Ep125: Lessons from a Macy’s Furniture Salesman (BLOGCAST)
It’s the moment I dread.
Walking into a furniture showroom, I’m there to browse, feel the fabrics, see if a couch is napping-friendly. A salesperson spots me. I’m polite when they approach me, but desperately hoping they go away so I can wander in peace. It’s their job, I know, but I want to decide when I’m ready to talk.
And I just realized what that’s about, as I typed that sentence (it’s that introvert-thinking-through-writing thing!): control. The faster I’m swept up into conversation and a sales pitch, the less in control I feel. I feel more vulnerable to being talked into buying something I don’t want or need, or that just isn’t the right item. I want to do some research – reconnaissance, really – before I talk with someone. In most cases, that research has already happened through Google. I come with Evernote clips at the ready, with the brand, model or style of what I want to see and test. But I’m not ready to talk about it with a salesperson, because I don’t want my information preparedness to come across as ready to buy.
That was the case the day my husband and I walked into a Macy’s Furniture Center. We were looking at couches and recliners, and I’d already visited once (and was left blissfully alone) and done my online research. I had three or four couches I wanted to sit on, all chosen based on a combination of looks, price, availability, and reviews.
One salesman said hello as we rode up the escalator. Another one greeted us a few minutes later, introduced herself, and told us to let her know if we had any questions. Then about 10 minutes into our visit, Paul approached us.
Paul, it turns out, is a dyed-in-the-wool furniture salesman. His dad sold furniture, and Paul’s been at it for more than 25 years. He approached us as we were sitting on our second couch of the evening. At first, I wanted him to go away, too. He was too… extroverted for me.
But over the next 45 minutes or so, I was glad that he was politely persistent. His style, while different than mine would be, modeled the qualities of successful salespeople. And all of them are qualities any introvert entrepreneur can cultivate without feeling gross.
Here are four sales fundamentals I was reminded of by Paul the Macy’s Furniture Salesman:
- Be friendly while leaving space. Paul introduced himself, asked us our names, and said something to the effect of, “you look like you could use a little more time on your own, so I’ll check in with you in a few minutes.” He closed by showing us how to read the tags on the furniture, and pointing out the code that indicated his favorite designer. He gave us a little more information without overwhelming us, then left us alone.
- Tell them something they can’t learn online. Paul’s approach reminded me of the podcast conversation I had with John Doerr, co-author of “Insight Selling.” John and I talked about how today’s buyers are much more informed than they were pre-internet. They walk into the store with a grasp of the basics, and often have firm ideas about exactly what they’re looking to buy. That shift requires that the salesperson be much more nuanced and personal about the information they share. Paul took the time to demonstrate why a particular brand was preferable to others by unzipping a cushion and showing us the inside, and talking about the materials and fabric in a genuine, almost geeky way that held our attention. It was clear he knew his stuff and wanted to add value to the transaction through his personal expertise.
- Make it personal. Paul used my name in conversation, maybe every fifth sentence or so, but not to the point of it sounding forced (which is always a risk). He sometimes used my husband’s name, but I think he sensed I was the decider, so he said “Beth” more than “Andy,” probably 3-to-1. When he learned that Andy worked for an orchestra, he told an undeniably cheesy composer joke that made us groan, but endeared him to us. He also made a big point of telling us that we were not only Macy’s customers, but we were his customers. When we need a repair or have a question, we are to contact him, and he’ll navigate the system for us.
- Follow up. When our furniture was delivered the following Tuesday afternoon, I was fairly certain that I’d have a voice message from Paul a few hours later. My hunch proved right. He left a nice message, thanking us for our business, checking to see if we were satisfied with the delivery, and urging us to contact him with any questions. He didn’t have to do that, certainly not right away. But the fact that he did seals the deal: the next time I need home furnishings, I’m going to start with Paul.
These are all natural, introvert friendly ways to connect with your potential clients and customers without coming across as fake or salesy. We spend lots of time fretting about sales and what we’re going to say or pitch, and we wish for a secret sauce or magic pill to make it all easy breezy.
And the truth is, there is a secret sauce.
The Sales Secret Sauce:
Relax and smile (even if you’re on the phone). Ask how you can help. Listen. Listen some more. Add value. Be vulnerable enough to make a personal connection. Let your expertise and belief in your solution shine through. Invite them to consider your solution. Ask for the sale. Thank them for their business.
It really can be that simple.
Sure, there’s more that happens behind the scenes, such as creating products and services that the market needs, positioning and pricing your offering appropriately, attracting and getting in front of the ideal audience… those are all activities that happen below the water line, and we can get so engrossed in working on those aspects, we freeze up when it’s time to surface. But your ideal audience needs you to come to the surface. If you have a solution, you have a responsibility to share that solution.
The bottom line is that you need to ask for their business. Here’s a lesson I’ll never forget, learned during a nonprofit fundraising class I took in graduate school: the number one reason people don’t give to charity is because no one asked them. And the number one reason people might not be buying what you’re selling is because you’re not asking for the sale.
Your sincere enthusiasm and ask might not always result in a sale, but without them, both you and your client are guaranteed to leave empty handed. The more you decide to take the small risk, the more you’ll succeed!
Do you want to learn more about how to develop your sales skills as an introvert? Chapter 5 in my book, “The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths and Create Success on Your Own Terms,” is dedicated to tips and frameworks to help you think through your own approach to sales. Networking, sales, what to say when you talk about yourself… it’s all in there!