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From Home Furnishing Business

Selling in 3D


By Tom Zollar

In the simplest terms, a salesperson’s role is to make the customer feel comfortable in a store, find out what they want and find it for them.

While there might be some differences in the process, depending on the situation, the desired result is the same, no matter the industry or market. This has not changed since a caveman sold the first wheel.

What has changed over the past centuries and particularly in the last couple decades, are three elements of the selling and buying process:


·         The selection of products;

·         The number of places or ways to purchase them; and

·         The consumers.


Today there are many goods to pick from in every category the selection process can be difficult. In addition, the number of retail and other channels from which to buy has become so vast that competition for a consumer’s business has become intense. As a result, consumers have a great deal of choice and often find it intimidating, confusing and in many cases downright scary.

Today’s consumer has found a number of ways to deal with this situation. Some keep looking until they find what they want. A few give up, buying what they see first or are told to buy by a friend, relative or sales person. Most, however, research before shopping to make a more educated decision about where to shop and what to buy. The job of the sales staff is to help customers through the decision-making process and in many ways, all this has complicated the simple process of satisfying the customer’s wants and needs. 

Selling furniture is different from selling other big-ticket products. For one thing, it is more complex and confusing because of the nearly infinite options. Another issue is every problem home furnishings solve is different and personalized to each one. This is because we are a fashion-based industry, meaning mthost customers are emotional invested in what they buy.

The challenge of a sales staff is being able to guide consumers through the process of finding the perfect furniture to fit their needs, wants and lifestyles. 

To do that, a sales team must understand all three dimensions they will be interacting with during the selling process and how to use their personal skills to play the role of leader, partner or follower in the customer’s quest.


Selling Skills—Managing the “Discovery Experience”

The first step in the selling process is to ensure customers are comfortable in the store by properly welcoming them. When someone visits your home, you would start off with a greeting to relax visitors and make them glad to be there.

The same is true in a store.

Individuals come with different expectations, but they all have needs they want addressed. If they aren’t comfortable or welcome in the store, the chances helping them find what they want are reduced.

Once a rapport is established, it’s important to build trust through the discovery experience to determine what the consumer is interested in. Research indicates customers buy for two reasons—trust and value. The first goal should be to gain trust to add value to products and services you provide through the selling process.

The ultimate result of the application of good selling skills is proper management of the discovery experience and a clear determination of your customer’s needs.

This is done through a series of open-ended questions that allow a customer to tell you what it is they are looking for—and more. Most will be in search of something to meet the practical furnishings needs.

Through questioning, you collect information about what a customer is seeking and what it must do for them. You may find out which room the purchase will be for, size requirements, uses and other key pieces of information. You may even learn about the customer’s home, degree of design awareness and lifestyle. All of this is useful to the selling process.


Product Knowledge—Knowing What Your Products Deliver

Every product a store sells has its own set of physical features. These include:

·         Size—Length, width, depth and height;

·         Function—Recline, adjustable pitch and sleep mechanism;

·         Feel—Softness/firmness of the cushioning along with the texture of the cover;

·         Look—The overall appearance of an item, including color and pattern of the cover;

·         Quality—Construction and design details along with craftsmanship;

·         Durability and Cleanability—These are the results of the construction quality and the cover that is selected; and

·         Other Features – Mobility, flexibility and other options that allow for customization.


While it is important to know the features of the products you sell, the ability to match each a customer’s individual needs to the benefits a product will consummate the sale. Once you use your selling skills to determine the needs, it is up to you to help the customer find something that satisfies them. 

Ever hear the industry adage “features tell, benefits sell?” Keep in mind, consumers are interested in the benefits provided by physical features of a product. Use selling skills to determine what is important to a customer and use the knowledge of product benefits to add value, solve problems, answer questions and overcome objections. The process of matching needs to benefits is fundamental to selling and is the key to turning customers into happy clients.

It can be argued that product knowledge is more important than selling skills to the process, because it is the ability to know what a product can do for customers that will drive the questions you ask. If you don’t know what a product can do for someone, it is pretty hard to get them to buy it.


Design Empathy—Providing Emotional Gratification

The selling situation in home furnishings is difference from others because our we operate in a fashion business. For us this means there is another dimension to selling that we must be aware of in order to satisfy the customer. 

Fashion decisions are based primarily on emotional wants. In other words, customers want what hey buy to deliver more than just something to sit on, a table to eat at or a place to store clothing.

It has to look the way they want it to look. It has to feel the way they want it to feel, not just in a physical sense, but also in an emotional sense. Home furnishings, clothing, jewelry and even cars, say something about the owner to others. It is the emotional benefits of the product that you must present to help customers make the right decision; one that they will be happy with when the product is in their home.

To do this, you need to develop design empathy. It would be nice if we could make all our sales people interior decorators overnight, however, that’s not possible. While becoming a designer can be a development goal for many, those skills are wasted without the ability to sense what customers want from a product.

As an example, your goals should be to:

·         Work with your customers to discover the perfect style or look for them;

·         Help them find their desired colors;

·         Guide them to the right texture or feel;

·         Put together the perfect layout; and,

·         Create sales that deliver emotional gratification.

Design Empathy is the dimension that holds the key to selling in a fashion industry. You don’t sell customers what you want. Instead, you help each one discover what they want.

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