Charles Dickens on Sales
It was the best of sales; it was the worst of sales.
I would like to share two classic examples, from my own experience, of good selling and bad selling. I’ll start with the bad selling so we can end this piece on a positive note:
1. Bad Selling: We had a Big Box chain here in New England that carried everything from refrigerators and stoves to batteries and CD’s. Their stores were clean, well lit, and stocked with all sorts of goodies to delight the discerning consumer. Their prices were fair, if not always the lowest, but best of all, they had a sales team that knew their business.
I went in there once to buy a computer cable. I gave the clerk the part number. He said, “We have that, but customers who use it complain about feedback and static. I’d recommend this one instead.” I quickly compared prices to make sure he wasn’t just trading me up, but the cables were the same price. I went with his suggestion and was pleased with the outcome.
After that, we bought a refrigerator, stove, stereo, and numerous other household appliances there. In every case we dealt with someone who knew the product, could answer questions, and seemed eager to help.
Then came the economic crunch, and business fell off. They were hurting. The in-store stock got skinnier and oftentimes items had to be placed on order for later delivery. One day I read in the Wall Street Journal that some “genius” at Big Box corporate had decided to cut costs and save money by laying off … the top sales earners! He figured he could save on commissions and bonuses by replacing their best sales people with salaried clerks whom he thought could handle all the customer’s needs.
Was he ever wrong. Within a short time, the new team showed up with the new attitude: “If we have it, it’s over there, against the wall.” As for answers to user questions, that degenerated into: “Maybe you can find it on the company’s website.” I stopped shopping there, and so did everybody else. They skidded right down the slippery slope into bankruptcy. Recently, I passed their store. It was empty with big “For Lease” signs in the window. What a shame. The boss didn’t understand that customers wanted to buy from people who knew their business, understood the customer’s need, and could answer the customer’s questions. Goodbye, Big Box, Inc. You’re another casualty of bad management creating and running a bad sales team.
2. Good Selling: A while back I went into the local news and coffee shop to buy a New York Times newspaper. The owner, an old Townie who had been there for years, said they were sold out. I said okay and started to leave, but he said, “Wait! You should try this one.” He produced a copy of last Sunday’s New York Times.
I said: “Last Sunday’s paper?”
He said, “Their coverage is about a week ahead of everybody else, so you don’t lose that much. Plus you get the best in-depth business reporting from Pulitzer Prize winning journalists who have access to all the big name corporate CEO’s. They also have interviews, commentary, references, everything you need to find out what’s going on, how it affects you, and what you can do about it. You should buy and read this paper.”
I was stunned. He had this little “elevator speech” all prepared to sell his product and when he had the chance, he used it with enthusiasm and went for the close. I reached in my pocket, pulled out the cash, and bought his newspaper.
And so, while I roast the numbies at Big Box, Inc., I toast the best salesman I have met in a long time: The gentleman who convinced me to buy last week’s newspaper, today, at the regular price.