When was the last time you were “sold” something? As soon as I hear a sales pitch winding up, I start looking for the nearest emergency exit. On the flip side, if I have a problem, I will beg someone to “sell” me a solution.
Several years ago, I saw this situation from another perspective. One of my clients is an importer of Mexican home furnishings. They invited me to travel through the mountains of Mexico to visit with their suppliers. We drove the curvy back roads from one small home-based workshop to another as my friends shared the artisan’s incredible life stories. Many of the people looked like photos in National Geographic Magazine. Their faces were chiseled from years of exposure to the sun. Their hands were tanned and calloused from carving wooden furniture.
My client sold the furniture in the United States in a retail store. The two-year-old store initially had strong sales, but had recently declined. They asked me to be a mystery shopper in the store to diagnose the problem.
First, I stopped a block away at the recently opened competition. It was a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with inexpensive, low quality Mexican imports. Next, I went in my client’s store. It was a small boutique with pottery, picture frames, tables, chairs and benches beautifully displayed with a handwritten price tag on each item. The sales people were friendly enough. There was room for improvement in their customer service, but overall it wasn’t horrible. I didn’t think it was enough to cause sales to dramatically drop off. I left the store wondering why customers were opting for the store down the street.
We took a survey of customers and found that most of them didn’t really “need” to buy Mexican furniture. They just wanted something unique. That suggested we should showcase the distinctive features of each piece. My client reworked the displays to include photos and stories of the craftsmen and women. Sales immediately went up.
Today’s gift was a conversation allowing someone to “sell” to me. I agreed to listen even though I didn’t want the service that the company was selling. I survived the sales pitch and preserved a friendship. And it really wasn’t too bad. Who knows, I may even need their service in the future and actually beg them to sell to me again.