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From Home Furnishing Business

Coach's Corner: Don’t Just Tell it...Sell It! Discovering Words that Romance and Enhance Your Merchandise

by Tom Zollar,

As a salesperson, words are a big part of your toolbox. They are the main ingredient of verbal communication and along with body language, tone, appearance, energy, speaking style and other elements, tend to separate the successful professional from the amateur in our stores. Pros use words that provide visual and emotional connection to what they are trying to say. Their statements help give ownership to the message and lead the customer to not just hear it but also feel it. The best ones choose words that are colorful and almost magical, to enhance what they say as they romance their products, causing their customers to fall in love with them. Indeed, the words you use and the way you use them, will separate you from your competitors and make you more memorable to your customers.

In my March 2018 issue article entitled, “Words Matter, So Be Careful Which Ones You Choose to Use”, I talked about using stronger words, with a more positive meaning in our selling process to help customers better understand or visualize your message. A good part of the column was spent presenting alternatives to words we commonly use that actually have negative connotations for many of our target customers. One paragraph briefly touched on the concept of using words that help you “romance” your products, to get the customer connected emotionally with them and as a result, desire to own them. Here is what I said:

Sales people historically spend too much time and effort talking about the nuts and bolts of a product as opposed to the things a consumer really wants to know. Most often it is the aesthetics and function of an item that are their main priority. The proof is that the vast majority of people will not buy a product for their home, that they do not like the look or feel of no matter how much you discount it! Therefore, we need to “romance” the product and discuss what it does for the emotional wants of the customer, along with satisfying the practical needs they have. Words like gentle flowing lines, softly contoured back, generously padded arms and luxurious pleated English arm, make you sound professional and add value to the product. In addition, we do not recommend you use the words “special order” or “custom order” when referring to pieces you order specifically for a customer. While we understand what they mean, those are not necessarily positive terms for them. We suggest that you tell customers you will “have one made for them”. This creates emotional ownership of it when you write the order and is much more positive as a concept to most consumers.

While trying to determine what my message to you should be for this issue, which is devoted to Merchandising, I remembered this previous reference to finding better words to use during the selling process. I also recalled how much fun I had and the positive results I experienced during the retail training sessions when the group dove into this concept and tried to come up with glorious ways to describe products and vignettes in the client’s store. Back then we mainly used the staff’s experience as well as shelter/design magazines or books to find better words to use. What I realized, is that today we have much more available to us, including HGTV-type design focused programs, well over one hundred lifestyle centered magazines devoted to the home and of course the biggest reference library ever on the Internet. All of these can help us discover new, more colorful and emotionally powerful words to use in any conversation.

As a result, I decided to offer some ideas to improve your selling vocabulary with more romantic words. Here are some activities that salespeople and store employees can do that will help them find examples of words that will enhance their product presentations to customers.

What the store can do to help staff learn to romance the products they sell:


  • Each store vignette should have a name that describes it in colorful, design- relative terms, so the sales staff has a good starting point. These should be created by the buying team with input from staff designers and the rest of the sales team. Many online sites are great at using names to get their style message across. Be descriptive and fun, using phrases like Modern Minimalist, Vintage Elegance or Vivid City Vibes.
  • Saturday morning sales meetings should include a floor walkthrough to present new merchandise and discuss which customers it is targeted to and how to talk about it in the best way possible. Often, I see these presentations being done by staff members or teams that have been assigned by the sales manager. This is a great way to get new products launched and also improve the sales of specialty products and even slower selling vignettes. Sometimes products don’t sell on a floor because salespeople don’t know what to say about them, so give them the right words to use!
  • Train and coach the staff to use the right words to describe products and never to use manufacturer’s model numbers when referring to them. Teach them instead to use the name the manufacturer or store has given each product. I often hear salespeople start a presentation with something like: “this is the 99367, it is one of our best sellers”. The number provides no positive energy for the customer and calling everything you present a “best seller” is not good either. While that used to provide positive feelings for a product to generations past, it no longer carries much weight and can be a negative to some customers. It is just a lazy habit we tend to develop over time just to have something to say. Try something like “many of my more discerning clients have found this exquisite chair to be just what they want”, but only if it is actually true.
  • Bring in outside design trainers to improve your staffs design knowledge and learn new ways to talk about your products. Then have the sales manager follow up by coaching them and making sure they are using what they learned. Set up teams in the store to get inexperienced people working with the more design focused staff members in your store. Have them role play presentations together. Have contests to determine who does the best job each month and celebrate their success. This is a great way to help move your culture from just sales centered to design and sales focused. What the Individual can do to improve their ability to romance the products they sell:
  • There is no doubt that most accredited designers have learned how to use the right words to make a product exciting and memorable for their clients. But I have also seen many regular salespeople who have taken design courses either in person or online, who can also make a product dance in the customers’ eyes with the way they talk about it. It is not where you get the knowledge that matters it is how you use it to help potential clients get emotionally involved with your products and room layout solutions. No doubt, the best way to improve your ability to help customers find answers to their needs and wants for their home, is by gaining design skills and knowledge any way you can. You do not have to be a certified designer to be successful, but it sure doesn’t hurt!
  • Watch HGTV type programs focused on the home. I know you are probably already doing this, but are you really listening and learning or just being entertained? It may seem like a distraction, but I have found that many top salespeople actually take notes while viewing these programs and then work to apply what they heard in the store. It sure seems to work for them, so I recommend you give it a try.
  • Purchase and study books like: The Dictionary of Furniture by Charles Boyce and Furniture Facts by Annette Wagoner. Both of these great reference books are must haves for any furniture professional and are available on Amazon.
  • Review vendor catalogs and websites during your downtime at the store. Most manufacturers today put a good deal of effort into telling you what you need to know about their products. Since their websites are also aimed at your consumers, most do a pretty good job of using words you should study and incorporate into your presentations.
  • The role of the manufactures rep has changed greatly in the last few decades, but the best ones are still a wonderful source of information about their products and how to sell them. Pick their brains for insight into each product and what words they hear people using to describe them.
  • Read and study magazines for the home. These have always been a wonderful resource for learning about up-to-date design terms and trends. Keep them in the store, pass them around and see what catches other people’s attention. Chances are it will grab your customer’s attention too.
  • Visit other stores and websites to learn from the way they present products and how they describe them. Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Wayfair and most of the niche online sites are great at finding new and exciting words to describe their products.
  • Do research online to find new, more colorful and exciting words to use. All I did was Google “words to describe furniture” and I was provided with hundreds of interesting links to try. Many like and gave me great word lists and ones like delivered not only great words, but also basic design education. One thing I have found is that words that indicate what feeling or visual sensation a product or vignette delivers, are the most meaningful for the consumer. So, take some time to expand your vocabulary and upgrade your ability to paint a verbal picture for your customers when talking about your products. It will most certainly improve your sales performance and you may even have a little fun doing it, I know I did!

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