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My take: The perfect salesperson makes all the difference

by Steve Feldman

I try to minimize the embedding of my personal experiences in this space, but I have to relay a recent encounter as a consumer. It mirrors the retail experience we endlessly write about in this magazine.

I needed a suit for a very important affair. I was not unlike the consumer who purchases flooring once per decade. I hadn’t purchased a new suit since I could button the ones I currently own. I knew I didn’t want anything cheap, I knew I wanted value and I had no idea what it would cost. Sound familiar?

So, like the flooring consumer, my first step was to figure out where to go. I knew I wanted better than J.C. Penney, just like a flooring consumer knows she wants better than Home Depot. So what did I do? I asked someone whose opinion I respect, who I knew recently purchased a suit. Not only did he tell me the store, he actually called “his guy” who he’d been using for years. He raved about him. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had a salesperson who your customers recommended on par with your store?)

Anyway, I arrive at the store, meet the salesperson, and to say he lived up to his billing would be an understatement.

Before showing me one suit, he wanted to know the exact shirt and tie I would be wearing and to what type of function would I be wearing it. (He was qualifying me, just as a good salesperson asks about the type of traffic the floor will endure, kids, pets, coastal area, etc.)

Then he proceeds to show me no less than 30 suits exhibiting all kinds of patience. (Those who know me understand the magnitude of that statement.) All the while, I am also pulling suits off the rack just as fast he is returning to the rack. “The quality is not good.” “This color does nothing for you.” “You can’t wear this in the summer.” It went on and on.

Finally, we hit the home run. Mind you, price has never entered the discussion. Sure, I had a maximum number in mind, but at this point it was the farthest thing from my mind. Remember, I wanted a “good” suit. Translation: I wanted to look my best. Sort of like your customer, who is not actually buying a floor; she is buying part of the environment in which she wishes to live. It’s not the product; it’s what it does for you.

So, after we agree on the suit—which was 60% more than I really wanted to spend—and just before I take my first step to the fitting room this salesperson shows why he is the chain’s No. 1 person in the region. He wants to show me one last suit. He disappears into the back and comes out with a sharp, slate gray suit that’s slightly more expensive than the one I decided on. But here’s the catch: It’s a brand that for me is unaffordable but reduced 50% from its original price. In a word, value.

I try both on. They both look great, although the first one wins by a nose. I say if these suits were less expensive, I’d buy both. He tells me he will hold the second suit in his personal locker. He tells me I can take my time to decide. He won’t let it go anywhere. In fact, he fits me for both suits so if I want the second one, all I have to do is call. I called three days later.

So, let’s recap. This salesperson gave me attention, time, confidence, quality, value and sold a second suit. Just like when you convince the customer to do a second room in the home.

And that’s the definition of a top salesperson.