By Barry Maher
Yet how often do we find ourselves pushing against people?
I was doing some training for a restaurant supply company, and one day I was working with a new sales rep by the name of Rosemarie. She had an appointment with a restaurant owner named Herb, and we walked in to his high-end dinner house carrying samples of the glassware she was hoping to sell. As we entered his office, Herb finished his phone call—what appeared to be a good-natured cussing out of his produce supplier—and focused immediately on the glass Rosemarie was holding.
He laughed. “Tacky fake-crystal crap like that is really not going to make it with our class of clientele. Now if you’ll excuse me . . .”
Rosemarie stepped aside in surprise as he brushed past her. But she quickly regrouped and rushed to the defense of the company’s product. “This glass is anything but tacky,” she insisted defensively. “Your clientele would be delighted . . .”
I reached over, snatched the glass from her hand and flung it toward the waste basket in the corner. It clattered off the side of the basket, and fell onto the floor.
“It’s a piece of *!@*%,” I said, taking my language cue from Herb, and stopping him in his tracks. “We happened to have that sample with us but that’s not what we’re here to show you. We want to show you glassware that’s going to enhance the experience of dining at Herbert’s not detract from it.”
I did a quick fact-finding, then launched into a presentation for the finest and most expensive glasses the company had to offer. Herb loved them—until he heard the price. Then they weren’t really good enough. But somehow the glasses two price levels down from those “would be okay, I suppose” and we closed him on a good size order. When we were finished, I said, “You mentioned something about doing a breakfast business.” He’d touched on it during the fact-finding. “So this isn’t strictly a dinner house?”
“No, we’re dinner only. I was talking about our other place. Angie’s Diner?”
“Rosemarie,” I said. “Could you hand me that glass I tossed over there on the floor?”
She retrieved the glass, and I held it up to the light for Herb’s inspection. It was unbroken. I banged it against his desk, hard. It sounded almost like glass but didn’t break. “Like you said, Herb, this is anything but fine crystal. You could see that from halfway across the room. But it looks like glass and it feels like glass. It lasts like plastic but it doesn’t scratch. And wait until you hear the price.”
Herb was right, the cheaper, long lasting glasses weren’t appropriate for his dinner crowd. But once he heard the price, he decided they were perfect for Angie’s Diner. They were a good value for what they were. And they made a nice add-on sale towards Rosemarie’s quota.
“I can’t believe it,” she said once we’d returned to the car. “First, you called the glass a piece of !@*%, then you sold it to him.”
“How much did we sell in that call?” I asked.
“$1,637,” she said. “With more to come, figuring future breakage on the dinner glasses. More important, I got my foot in the door in two restaurants.”
“And how much do you think we would have sold if we’d gotten into an argument with him about that inexpensive plastic glass?”
“Maybe nothing. You would have been out a nice sale and Herb wouldn’t have his glasses. Besides, he was absolutely right. Those glasses are a great deal for the diner but by his standards for the dinner house, they are junk. Why would I want to convince him that I’m nothing but a mindless hack—desperate for an order—by arguing with him when we both know that he’s right?”
BUILDING AND DESTROYING CREDIBILITY
Calling that glass “a piece of !@*%” was obviously a mistake, made in the heat of the moment and not a fair way to deal with a product of a corporation that had hired me to consult and to help train their people. Let me hereby state for the record that I am not perfect. I should have just tossed the glass toward the trash and said, “Forget about that thing. That’s not what we’re here to show you.”
Still, the basic concept was on target. When we push against people they push back. Too many would-be leaders are like salespeople who feel they have to win every point. Nothing destroys credibility faster. And nothing builds credibility faster than granting the other person his or her legitimate points. No lie, truth is the ultimate sales tool. Whether you’re a salesperson, a leader or you simply want to influence the guy who works across the hall.
-April, 2009, Las Vegas, Nevada; San Diego, California
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