Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Theory About How Women Buy

Joe Capillo wrote an interesting article in the latest issue of Furniture World titled "A Theory About How Women Buy." Capillo ought to know his subject after all he's helped furniture retailers with customer-centric selling systems and his book "Living On The Top Line" has recently been published.

The first thing that caught my eye in his "Theory..." was the fact that 40% of furniture shoppers don't make their purchase for a long time after they first start shopping. Other than price being an issue, 41% of those waiting felt there were too many options and 42% said they have too much uncertainty about design.

I don't see anything earth shaking about those statistics. We don't cry over the looky-loos, because those people may be prime referrals for our interior designer friends who use our shop as their resource. After all, interior designers help limit the options and determine a woman's style.

I am not concerned about the 40% who walk out. Capillo says one of the reasons for walking is the question that gets asked by many sales people, "Are you looking for anything in particular?" Besides being a closed-end question, I can't believe most professionals would start with such a lame question. The other criticism, naturally, is the intent of the salesperson to sell to the potential customer what he wants them to buy.

I have been in sales since I was 15. First, selling shoes in low, medium and high-end stores, both men's and women's. Then, I was a successful stockbroker for over 27 years. After I retired from the markets, also called on marketing execs in the high tech industry persuading them to outsource their marketing to my firm. I've even tried telemarketing making invitation calls to upwards of 200 people a day.

As a stockbroker, I did a lot of cold-calling. In my early years, I would have 150 to 200 conversations a day pushing a particular stock or bond idea. For every 100 conversations, I would get about 20 prospects and those prospects would give me about 5 new customers. Customers were people who bought my ideas or gave me buy and sell orders. I was not concerned with their concerns only in finding investors for positions that I hoped would increase in value. If the customer bought three of my ideas they became my client, meaning they would be a reliable source of income and would refer their friends to me.

So when Capillo says that 40% of furniture shoppers walk out the door, forgive me if I don't get too excited. I was working with numbers where I failed 95% of the time. My business evolved over time to the point where my primary concern was my client. What was he or she trying to accomplish. Were they trying to put together funds for college, retirement, another home. Did they want more income to enjoy a greater standard of living or did they want to be involved with the financial news they saw on TV. Did they want to brag to their friends that they owned Microsoft at $50 pre-slit, or NIKE at $6 or shorted BP, for example, before the Deepwater disaster.

So the questions evolved over my career from, "Shall I put you down for 1,000 shares?" to "What are your goals for your family?" Are you looking for more income? How would you characterize your risk aversion? "Where do you need help?"

It's called the consultive approach and Caprillo says women demand that you help them with their refurnishing decision with questions like, "What are you trying to accomplish?" " Tell me about the room." "How is the room to be used?" "What is your budget?" "Are you working with a designer?" If not, "Are you comfortable making design and color decisions or do you need the help of a professional?" Finally, psychically, you try to find out who's the room for and how does she want to be seen in the room by her friends, competitors and family"

This is not about selling that sofa which has been on the floor too long and carries a big spiff. It's about meeting your customer's needs. It's about treating them so well that they do your selling for you. Caprillo says "...selling home furnishings isn't a matter of life or death. It's more important than that!" I don't know if I would go that far, after all it's just furniture, but it sure puts a big smile on your face to make a new friend who's now happy with her home.

Bev & Mike
Landfair Furniture + Design gallery
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