Thinking Ahead (Issue 716)

In which we are encouraged to help our clients think ahead, anticipate, and prepare to solve problems early.

One of the most enduring lessons from my mother is, “Buy quality and you’ll never be disappointed.” She was particularly adamant about this when it came to shoes. With few exceptions, I have followed that rule, particularly with my dress shoes.

Alas, my favorite pair of dress shoes is approaching the end of its useful life, so I returned to the store from which I’d bought the pair of shoes to buy the next ones.

I climbed to the circular staircase to the second floor of the store whereupon, within a few seconds, I was approached by a handsome, gray-haired gentleman in an impeccable suit who asked, “May I help you, sir?”

“I’d like to buy a pair of shoes,” I responded. And then, remembering where I was, changed gears:

“Let’s start again. Good afternoon, I am Nick Miller. Delighted to meet you.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Miller, I am Peter Fredericks. How may I help you, sir?”

“Peter, I’d like to buy a pair of shoes, please. I’m looking for a pair of the tassel loafers in black, please. I have been wearing the last pair of these that I bought in one of your stores for a number of years. It’s time to name their successors.”

“I’d be delighted,” Peter said. He measured my feet, just to be sure that the sizing I had given him was correct. He disappeared to the back room and returned, face crest fallen, saying, “I am terribly sorry, we don’t have that shoe in your size. In fact, none of our stores in the Northeast have that shoe in that size. So, I will get those shoes here for you to try on within a week, if that would be satisfactory to you.”

“Peter, that would be fine. I’m in no rush, and I particularly like the shoes.”

“I’m so glad, sir. Let me ask you a question: Perhaps to save you a trip at another time, what would be the next pair of shoes that you would consider replacing or purchasing?”

So I thought for a moment and responded. He replied, “Very good, sir. If it would be alright with you, I will have a pair of those ready for you when the other shoes come in. You can have a look and, if they are satisfactory, perhaps you might name their successors, as well.”

“Peter, thank you, that would be very kind. I will see you in a week.”

Helpful, yes? Smooth, yes. A retail sale, yes. Perhaps little to do with our business-to-business sales efforts?

Except that he asked me to think ahead and begin to solve a problem I hadn’t yet begun to solve. Brilliant.

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