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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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
- “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.”
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.
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?”
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
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
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
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