We Still Have A Role (Issue 906)

In which we are reminded, we still have a critical role as salespeople in a web-oriented economy.

I had the heat to buy a pair of casual, leather, comfortable walking shoes. [I’d had this heat for quite a while.]

Consistent with the trend of the day, I did my research online to find shoes I liked – the right style, the right color, and the right construction – offered at a price I could tolerate. Within an hour, I’d made my decision. I thought about buying them on line, then had second thoughts – “You really should try these on, first, to make sure you like them.”

One sunny, weekend afternoon, the urge hit me, hard, so I purposefully (think “heat-seeking missile” here) strode to the nearest store that offers the shoes to have a look. After studying the pair on display, I concluded I’d buy. I popped my head up and looked around for help.

The style of “sales” in the store is casual, to the point of feeling disengaged. It’s hard to tell the customer-supporting staff from the customers. After studying several milling humans, I identified a store employee.

“I’d like to buy these shoes, please,” I said, pointing to the display. “Size 10, medium.”

Wordless, he nodded and, with some speed, disappeared into the back of the store, emerging several minutes later with a forest green box.

Still wordless, he handed me the box. I pulled out the shoes, slid my feet into them, laced them up, and walked one lap around the store.

“They’ll be fine. I’ll take them,” I said, putting my ‘old’ shoes into the green shoe box, then looking up.

“Fine,” he said, waving me toward the center counter. “Suzi will check you out.”

And she did. I paid for the shoes and left, feeling elated, “That was great! No useless chatter with the salesperson. Out the door in less than ten minutes.”

I was about 300 yards down the road when I realized that the shoes were just a little too big.

While they were the right size according the size chart, my feet were slipping around a little bit. I stopped and re-laced them. Better, but still a bit roomy.

I was cooked. I’d left the store; I’d walked down the street. I didn’t feel like it could take them back.

When I reached my home, I   i m m e d i a t e l y   pulled out my laptop and poked around online. I discovered, to my chagrin, that I’d somehow missed the point that the shoes tend to run about a half size too large on American sizes…. reinforcing the point that, just because we or our clients do our own research on line before we buy, we don’t necessarily do COMPLETE research and we don’t necessarily UNDERSTAND what we’re reading or know the tricks-of-the-trade.

Thus, one of our roles as salespeople in a web-enabled world. We should, still, know and provide information about our products. [I wonder whether the ‘salesperson’ at the store knew that the shoes tended to run a half-size large.] 

We should, still, do our diagnostic work as a ‘second set of eyes’ for our clients’ online research. [I wonder why the ‘salesperson’ in the store didn’t measure my feet or check the positioning of my feet in the shoes when I tried them on.] 

We should help our clients find the RIGHT information and use it, well, to make better decisions.  Extensively informed can still be misinformed.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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