secret to salesmanship is simple. You have to be their friend.
buyer wants their decision validated. They need to be told it’s the right thing
to do, and in no business is this more true than mine.
a lot of salesman go wrong is thinking it’s their job to decide what the
customer wants. They try to lead the customer. They try to create a desire
where none exists. This is not how you would treat a friend. You treat a friend
with trust. Trust that they know what they’re looking for. Because they do.
Before they even come into the store, they know. They know something is missing
in their lives. They know precisely the shape of the hole in their heart. They
know that something somewhere out there, possibly in this very store, will fill
that hole. They just don’t know what it looks like.
is why you shouldn’t pay too much attention to what they say. You watch their
eyes. See what they glance at, what their gaze lingers on. Look for that sudden
stop of recognition when their eyes spot what their heart’s been searching for.
example, take this man browsing our firearms display. Those other salesman
would look at his hasty demeanor. How quickly, how dismissively, he’s looking
over the merchandise, and they would tell you that this is a man who doesn’t
know what he wants. A perfect candidate to be sweet talked into something more
expensive. After all, firearms are our second cheapest option, second only to
our selection of hand smithed knives. But, those other salesman have it wrong.
I’ve been watching this man for a while now, never a good idea to approach too
quickly, and I can tell you that he’s been in the firearms section for some
time. He looks disappointed, anxious even, but he hasn’t left. This tells me that
somewhere in that section is what he wants. He just can’t find it. Now is the
time to approach.
open with something like ‘can I help you?’ Never use a line. That’s not how a
friend makes his presence known. A friend says hello, so that’s what I say.
looks surprised. Most of our customers don’t expect there to be a salesman.
It’s one of the advantages to this line of work. When a customer expects a
salesman they come in already on the defensive, already prepared to dismiss
offers of help. When they don’t expect a salesman they don’t think to treat you
like one and, with a little help, they can come to see you as the friend you
that you’ve said hello you’ll want to start the conversation about the
merchandise, but don’t ask the customer if he likes something. That question
makes them feel rushed. Which makes them feel defensive, which makes them want
to leave. Instead, just comment on what they’re looking at. Make an
observation. To this man in the firearms section I say, “those triple barrel
models are surprisingly light.”
answer is quick. “They seem silly,” he says, “I mean, three barrels? Why not just
one big one?”
voice bristles with impatience. This, even more than his words, tells me what
he’s looking for. Certainty and speed is what this man is after. That’s good
news. These are the traits of a customer who won’t be leaving empty handed. The
customers who want something romantic, our plane jump program for example,
they’re the ones who duck out before you can close a sale. As soon as you see
that wistful look in their eye, the one that says ‘maybe tomorrow,’ you know you’ll
never get them to the register. This man does not have that look. He has the
look of a man who’s already seen too many tomorrows.
next step is tricky. With the next step you have to establish yourself as the
expert. You have to give yourself the power in the newly minted relationship.
It can be hard to do this and still have them look at you as a friend. Back
when I sold luxury jets it was the hardest part of the sale. It’s easier here.
Most of our customers have pretty low expectations of their friends.
they’re trying to avoid with that,” I say to him, “is penetration. For one
bullet to do the work of three it would need a lot more force behind it. Could
pass through a wall and, say, hurt a neighbour.”
he responds, “it still looks silly.”
you are not alone in that feeling. Some of our customers like the elaborateness
of the design. I do not. I believe it gives them an overwrought feel. The
decorative etching on the barrels, in particular, I feel is a bit much. I get
the impression you are looking for something more direct. Let’s see how you
like the feel of our scattergun.” I say and bring him the SR-444.
design is simple, its execution beautiful. A short tube of jet black steel. The
oversized hammering pin at the bottom would look comical if it hadn’t been
crafted with such elegance. The inside contains a single shell of small, high
density shot. The only mark along the length is the small firing switch. It’s
less than three feet in length but weighs nearly twenty pounds. It’s by design.
The heft inspires confidence.
eyes widen, letting me know I’m on the right track, but they quickly soften
into reluctance. “It would do the job, that’s for sure. I doubt it would leave
much of a head.”
this is a man not entirely divorced from the world. He still cares about
appearances. Most likely there is someone, possibly even someones, that he
still cares for.
Before he can raise more objections to the scattergun I put it back on
the shelf. “No,” I say to him, “I think we can find something more right for
you. The scattergun is direct, but also crude. For you I see something more
elegant. I think I have just the thing.”
remove the Rx-570 from its glass cabinet and hand it to him. An aluminum tube,
about the size of a flute, with a small glass bulb on one end.
is it?” He asks.
“A laser.” I pause to let that sink in before
continuing, “The bulb goes in your mouth, you hit this button, and in less than
a millisecond the beam sweeps through all the key areas of the the brain. The
beam is no thicker than a fingernail, with a head of hair like yours there
won’t be a single visible exit wound. And there’s no risk of hurting someone
else. By the time the beam exits the skull it couldn’t go through drywall. The
most it could do is singe the paint.”
His eyebrows arch in admiration. I’ve almost got him, but I’m not quite
there. You can always tell when you’re really done. You’ll see their whole face
relax and they don’t express surprise, or amazement, or even pleasure, but rather
recognition. Relief. They’ve found it at last.
So the question is, what can I tell him about the laser to make him see
that it’s what he’s been missing? There are several features I could mention,
but I decide to take a gamble.
the interesting thing about this piece,” I say to him, “is the custom path
option. By default the beam moves in a sort of spiral, but, if you so choose,
you can override that pattern and set it to something more personal. The bottom
of the device here has a camera. Just take a picture of any drawing or text
that’s been written down on a plain white sheet of paper and the beam will
trace out that image exactly. Selecting this option also strengthens the beam.
The result is that whatever text you scanned into the device will be precisely burned
into the wall behind you, so long as you have a wall behind you. Perfectly
legibly, I assure you.”
have him. He’s looking at the laser like a long lost pet. It was a risk. Most
customers find that feature disquieting or even downright ghastly. The only
ones who love it are the ones who have someone they want to punish along with
themselves. That’s why he objected to the scattergun. Such total self
destruction while this other person stays whole would have felt like admitting
defeat. This, on the other hand, turns his last act into a last attack. His
demise made the medium for one final condemnation.
At least, that is what he believes, and as I swipe his card I mold my
expression into a conspiratorial grin that reflects his conviction. In this
last stage of the sale you find out exactly what type of friend you are to the
customer. For this man I am his brother in arms in the last campaign of a
protracted and bloody war.
a customer has made their purchase I always shake their hand and give them a
simple, softly spoken ‘Goodbye.’ The tone of the goodbye is crucial. Normally I
try to give this goodbye not an impression of sympathy but rather one of
understanding. A goodbye that tells the customer that I know their story has
been a sad one and they’ve picked the right way to end it. But that’s not the
goodbye this customer wants, so it’s not the one he gets. When I give him his goodbye, along with his
final handshake, it is with a tone of admiration. The goodbye one gives a
soldier headed into battle.
Of course, he will not win his silly, and almost assuredly one sided,
war. I doubt he will inspire the guilt he so obviously aims to inflict. No, I
suspect whoever it was that drove him to this store will look upon his final act
with astonishment and pity. Astonishment over the dramatic nature of his
reaction and pity at his fragility. They will not mourn their actions toward
him. But, in his mind he leaves my shop the victor and I would never dream of
telling him otherwise. The truth would cause him considerable pain and while he
shops here I am his friend. We must never hurt our friends