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Next Level Training: After Onboarding

Furniture World Magazine



Part 3

Sales training during the onboarding process often focuses on what’s important to stores. Ongoing training needs to refocus sales presentations towards what’s important to customers.

Early in my career at a major retail furniture chain, I overheard four new retail salespeople voice their opinions about the usefulness of a training program they had just completed. It wasn’t a complaint session, but rather an honest exchange about their common thoughts and frustrations. They said that the training part of their onboarding process was boring. It didn’t help them to feel comfortable talking about furniture. And, it didn’t help them to use the information presented about store products and policies to connect with customers.

After hearing their comments, I made it my habit to ask the hundreds of new hires I worked with throughout my retail career to share their thoughts about improving the orientation training they had received.

In most retail furniture stores, orientation training is the only formal store training sales associates ever receive. Even when RSAs are found to be under-performing, there are rarely training protocols in place to help them improve.

We all know that there are many reasons for high salesperson turnover in retail. These include long retail hours, weekends on the job and weak compensation structures. And right now, getting paid on delivery-delayed goods doesn’t help the situation. But, it’s my view that sure fire ways to lose the most important employees in any retail organization are to provide inadequate orientation training, non-existent remedial training and no advanced training. Retailers who fail to focus on education and salesperson retention are doomed to onboard a never-ending stream of new hires. Worse still, they incur huge costs from allowing salespeople on their sales floors who don’t have the skills to succeed.

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’

That’s why I find it hard to understand why many furniture retailers are resistant to providing supplemental and advanced training.

Mindsets That Prevent Progress

There is a lot more that shoppers need to think through before they feel comfortable making a purchase. Being sold on the furniture is just half of the equation.

Stores need to supplement orientation training with appropriate next level training. This article will delve into what next level training should look like, but first let’s touch on mindsets that can prevent progress.

Furniture World’s long time editorial contributer Joe Capillo wrote that “nothing fails like success.” By this he meant that when business is good, furniture store owners may feel like they don’t need to focus on continuous improvement. Perhaps their store locations already drive a lot of traffic and sales. Maybe pent-up demand from the pandemic coupled with huge sold order delivery delays have made it difficult to process current business. Or, the power of their store brands have always been sufficient to keep powering them to success.

However, the internet’s ongoing sales expansion and the younger generations increasing proclivity to have lower regard for in-store experiences are two tidal waves that every brick-and-mortar furniture organization must address.

There was a time when Sears was invulnerable. The same for K-Mart. Back in the day no one in their right mind would even dare think that either one of these powerhouse operations could possibly lose their footing and collapse. The chief lesson is that retailers must always let insecurity about the future drive them to improve.

Limits of Orientation Training

Before we discuss solutions, let’s first view orientation training in its proper perspective. Orientation training is almost always about the store. It addresses the store’s furniture, accessories, protection plans, credit options, sales processing, delivery procedures, warranties, return policies, rules and regulations.

If you are like most retailers, you presently train employees to handle everything that’s really important to you and your store. But most salespeople are not given training on what’s vitally important to their customers. Here’s one example of what I mean. You will often hear customers say, “Got a card? I really have to go home and think about it.” Some salespeople will just hand them their card, some might explain the merchandise a little more, and others might even try to discover a hidden objection and overcome it. That’s not nearly enough.

The truth is that well over 75 percent of most stores’ customers leave without buying. That’s because there is a lot more that shoppers need to think through before they feel comfortable making a purchase. Being sold on the furniture is just half of the equation.

They may also need to consider a host of decorating decisions before they furnish their rooms. Do they want to paint the walls or re-carpet before they buy new furniture and accessories? If they do, how will this affect their color choices for fabrics, rugs and accessories? What furniture pieces do they plan to keep in their rooms and who will take away their old furniture? Should they consider buying new tables to go with the sofa they like? How much will all this cost and should they pay cash or consider credit? Is it time for new lamps, or is it better to just keep the old accessories for now?

How many experienced salespeople
even know or care about the decisions their customers face beyond the choice of furniture?

Given all these decisions it’s not hard to imagine why so many shoppers say, “Gotta card?”

How many experienced salespeople even know or care about the decisions their customers face beyond their choice of furniture? My view is that highly trained salespeople make it their business to find out all these potential roadblocks to making a sale early on, and then help guide customers through this confusing maze.

Connect With Customer Needs

Questions excerpted from “Great Customer Questions For Each Room,” published in 2020. Part of Scott Morris’ course: “The Best Furniture Sales Training Ever!!!” All rights reserved.

Another very important skill that holds back even experienced salespeople from connecting with customers and their particular needs is asking important questions specific to each room. The 10 insightful questions you should be asking everyone about home office (see inset) are certainly different from the 10 you need to ask them about dining. There are also specific room considerations to address such as:

  • What will the focal point be?
  • Do you prefer a minimalist or a fuller decorator look?
  • Every room has a personality, what would you like this room to say to others?


The benefit of providing advanced level training is that most furniture salespeople can improve their sales performance by learning how to better connect with their customers. It’s a transformation that begins with teaching salespeople to ask the right questions, then continues with providing information shoppers can use to make all the decisions they need to make beyond just the choice of furniture items.

Truly effective training programs also explain how to win customers over for life, present the furniture in light of customers’ unique needs and present a basic understanding of key decorating principles. Happy Selling!



About Scott Morris

Scott Morris worked for the four largest furniture retail chains in America as a store manager and sales trainer. He is the owner of HSM Publishing. His mission is to stop the high sales associate turnover rate within the furniture industry. He has written and published six books on various topics, in addition to the “Sales Questions” laminate, and designed and produced the advanced level sales training course titled “The Best Furniture Sales Training Ever!!!” He also produced 12 insightful customer “handouts” designed to bring back the “75 percent who leave without buying.” Questions about this article or any aspect of sales education can be directed to him at hsm7777@att.net or visit TheBestFurnitureSalesEver.com.

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