Salesmanship: So long, Greg

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by Warren Tyler

There is nothing new under the sun!—a phrase I use frequently when teaching selling in the flooring industry. Throughout the years, many different methods of selling have been introduced—the useless FAB method favored by manufacturers and suppliers, the impersonal Meet/Greet, Qualify, Presentation and Close plus several attempts to teach salespeople the myriad of methods of psychologically profiling individual customers ostensibly to customize their approach.

The so-called “relationship selling” came in vogue around 20 years ago. I say “so-called” because during my 50-plus years in the business and before I started a lifelong study of selling skills, I found relationships were the only way to sell effectively. Relationship selling began with the cavemen. Trainers who teach this method seem not to understand the meaning of real relationships.

Years ago, I was conducting training for the Retail Floor Covering Institute in concert with two icons of the industry, one now passed and the other now in his 90s. I was speaking about making friends with customers. As is my wont, I was describing the meaning of real friends when one of the icons felt compelled to interrupt me and explain that “Warren doesn’t really mean friends like your [real friends]” to which my reply was, “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean!” A conversation with them after the session revealed that neither one of them understood how to make real friends with strangers or the value of doing so. This led me to understand why so few salespeople actually “get it.”

About a year ago I wrote about Greg Mussleman as a terrific example of the most powerful element in sales: building real relationships. I first met Greg at a Big Bob’s convention. During one of the scheduled meetings, someone sitting in back of me offered an extremely cogent explanation of customer service (another misunderstood retail skill). I turned to see who this person was and to my surprise I spied an older man with a scraggily beard, dungarees, sneakers, a Big Bob’s hat and jacket in place of the expensive suit and tie and immaculately coiffed person I had envisioned.

Speaking with Big Bob himself, I was told they took a chance and hired the little old guy and to their surprise from day one he sold flooring—lots of it. They transferred him to other stores and in every place to which he was assigned shortly became the No. 1 salesperson.

I had plenty of time to study the “Mussleman Phenomenon” during the convention. Greg loved people and people loved him. No one taught him this; it was just Greg. He was one of those rare people who intrinsically understood what it took. I call it “knowing without knowing.” People liked him and therefore they trusted him. He was the epitome of what I try to teach every salesperson.

There are many roadblocks to relationship training. One of the most difficult to get around is because of prior training, salespeople can’t believe that selling could be this simple. The other is that few people can truly love enough to be loved in return. This lack of intimacy is why salespeople who actually are able to use relationships to sell are a rare breed. The few who I meet during my travels seem to come by it naturally. Greg was a natural. We had only those few days to interact, but it soon became obvious he loved enough to be loved.

A few days ago, I was informed that Greg Mussleman had died of a massive heart attack. The world lost a great human being and a heck of a salesperson. Our loss is Heaven’s gain.

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