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Next Level Training: Closing Training You’ve Missed!

Furniture World Magazine


Part 9— by Scott Morris

The secret of the most effective retail sales closers is that these high-earning salespeople don’t treat closing as a separate step in the sales process.

Are your salespeople just “whistling for business,” or are they conducting a “symphony of persuasion” to influence your customers to buy today?

There are lots of separate elements that collectively convince a customer to buy. Standard sales training courses usually do a decent job of explaining the importance of:

  • Establishing trust
  • Developing rapport
  • Discovering true needs
  • Presenting in light of those needs
  • Justifying the purchase by filling those needs with a perfect solution at a proven confirmed value.

Many systems imply that when professionally executed, these five steps should almost automatically result in a completed sale, right?

Well, not exactly. What’s missing is the most important step of all, which is closing the sale! A salesperson can do everything else perfectly and still not get paid for their time and effort unless the customer agrees to make a purchase.

Training salespeople to close the sale is, by far, the most neglected aspect of sales training in retail furniture stores even though it is the most important. Recovery is possible following a mistake made during any other parts of the process, but a clumsy attempt at closing, or applying the wrong close, will nearly always cost the sale.

The most common closing mistake made by a large percentage of salespeople is they don’t even attempt to close for fear of alienating a customer, thereby undoing all the hard-won rapport they built up. Many salespeople would rather just keep building even more rapport, hand out a card, walk them to the door and hope for the best.

The problem is that this naive approach costs stores literally tons of sales! However, before you can provide your sales staff with a better option than not closing, you must address another problem—weak closers. To their credit, they do attempt to close, but do it in a quick and clumsy way by asking one of the following simple questions:

  • “Would you like to go ahead and get it?”
  • “Do you want me to start the paperwork?”
  • “Should I reserve stock for you?”

Salespeople who close in this way are just whistling for business. Instead, why not teach them how to win over their customers with a symphony of well-orchestrated influences?

“Customers decide to buy based on a series of cascading influences. With this in mind, we can define the concept of ‘Always Be Closing’ as building each sale with an intended net result as the goal.”

A Series of Success Waves

Many believe that proper closing is a single tidal wave that must sweep customers off of their complacent beach of lethargy and indecision. However, the correct approach is akin to a series of consistent, soft waves that eventually entice shoppers to take the plunge.

You probably have heard of the sales concept referred to as ‘ABC,’ which stands for the adage Always Be Closing. Most salespeople don’t have a clearly defined picture of what this means. It does not mean that your salespeople must make as many attempts to close their customers as possible. Closing before the right item has been selected sabotages the establishment of rapport and harms the customer-salesperson relationship.

Customers decide to buy based on a series of cascading influences. With this in mind, we can define Always Be Closing as building each sale with an intended net result as the goal. In other words, each step of the sale must be performed skillfully to have the best chance of completing the very last step, which is to write up the sale.

The Steps of a Sale

  1. The Greet. You have probably heard the expression, ‘first impressions speak the loudest!’ It’s true. Do shoppers perceive your salespeople to be warm, friendly, and inviting? If not, their defenses will rise automatically. It’s important that they immediately perceive your RSAs to be helpful, engaging, and good listeners.

  2. The Qualification. The best tool a salesperson can have in their tool-belt is a predetermined list of the right initial questions to ask. Most training does not focus on this extremely important qualification step. Asking the right questions gets the conversation off and running on the right track. It also makes the best use of both the customer’s and salesperson’s time. Last but not least, it establishes the salesperson as a reliable expert and guide, perceived to be indispensable to the shopper throughout their buying journey.

  3. Selling Yourself. This step never shows up in traditional training, yet when done early, correctly and with sincerity it lets shoppers know that the salesperson they were assigned to has their best interests at heart. There are many ways to do this without sounding boastful or disingenuous. Here’s an example to clarify what I mean.

    Example: “Ms. Shopper, I am a little different than other salespeople you may have met because I am not here just to make a quick sale. I believe that it’s my job to help my customers create beautiful rooms and make the best buying decisions. Because I’ve done that throughout my career, customers come back to me for future home furnishings purchases. I would like to be that person for you. I hope to share some tips and insights as we walk through the store.”

    This approach takes just a few seconds and puts the sales relationship on solid footing from the beginning. Once your salespeople learn how to sell themselves, they earn the right to share their knowledge by asking shoppers questions such as:

    • Do you know four great uses of a nightstand besides just sitting next to the bed?
    • Are you aware of the eight uses for an ottoman besides resting your legs on it?
    • Did you know which sofa construction benefits customers the most if they have lower back pain?
  4. The Show and Tell. In this step, salespeople walk customers through the store while suggesting suitable pieces based on their expressed needs and desires. Showing them items not on display but featured on your website, an in-store kiosk or catalog is also appropriate. A big mistake inexperienced salespeople make at this stage is to begin a full merchandise presentation while customers are still exploring alternatives. Only once they select the item that appeals to them the most, it is time to move to the next selling phase.

  5. Dropping Anchor. This is giving a full product demonstration on the item or product group a shopper likes best. When done properly this ‘demo’ can be considered a major close as well. Why? About 50 percent of the time, a great product presentation will close the sale without a separate closing step. How do salespeople know when this occurs? It’s when customers become physically involved with a furniture item, using it like they would if it were already in their home. It’s a buying signal that lets salespeople know that a shopper has already assumed ownership.

    A skillful salesperson will also use ‘tie-down’ questions to elicit ‘validations and confirmations’ to get customers to verify verbally the value of each feature presented by the salesperson. The expert use of ‘FABS’ (features, advantages, and benefits) increases perceived value, turning virtually every touch point into a potential close.

  6. Trial Closing. Once a convincing demonstration has been made, only then is it appropriate to ask a non-offensive question referred to as a ‘trial close.’ This is done to get the customer’s opinion. Some examples are:

    • “Do you think this would work well for you in the spot it has to go?”
    • “Is this the one you seem to like the best?”

    These closed-ended questions call for shoppers to render a yes or no opinion, that often turns into a decision. When they respond in the affirmative, they are likely to also say, “I really like this; okay just go ahead and write it up!”

    “The expert use of ‘FABS’ (features, advantages, and benefits) increases the perceived value in the customer’s mind, virtually turning every touch point into a potential close.”
  7. Isolating the Objection. There are times when a salesperson attempts a trial close but instead of getting a positive response, a shopper will respond by saying, “I like it, but I want to go home and think about it. Got a card?” It is at this point every salesperson must reply: “I really do understand. Do you mind if I ask you a question? What seems to be concerning you the most at this point?” This is one part of the sale that separates a true sales expert from a novice. Only by identifying the true objection can that objection be overcome.

  8. Overcoming the Objection. Your salespeople will be surprised just how many objections they will overcome once they complete step seven. Here’s one example. “Folks, you say you need to figure out what color to paint the room first. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share an important insight about that with you. Selecting the living room set, which you have likely just done, is by far the hardest part. After all, it had to meet all of your requirements perfectly: color, style, comfort, quality, size, affordability, durability and ease of maintenance. There are at least a dozen or so wall colors that will go really well with this set. My experience has been that once you lock in your upholstery purchase, it makes picking out the paint color a breeze! Wouldn’t you agree?”

  9. Closing. We have now finally arrived at the top step of the sales process staircase. Before proceeding, however, your salespeople need to be made aware of two extremely important things. The first is the need to now ‘flip’ the customer’s mind into an entirely different mode of thinking. Why? Up till now, they have been in a passive listening and learning mode. So before asking them to make a major decision, consider flipping them into a decision-making mode by asking them to make a few small decisions, for example:

    • “This sofa was really comfortable for you, right?"
    • The color would work perfectly, don’t you think?”


    If they decide that the sofa is comfortable or the color works perfectly, they are in a better mental space to make the decision to buy.

    At this point in the sales process, customers must also have a ‘most favorable’ opinion of their salesperson. Offering a sincere compliment, being humorous or even mentioning how enjoyable they’ve been to work with can work wonders at this stage. Relating their purchase to the emotional enjoyment they will experience with family, with their lovable pets or on cherished holiday occasions, can help as well. Doing this helps to sell based on ‘emotion’ which is much stronger than just facts or logic.

    Once the first eight steps are completed, salespeople are finally ready to ‘craft a close’ that is the most appropriate for each situation. There are many specific closes that can work well for selling furniture. Here are just three.

    The Add-on Close: “Mary, see how these lamps make this sofa really ‘pop’ and stand out? They offer not only light but also provide ‘balance,’ and really accentuate the ‘style’ you love so much. Getting them too would make a tremendous difference, don’t you think?”

    The Take-away Close. “Lisa and John, before you started to fall in love with this set, I guess I should have asked you if you would be upset if we couldn’t get this to you for a while? If we’re lucky there may still be one set left in stock!”

    The Don’t You Deserve it Close. “Tim, as hard as you work driving a truck every day, wouldn’t you like to come home and relax, by putting your legs up in this comfortable recliner every night?”

Unfortunately, time does not permit us to go into more closes, but I hope that you clearly see how every step of the sale can be considered its own instrument in the symphony that is a professionally executed closing process.

I think it’s important to point out that over the past 20 years, teaching specific closing techniques has fallen out of style. There’s a reason for that. When executed poorly, presented at the wrong time, in the wrong situation or without sincerity, it may be perceived by shoppers as patronizing or manipulative. Frequently, this outcome is the result of a lack of training and focus on the first eight steps, The Greet, The Qualification, Selling Yourself, The Show and Tell, Dropping Anchor, The Trial Close, Isolating the Objection and Overcoming the Objection. Not every salesperson can be a skillful closer, but every high-earning professional salesperson is comfortable performing each of the steps presented in this article, including closing.

I hope the adage ‘Always Be Closing’ mentioned earlier in this article now takes on a somewhat more significant meaning for you than it did before. I encourage you to share this information with your entire sales staff. Unless that is, you don’t mind them just whistling for business!

Note:  Scott Morris produces a 2-hour audio furniture sales “Closing Academy” for furniture retailers.  Every “closing situation” is based on real life experiences, guiding customers in overcoming the dozen most common obstacles that furniture shoppers routinely face. Includes the “30 best closes” for furniture shoppers. 


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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