How to avoid the cold shoulder in the showroom

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

Winter 2023-24 started last month. Better that 80% of the U.S. and all of Canada have felt Mother Nature’s full effect, with sub-freezing temps and snow, hail, sleet and grapple.

It’s the kind of weather that drives people to drive to our little section of Florida. Just to get relief from the cold.

Here in Del Boca Vista (Phase III) we’ve seen an influx of out-of-state plates parked in front of the villas. My ever-lovin’ and I have hosted visitors ourselves.

This past weekend one of my buddies from Ohio stopped by. The conversation drifted toward the days we spent at our respective colleges and the women we dated. While I had been shy and lacked confidence in the co-ed department, my wise friend had a whole different attitude. 

He’d see a young woman he was interested in meeting. He’d say “Hi” and introduce himself. If her reaction was negative, he was OK with that. In his own words, “There were many other young women and I’d move on to the next.” He respected but didn’t fear the word “no.”

For those in the Selling Profession, that single two-letter word can be the most frightful in the English language. We make a formidable presentation. Demonstrate the features and benefits. Allow the shopper to test or try our merchandise. Add in promotional offers. Then the entire pitch crumbles when she says, “No.”

The word becomes so frightful that many salespeople never ask the shopper to buy. They don’t close the sale, just to avoid rejection.

Greeting another person in a social setting, starting a conversation and asking if they want to further the relationship is highly personal. Rejection can be painful, or worse.

Asking a shopper to purchase the product they came in to buy is business. Strictly business, not personal.

Understand The No

In selling big-ticket items, you should expect The No. Big-ticket consumer items are rare purchases for our shoppers. It may have been a decade or more since their last purchase. Even if they have an immediate need, they may not trust themselves to commit to trading hard-earned dollars for shiny new products.

Prepare for The No

You’ll close more sales once you realize that “No” means “Tell me more.” You haven’t given your shopper enough evidence to tip the scales in your favor. In their mind, their money is worth more than your merch. Have your strongest buying factors available to share. We’d like to believe that people buy because of specs, the nuts and bolts of the merchandise.

In practice, people buy because of emotions and back it up by the specs. You can explain that a mattress has 1,000 coils, or you can paint a picture of how they will arise from a full restorative night of sleep, energized and ready to take on the day. No nagging backache, because they chose a mattress with superior support and amazing comfort.

Strike Preemptively Against The No

Think about the last few failed sales presentations you made. Those with no sales. Those when you wrote a quote. Those with promised be-backs. Vegas odds say that 78.4% of missed sales fit into one of these three categories:

  • Order time
  • Need to check with spouse or partner
  • Price

You can knock out these objections within five minutes of greeting a shopper.

After welcoming the shopper, ask what they are looking for (not applicable in a specialty store). Your next question needs to be “When do you need it?” Their answer will frame your entire presentation. If they need something quick, start by showing in-stock merchandise or samples you can release from the floor. If there’s no hurry, then your entire display is open to show.

You won’t lose sales because you helped them love something they can’t have when they need it.

Another early question you must ask is “Who else will be helping you make the decision?” If you are fortunate, they will be the sole decision maker. Or they may answer that it’s a bedmate.* Or they may be buying merchandise for a grown child or older parent.

If there’s another individual involved, your follow up question is “What kind of a (product) do you think they would like?”** Go through your demonstrations, continuing with “Do you think your (partner/child/parent) would like this?”

Even if your shopper mentions a second party, the likely decision maker is the person that comes into your store.

Price is the most common reason for hearing “no” at the end of a sales presentation. They want your products. In a mattress store, if all beds were $499 the shopper would select the one that’s best for them. If adjustable beds were the same price as box springs, shoppers would choose the adjustable. It’s not that they don’t like the item. They just don’t like the cost.

Sticker shock — the unhappy surprise your shopper gets when they see 2024 pricing — is a common occurrence. It’s not just at your store. It’s everywhere and it’s reality.

Bring this forward early in your sales presentation. Ask your shopper to tell you about their shopping experience so far. They’ll describe being confused, abused and shocked by prices. I normally reply, “Things are expensive now.”

In the course of the demonstration it’s OK to ask the shopper what their budget is. Whatever their number is, follow with “Up to what amount?” to see their stretch limit. You can also help increase their spending power by quoting the first price in dollars and dollars per month.

“No” is a natural part of the selling experience. You can fear it and eat beans or embrace it and dine on filet mignon.

*Some single people will invent a spouse or partner to use as an exit ticket out of your store when you ask for the sale. Ask the question early to avoid this ploy.

**Asking this question boosts your sale by 20%. A jeweler told me that it results in a half-carat upgrade on a diamond. When selling recliners, it took my sales from the $299 promo to the $699 deluxe.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at

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