Retail education: Show some appreciation

Home Columns Retail education: Show some appreciation

Volume 26/Number 22; March 18/25, 2013

It seems to me our world is becoming a more crass and negative place to live. The majority is no longer polite.

The art of “how to win friends” as well as doing business with a good old trusting handshake is gone. It’s morphed to a blatant style that resembles blackmail and hard-selling tactics.

Even our politicians­—who everyone knew were bought and paid for—used to disguise backwards behavior, to some extent. Today they stand arm in arm with their backers and not their constituents. I’ve heard comedians say, “I’d like to introduce you to the senator from ‘Big Oil’ or the congressman from the NRA.” The apparent idea is to say something that half the people will believe and ignore the rest.

Have you noticed that your flooring competitors with the most advertising are usually the same ones who sell deceptively and dirty? That’s because they use the 50% idea. They turn and burn their ignorant buyers giving them no reason to offer their friends a referral.

So with no repeat or referral buyers, dealers flood the airwaves with a new batch of tricks. One store where I worked showed its sales staff the advertising for a holiday weekend sale ending on a Monday with another ad hitting the following Tuesday that read, “We were too busy to get to the overwhelming volume of buyers so we are extending the sale for three days.” I remember that Saturday being a slow day and joking with a fellow salesman about being “overwhelmed.”

When I talk about these high-pressure, poor-selling, unethical places, it is from experience. Unfortunately, in my more than 25 years of selling floor covering, I have worked for a few of these businesses, including my very first one in Michigan. Due to my ignorance at the time, I thought this method of selling was the norm. But as I’ve worked for several operations over the years, I’ve learned otherwise. However, I am glad for those experiences.

The catchphrase, ‘it takes one to know one’, is the message I’ve received. But no matter where and with whom I’ve worked, I have noticed one commonality: The small store owner who shows appreciation for his sales performers is wise. Contrary to what many think, good salespeople are not motivated by money alone. Top salespeople are motivated more by being called the “Top Salesperson.”

Ego goes a long way in positive motivation. Even when I worked for less than moral flooring organizations, they made me feel important and always discovered ways to bring out my pride. Contests giving an extra $250 for top volume in the sale weekend, or even just a dinner for two, were always what I considered mine for the taking. It made me feel good and was something with which I had bragging rights.

Sure, the extra cash was always nice, but the pride was worth more to me. All the time I knew how much the company profited from these contests, but I only cared about my ‘Top Dog’ reputation.

How do my complaints about the new, ruder society and message about motivating salespeople tie together? I’m proud to say most of us top-performing sales advisers are polite, and understand the best way to make friends and generate sales is to treat people how we would like to be treated. That old-fashioned politeness and helping, not selling, our buyers is a great way to make a living.

But if you’re the manager of sales advisors, understand that egos still run on a little appreciation. (Then again, a little cash never hurt either.)

Thanks for reading.

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