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Next Level Training: Know-How Trumps Knowledge!

Furniture World Magazine


Part 12— by Scott Morris

Know-How Trumps Knowledge!

One key perspective and a lot of missing know-how separate your best sales performers from mid and low-level performers. Here’s why.

I learned early in my furniture selling career that standard industry training for salespeople imparts a lot of essential knowledge. It took several years and the guidance of a few mentors, however, for me to realize how to utilize that knowledge in the most beneficial way. Most other furniture salespeople can learn what I did, explode their sales performance and advance their careers once they acquire one key perspective, plus a lot of missing know-how.

The Key Perspective

Let us begin with the one key perspective every salesperson, sales trainer and store manager should know. Even though I probably haven’t visited your store, I believe I know every one of your salespeople quite well. Once I explain exactly what that means, you too will come to know them a lot better.

Imagine standing at a central location in your store on a busy afternoon. Within just a few minutes, you should be able to easily point out which of your salespeople are in the top, middle, and bottom third of your sales team’s monthly volume. Once I explain the insight—or you can connect the dots on your own—you will see what I mean.

Any retail sales team can be split into three groups. The first ‘lead their customers’ both physically and conversationally. The second group repeatedly darts in and out of the customer’s space, each time interjecting short bursts of assistance. The remaining group stands at some distance from their customer, waiting in case that customer motions to them for some help!

“Any retail sales team can be split into three groups. The first ‘lead their customers’ both physically and conversationally. The second group repeatedly darts in and out of the customer’s space.”

How Salespeople View Their Role Is Key!

What accounts for these behavioral differences? The top third possesses better know-how, enabling them to interact more effectively with customers. They also view their role in the selling process quite differently compared to the other two groups.

Best Performers: The best performers believe they must provide their guests with many valuable insights needed to make truly informed decisions. They have an expert understanding and are capable of providing the advice every customer lacks and needs. If they don’t take the lead in providing this kind of help, they genuinely feel like they’re doing customers a disservice. That is why you will notice them being highly interactive and constantly engaged in conversation. The sales process to them is not about making a commission today, it’s all about going on a bonding journey to win over a customer for life!

Mid-Level Performers: The middle-level performers do not feel the experts’ calling. Instead, they view their customers and themselves as co-equals. That’s why you see this group constantly going in and out of the customer’s presence. Why? So they can show them over and over they are a nice person who respects their space while also ensuring all their questions are being answered.

Bottom-Level Performers: Bottom-level performers see themselves as secondary in the customer relationship. They believe “The customer knows what they’re looking for. They’ll ‘know it’ when they see it. The last thing I want to do is to bug them because that would just cause them to walk right out of the store!”

Customers’ Reviews Reflect These Sales Types

The following keywords and phrases found in customer reviews reflect the category of salespersons who waited on them. Since you did so well in connecting the dots previously, consider this question: Which of the following statements uniquely belong to the appropriate salesperson grouping?

  • My salesperson was very helpful and took the time to make sure I had all the information I needed to make the right decision. I recommend that you ask for Mary when you go in!
  • My salesperson was very courteous and friendly and gave us plenty of time to look around. I recommend shopping there!
  • What I like about this place is they don’t bother you or follow right behind you.

Alrighty now! I am sure that you have this one figured out, so let us proceed to the next insight. Did you notice that no salesperson’s name was mentioned for the last two? That’s because they didn’t really stand out. They only mirrored the customer’s expectations.

“How your salespeople view their role in the selling process is what drives the rest of their thinking and their behavior in every sales transaction.”

Your Next Sales Meeting

“It has been said that a person’s conceptual approach to their personal and business life is everything. How true that really is. How your salespeople view their role in the selling process is what drives the rest of their thinking and their behavior in every sales transaction. Begin your next sales meeting by saying, “Today we are going to start with a very simple question. Your participation would be greatly appreciated. How exactly do you view your role in the sale?” The answers you get will be interesting and set the stage for a discussion of sales types and how your salespeople view their role.

Missing Know-How

What exactly do I mean when insisting that your standard training is missing some very important know-how?

When new hires receive training on bedroom sets, for instance, the same things are always taught. Presented are the store’s brand(s) and assortment, the comparative features and benefits of the good-better-best story and how to sell the appropriate add-ons such as mattresses, nightstands, chests and accessories. However, the fine art of how to present all these things is never adequately demonstrated and hardly ever even spoken of.

Critical information such as pointers on exactly where the salesperson should stand when presenting a bedroom set for the best effect, and why, is never conveyed. Neither is similar information concerning the customer’s best position and why. Stores rarely present information about customers’ body language, such as teaching how, when a customer postures themself in a certain and very specific way for just five minutes, the chance of closing the sale skyrockets to about 80 percent. If your salespeople know this secret, it will enable them to focus on the best way to elicit this type of customer behavior.

Teaching standard product knowledge is very important. It functions like letters in the alphabet that can be used by an author to tell a story. Likewise, well-trained salespeople use product knowledge to craft a much more meaningful story, one that unfolds line upon line, providing a truly emotional and memorable in-store experience.

When this happens, rather mundane features, advantages and even benefits presentations can be transformed with amazing stories to dramatically bring home the point. Here’s an example, “Ms. Customer, this is dovetailed drawer construction. See how secure it is? If you spend $15,000 for a bedroom set, this is exactly how the joints will be made. This time-tested technique has been around for thousands of years. Talk about standing the test of time! They discovered dovetail construction on items in the pyramids! Dovetailing has even saved countless lives! How is that possible?

“Lighthouses on the edge of stormy seas would come apart and shatter in severe weather, posing a hazard not only for the keepers within the lighthouse but also for ships lost at sea because their only guiding beacon in the storm suddenly disappeared! That is until one day someone got the bright idea of how to make lighthouses much stronger by using dovetailing construction! Since that time hardly a lighthouse has gone down. Talk about being durable!”

Customers are rarely impressed by mere facts anymore. Many have given up on retail salespeople. Instead, they get their information from website reviews and influencers to provide context for the products they buy. If you or your salespeople fail to provide the memorable insights, perspectives and emotionally moving in-store stories and experiences they are looking for, your sales will definitely suffer.

Here’s just one more example to bring home that point. “Ms. Customer, this sofa has microfiber fabric which is easy to clean and can be great for pets too. Why is that so? It is so densely woven that pets can’t easily damage it with their claws. In fact, microfiber is 100 times finer than a human hair! So let me now simply ask you a ‘trick question,’ if you don’t mind, just to see how close you can come to answering it! If you took just a single strand of microfiber that was 130 miles long, how much do you think it would weigh? Do you think it would even be less than 10 pounds? Well, the truth is it would only weigh about one ounce! That’s how tight the weave is! The 10 pounds mentioned would actually make it long enough to go around the entire world!”

These real-life examples of know-how may not be the same stories your salespeople would tell. That depends on your store and its customers. My point is that telling emotionally-charged stories about materials, construction, design, or sustainability trumps the mundane and often boring plain product feature facts. The best stories will be remembered forever, along with the salesperson who imparted them.

Consider that your best performers as well as mid-level and bottom-level salespeople received the same knowledge from your standard product training. What sets your best performers apart likely is they have also received the insight of additional know-how.

“Well-trained salespeople use product knowledge to craft a much more meaningful story, one that unfolds line upon line, providing a truly emotional and memorable in-store experience.”

A Parting Thought

You have learned three important things from reading this article. The first is that you should now be able to evaluate a salesperson’s overall effectiveness by observing how they interact with customers on the sales floor. Second, you realize how each salesperson’s thoughts and feelings about their true role has become the driver behind their particular approach to selling. Third, it should be clear that the industry does a fantastic job of passing out a lot of important knowledge, however, there is a need to supplement it with lots of know-how!


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.