I haven’t been shopping for furniture for years. So when we needed new dining room chairs, this involved actually going to a couple of furniture stores.

I have been in sales all my life. I was in the family jewelry business for over twenty years and then I sold timeshare for twenty five years. The sales people  today did not know anything about sales.

In both places that we went there were clumps of salepeople talking to one another and nobody approached my sister or myself. We were nicely dressed and looked like ‘good’ customers. I finally had to ask someone, “Where are the dining room chairs?” The reply, a pointed finger in the general direction of the window. “Against the window”.

Note the chairs displayed against the window

For a store that had over fifty chairs on display, plus lots of dining sets on the floor, one would think there would be a salesperson nearby to help answer questions, if not to actualy try to sell anybody something.

We found the perfect chairs, and on sale too. Tourquoise leather, light, comfortable dining chairs. Regularly $249 each, now only $149 each. I haven’t bought chairs in a while and the last time I did, I think was at the Salvation Army for around $15 each.

Finally a saleswoman was within shouting distance and we called her over. “If we were to get these chairs, there are only four here on display, do you have six? And when could we have them delivered?”

“I’ll have to check our stock”. (Slight delay while she went and checked)
“Yes, we have lots of those but they are at our warehouse in Kapolei” (this is about thirty miles away).

“OK”, when could you have these delivered?

“We can’t have them delivered until February and the charge is $99.” (Today is January 10)

“But we need them for a party Saturday night.”

“Oh, then we can have them RUSH delivered on Saturday morning. The charge for that is $199.”

“Maybe I’ll just take these four in my car, and when you get the others in, I will pick them up”.

“There is a $35 transfer fee to have the chairs brought here from the warehouse.”

By now I was getting annoyed. I held my tongue, but seriously, what a way to run a business.

If the salesperson had any brains, she would have complimented us on our choice and made some sort of comment about the leather or the workmanship. Zero.

This store is called Inspiration. It is very large and has beautiful furniture, rugs and accessories. They have a large office furniture section as well. If I were going to ‘do’ a room over, I think I would head to Inspiration. (Having a lot of money to spend wouldn’t hurt).

There is a casual restaurant and a very hip evening restaurant called The Stage. Parking is good and the store is very pleasant to stroll around in.

But the salespeople are totally lacking in any sales techniques. I am not talking about ‘tricking’ the customer, but where did the slight small talk go? Such as, “What size is your dining room table?'” or “Are you looking for any special finish or color?”

How about, “Is this your first time in Inspiration?” or “We are having a big sale right now and there are some really good buys in this department.”

In fact, the easiest sale to make in any business is the ‘add on’ sale. The person has just opened their wallet and spent money with you. Now they are most likely to spring for that rug for under the dining table, or that painting that brings out the color in the upholstery. No one even tried.

I’m not saying that a person will always purchase a second or third item, but how easy to simply say, “Look at this centerpiece that just picks up the color of the chairs”. (Of course you have to know your inventory to be able to do this).

If you notice the photo above, my sister is wearing an aqua shirt and sitting on an aqua chair, which we bought five of. This reminds me of one of the greatest salesmen I ever met in the jewelry business.

There was a salesman who sold more colored stone rings than anybody else at Zale’s jewelers. As the company had over 700 stores, this was quite something. His store was in Kailua, Hawaii and not especially large.

When he was asked how he did this, this is what he said, “When a woman came into the store I noticed the color she was wearing. I figured if she was wearing red, she liked red.  And also, that she probably had other red items in her wardrobe.

I would select a ruby ring out of the case and say, “Excuse me, but this just came in and I haven’t seen it on anyone yet, would you mind modeling it for me?”

Now it was an easy step for the woman to say, “Do you have something a little larger (or smaller?)” or “I really prefer a white gold setting”. Voila!

Of course if she were wearing green, the ring would be an emerald, blue, then a sapphire, purple, an amythyst and so on. Pretty clever, if I do say so myself.

I have always been interested in the psychology of sales and have read many books on the subject. I have taken numerous seminars also. Tony Robbins was the most remarkable. And, no, you don’t have to ‘walk on fire’.

And so it is amazing to me that a person would be in the sales business, whether they were selling jewelry or furniture and not seem to know one single thing about their product.

When I sold timeshare, one of the most important parts of the sales presentation was the ‘warm up’. This was a required twenty minute getting to know you time when absolutely nothing about the product could be mentioned.

Some of the things I learned in timeshare sales have stayed with me to this day, and I wonder if the up and coming generation will have any great sales methods or if the people of today just order so much online that they never have to actually deal with a live salesperson.