests into our garage; we welcome them into our living rooms. No other material possession helps to change a house into a home as much as furniture. All this is true whether one owns or rents; be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. Is it any wonder then that our customers enter our stores with grave fears of making a buying mistake?

When salespeople fail to ask for the sale at all or only ask with timidity they fill their customers with fear and trepidation. Your customers hope that your sales goal is to help them make the best buying decision. If you are too timid to ask for the sale, it could mean that you are too timid… or worse, that you don’t fully believe that your products are the best choice for your customer.

Yet, asking for the sale with confidence does not mean that you need to be pushy. Pushiness implies applying outward pressure upon customers. Asking for the sale with confidence creates the kind of inner pressure customers feel whenever they are shown benefits that are relevant to all their urgent needs. Our stores need more salespeople who are skilled at asking for the sale with confidence. An Elmer Blurt on a radio skit is funny; an Elmer Blurt on the sales floor is not funny. If you sometimes feel like Elmer Blurt, get out there and ask for the sale with confidence: I hope! I hope! I hope!


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.

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.