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Traffic Stop Selling

Furniture World Magazine


Shoppers may see red and blue flashing lights when approached by an RSA. Here are useful skills to help people relax into the furniture sales process.

Fortunately, it hasn’t happened to me for a few years. I’m referring to the experience of tooling down a highway while reveling in a country music or rock ‘n roll daydream. Then, noticing flashing red and blue lights in the rear view mirror. There’s an initial shock that only worsens with the realization that it’s your car that’s being pulled over.

You exit the highway shoulder or a side street. The officer approaches your window and asks a classic question, “Do you know why I pulled you over today?”

The reason may be as fundamental as rolling through a four-way stop or going 47 in a 35-mph zone. The “do you know why” question is open-ended and I’m fairly sure that police have used it to get nervous drivers to admit to running shine outta Alabam’ and to the illegal interstate transport of Marshmallow Fluff. Even if that’s not the case, it’s a simple, useful question that helps an officer quickly size up the driver of a vehicle.

Whether you get pulled over by a local sheriff or the highway patrol, you must agree that they are a dedicated bunch who have mastered multiple skills to prepare for unknown situations.


Worst Days at Retail

Even on your worst day at retail, your job probably isn’t close to being as difficult or dangerous as being in law enforcement. Successful salespeople, however, do share a common need with the men and women in blue. It’s the ability to quickly size up their shoppers in order to present an effective sales presentation.


Known Answer Question

After their greeting, many RSAs like to lead off with a Known Answer Question. It’s a query they ask even though they already have a general idea of what the answer will be. It works like a temperature check. When a shopper expounds on their response, it provides a fair assessment of how far along the shopper is in their path to purchase.

Can you tell me about your shopping experience so far? Asking this question lets the RSA know how far and wide the shopper is into the buying process. There’s little risk in asking this question. If the shopper had a fully complete experience, they would already be out of the market and not in your store!

Answers can range from “We just started looking,” or “It’s so confusing,” to “We can’t seem to find the right thingamajig.”

The first two answers lead RSAs to logical starting points. For people who have just begun, you can give them an update on what’s changed and new in the market. For mattresses, it’s a good time to describe the three major technologies of Spring, Foam, and Hybrid. You might also tack on information about advancements in memory foam and cooling elements.
Confused shoppers need reassurance that there is a simple way to make the best choice. Inside the mattress industry, we say, “the feel is the deal.” For shoppers, you could restate it as, “Comfort and support are what leads to a good night’s sleep. Let’s check your comfort level first.”

It’s hard to imagine that potential buyers can’t seem to find the right product. From mattresses to furniture, appliances, clothing, and bottled cola beverages, there appears to be an endless aisle of choices. Often, shoppers are attracted to a product, but a single obstacle, often price or availability, blocks their purchase.

What have you seen out there that is close to being perfect for you? This simple question allows your shopper to describe the product and retailer—even if it is online—that most closely fits their needs. Follow up with “what did you like most about it?” The answer to this follow-up question will hopefully provide key features that can trigger a purchase.
Why didn’t you buy it? If you’ve done a good job of listening in an attentive and empathetic manner, you will learn what obstacles you need to overcome. If it’s availability, then find out how long the shopper is willing to wait.

If it’s price, you have several options. Start with understanding what the shopper is willing and able to pay. You can suggest extended financing to bridge the budget gap or offer lower price items with similar features. Or, you may just need to be the person that brings them into the hard reality that the $299 or $399 starting model now costs $699.


Buying Stress

Law enforcement officers know that people they pull over can be confused or stressed. Asking their “why” question allows the driver to fess up, relieving tension for the average citizen. Shoppers walking into your store may also feel tense and confused. After all, who wants to be SOLD something?

That’s why asking potential buyers to share their shopping experiences allows them the opportunity to talk first. It can relieve the stress of buying and give you the information you need to help them make a wise choice.


“Successful salespeople need the ability to quickly size up their shoppers in order to present an effective sales presentation.”

“Law enforcement officers know that people who are pulled over can be confused or stressed. Asking their ‘why’ question allows the driver to fess up, relieving tension for the average citizen.”

About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com