Salesmanship: When did it turn really upside down?

Home Columns Salesmanship: When did it turn really upside down?

by Warren Tyler

My recent column “The World is Upside Down” (FCNews, Jan. 10/17) elicited the most response since my column “The World’s Greatest Salesperson” 18 years ago. In this article, I have been trying to figure out when the drastic changes we are experiencing in society actually began.

For example, when did people start carrying food and drink everywhere they went? When did it happen that people had to be “connected” with each other every waking moment? One reader, Allen Rice, was lamenting the fact his son made more than 1,500 telephone calls in a month and kids regularly text 1,000 times every day. He related how he wakes up in the middle of the night to conversation or bright lights, finding his wife on one of her multiple electronic devices. My comment: “He must have been sleeping with my wife.”

When was it that parents had to be involved with every aspect of their child’s life? Are parents so frustrated about their own failed athletic endeavors when they were young they need to insert themselves in child’s play? When I was a kid, we knew how to play baseball with two on a side so we had an at-bat every other time. I can’t imagine in Little League waiting each time for nine kids to bat. Playing by ourselves we had to play every position as well so we knew our areas of expertise. Is this why the average major leaguer today bats 50 points lower than in the ’50s and the fences have been moved in at 90% of the ballparks?

Same with football. We played 2 on 2 and had to play every position, so we were line- men, receivers, quarterbacks and running backs. High school is plenty of time for adults to be coached by professionals. Talk about parental involvement—in my day we would be horrified if our parents actually showed up at a game. Compare this to today’s parents who actually carry a kid’s athletic gear for them, yell at the officials and speak to the coaches about their kid’s performance (a banishing offense in years past).

Jump ahead to 2011, where customers use their electronic devices as defense mechanisms by walking into the showroom talking on their cell phones. Moreover, they use the devices to check pricing as they peruse your merchandise. It’s enough to make one wish that the theory of radiowaves causing brain cancer was proven. These are major complaints when speaking with retailers and salespeople.

It takes guts to be a good salesperson. My favorite (always with a smile) is to interrupt the conversation and tell the customer I am working on a cure for her addiction. Her response is to tell the enabler on the other end she’ll call back. Then I explain I am working on a patch that will shock her every time the device rings or she tries to make a call, and in a few weeks she should be cured. It works every time.

As professionals we know that comparing prices per square foot means nothing. We know that a $37 install is really more money than you charge and with all the extras, ordering installed products online is usually disastrous and more expensive. But if you don’t know how or get a chance to explain, there is no sale.

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