When the going gets tough, the tough get selling – but, asks Paul Farley, despite the temptation to drive sales at any cost, is the UK furniture industry leaving the hard-sell techniques of yesterday behind?

Sports car, designer suit, bombshell blonde – the American dream? Cinema once glorified the uncompromising moneymaker, but by the time Gordon Gekko appeared in 1987, the glamour had started to fade, and the market was clearly ready for a more nuanced approach to sales.

In retail today, shady commission tickets and emotional chicanery have been all-but replaced by a public face that’s more friendly, honest and informative. While stores will generally discount particular lines to incentivise sales, a good salesperson will strive to sell the customer what’s right for their needs – even if that’s not immediately in the shop’s best interests.

Precisely what shoppers want – be it prioritising convenience, value, quality, or something else – remains the million-dollar question. But good service underpins every business relationship. Today’s consumers expect to be listened to, informed and respected, not steamrollered into submission. This means salespeople should increasingly show, and not tell – but they, in turn, need the right incentives, structures and tools to do the job.

“The whole sales industry and process has changed to a softer sell,” says Rhenus Home Delivery’s Gav Boden. “Nobody wants to be sold to – they want to be listened to, understood and offered a solution to their requirements.”

Read the rest of the article in November 2020's issue of Furniture News, here.