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Eileen McClelland

The Story of a Failed Sale



My brother, Sean, and I ventured into a chain furniture store today, scouting out couches for my mom. Her current 30-year-old leather couch has seen much better days; it’s currently duct-taped, in fact, because it’s cracking. In other words, she really does need a couch.

So, I walked in and said hello to a couple of staff members sitting at a desk near the door, and we struck off on our own, starting to looking around.

Sean and I were sitting on a $600 couch when our assigned sales person made her first approach, grimly waving a flier that explained how we could finance this relatively inexpensive couch in question without a finance charge, for 24 months. This seemed like an abrupt and unwise introduction to me! We had discussed nothing at all yet; was financing her only strategy? Why was it her first strategy? Did we look insolvent?

Shouldn’t financing be a way to overcome objections, once financial objections are identified?

When I appeared unimpressed by her financing offer (I folded it up and stuck it in my purse), she then asked some version of “What are you looking for” today?

It sounded transactional, not conversational, a tone that persisted.


I explained that my brother and I had just come in because we needed somewhere to sit.

She didn’t crack a smile.

She did ask my name and tried to use it later, but got it wrong.

I asked about how the couch was made and she said it was spring-tied, creating a “trampoline” effect, which could vault the occupant out of her seat quite easily. That sounded funny to me, and so I laughed and said, “Oh, perfect, my mother is a former gymnast!”

Again, no smile. No effort to establish rapport. She did ask how large a person my mother is. Tall? Short? Big? Small?

I conceded that she is petite.


I told her I liked the style of the couch but wasn’t crazy about the nailhead trim.

She said there were couches with more modern styling on the other side of the store.

So my brother and I wandered off over there.

When my mom joined us she thought the fabric colors I had liked were too light, so I found a couple more options she liked better, and asked our sales person if she could write down the style names and dimensions of the ones we liked.

She said we could buy it today — right now, in fact — and cancel the order in 24 hours if it wouldn’t fit in the space. I couldn’t understand why that would be an advantage over waiting to see if it would actually fit.

Regardless, she never smiled. I never felt a connection.


Those two sentences tell the whole story of a failed sale.

The topic of INSTORE’s Big Story for January 2016 will be how to build a better sales person in six months. Any suggestions? Please contact me at

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



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Wilkerson: “They Feel Like Family”

Newton’s Jewelers in Fort Smith, Ark., was a true institution. But after being at the helm for most of his life, owner (and descendent of the original founder) Kelly Newton decided it was time to retire. He chose Wilkerson to handle the sale. “I’ve known the owners of Wilkerson for a long, long time. I felt at home with them,” he says. The final retirement sale was just a “blast” and the Wilkerson sales team made it so very simple and straightforward, says Newton. Would he recommend Wilkerson to others? Absolutely. “They’ve done incredible work,” says Newton. “They feel like family.”

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