Salesmanship: Selling in a recession

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by Warren Tyler

“We refuse to participate in the recession” is a common refrain in advertising nowadays. While I appreciate the attitude, you have to recognize that we are indeed operating in a strange and harsh economic environment. More and more rules are regulating our personal and business lives. Lines are painted on the street to tell us exactly where to drive as though we couldn’t figure it out. More and more people are relying on the government to tell us how to live our lives.

Believing the hype

Those on the East Coast just endured the greatest coverage of a rainstorm in history. People were urged to evacuate in the name of “safety,” like we couldn’t figure this out? Newscasters were trying desperately to make this out as something it wasn’t. Reporters were assuming awkward stances outdoors while civilians were strolling comfortably in the background. TV stations were begging people to send them photographs of a branch or leaf that fell to the ground to no avail. If it weren’t so pathetic it would be laughable.

When we were children, our parents would drive us to the beach to witness the storm. Now we quiver in terror.

Why do I get into this? Because many of our customers actually believe that anything the government does is good and anything private business does is bad. So forget the fact the public (as well as corporations) are terrified to spend any money, we are almost to the point that people won’t buy unless they get an OK from “Big Brother.”

How to get a buyer

The good news is that 90% of the people are working and need home furnishings, but when they come into your store they are more cautious than ever before. You must allay their fears before they will make a buying decision. You have to win their trust.

How do you do this? People trust people they like. The art of being liked is speaking to them about their issues and interests, never yours. I have preached this for years, but today it is more important than ever. Intimacy is the key: More time and effort has to be devoted to this than all other steps of the sales process combined.

Customers see ads from Empire at 70% off (What the heck is its regular price?) and free installs from Lowe’s and Home Depot.

If you explain why your regular prices are lower than Empire’s and “free” at the boxes can cost hundreds of dollars, if they don’t like you they won’t listen. However, if they do like you and you can assure them that your bottom line price when you leave the house will be less, they will at least give you a chance to measure.

Be the professional

The characteristics of a professional are more true and useful now than ever:

Sincerity. People must perceive you are trying to help them, not sell them.

Enthusiasm. You know you will treat them right and give them the best products for the best price and are excited about doing it.

Self-esteem. You love yourself enough to be able to put others first. Heed these principles and sell more. Remember the “new sell” is “no-sell.”

Warren Tyler has 52 years of retail flooring experience. He is one of the industry’s most sought after speakers, and his training materials are among the most requested. Call 804.384.7588 or email

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