Salesmanship 101. (Courtesy of cartoonist Wally Littman.)
My husband thinks it’s comical that I’m still annoyed when I think of the sales rep that sold us our living room couch, even though we purchased it some 15 years ago. It’s not that I hold a grudge…really, I don’t. It’s just that I think it’s an excellent example of bad salesmanship. And so I share the story with you, of what NOT to do in sales.
The story begins at Just Living Rooms… a chain that carried contemporary living room furniture and accessories, (and despite their name, I think they had bedroom furniture too). I had been on the prowl for a replacement couch to the garage-sale special I’d picked up right out of school, and had been to many a store before I spotted this showroom, on the highway, and asked my husband to join me for a quick look around.
The sales rep approached, introduced himself, and when we said we were “just looking” he told us to feel free to browse around and let him know if there was anything he could do. So far, so good.
In fact, I found a couch, comfortable to sit in as well as for stretching out. It was made of leather… easy to clean. And was an unusual deep forest green-teal, a color I didn’t think I’d ever tire of, that would brighten our home. My husband tried it out and said if I liked it, it was fine by him. And so, we hunted down the sales rep to write up the order.
Here’s where the sales rep went wrong
During the transaction, the rep learned where I worked and what I did, so he knew full well that I was contributing to the family income. And, though he made light banter with my husband, essentially all information to write up the sale came from me. When it came time for payment, I provided him with a credit card from my wallet, with my name on the card. And yet, as we stood up to leave, the sales rep extended his hand to my husband, shook it, thanked him for the business, and walked away. He never even said “thank you” to me.
Clearly our rep thought a woman’s income, brain power, and influence were superfluous. Hopefully, that’s not so much the case today. Despite any advance in that regard, there’s still a useful lesson to be learned.
And so, the business lesson is…
My take-away lesson, that applies to all business not just retail sales, is this:
Many people are involved in the buying decision. It’s not just the person who signs the order that made the purchase.
All parties should be acknowledged and thanked.
And last but not least, for goodness sakes, don’t underestimate the influence of anyone, even if they’re in what you may perceive as a lessor role. It may very well be the grad students in the lab who research and recommend the equipment their manager actually buys. Or the administrative assistant who investigates a purchase, writes up the req and presents it to his/her boss for signature. Or any number of people in “lower level” positions that actually are the ones in charge. Perhaps they don’t hold the purse strings, but they hold the power.
In fact, it’s actually even more basic than that. Always treat everyone with respect, in the same manner you want to be treated. It’s what we were taught as children, and not only a good lesson in sales, but still a good lesson for life.
Cartoon credit: Huge thank you to Wally Littman, who custom created this illustration just for this article! See more of his portfolio, then hire him for your next project at www.wallylittmanillustrator.com.
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