After Shave (Issue 1018)

In which we are reminded to fully understand our customers’ specifications before recommending or delivering.

My hair (what little of it there is) does not grow very fast. Although I was sitting in my usual chair at my usual barber shop, my usual barber and his usual back up were not there. Since I had only a small window of time for a trim at that point, I decided to go ahead with the new guy.

The “new guy” was not new to the trade. I would guess he was about 45 years old and I learned he’d been barbering for 20 of those years.

“How would you like it, today?”, he asked, as he wrapped tissue paper around my neck and pinned the apron.

“Light trim, please.”

Although I’m not a barber and I understand that each practitioner has his or her own way of cutting and trimming, I had a sense I was in trouble the moment the electric clippers came out.  Once he’d taken the first pass, which happened very quickly, my concerns were confirmed. The guy’s initial experience must have been buzz cuts. During the remaining moments of the procedure, I thought several times about saying something like, “What are you doing? I asked for a light trim.” But, the damage had already been done.

As he finished his work and just at the moment I expected him to brush me off, he reached for a bottle of Clubman after shave, blooped some on his hands, and before I could utter a sound, smeared the bloop on the back of my neck.

Yechhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I remembered the smell from barbershops in central Pennsylvania during my early years. N O T A F A V O R I T E ! ! (Hints of orange, lemon, jasmine, and lavender with a warm musk background and antiseptic alcohol overtones.) My stomach loop-dee-looped and threatened to reverse lunch.

“Why in the world did you put that on me?” I asked, sharply.

“Well, that’s the way I do it, to condition the skin on the back of your neck where I shaved you.”

Huh! “That’s the way I do it.” I was NOT happy. [And it took a couple of serious showers for me to fully remove the  residue from my neck.]

Disappointed!!!!! As the buyer, I am clear that I didn’t provide a complete set of specifications for a “light trim” haircut.

As I retreated to my office, noticing plants wilt in my wake as spirits of aftershave wafted ‘cross their leaves, I wondered: How many times do we, as sellers repeat or confirm the words our buyers say – “Light trim,” for example – and then respond with our standard response or our own interpretation because… that’s the way we do it.

Sure, the barber asked, “How would you like it today?” And when I answered, “light trim,” he could have clarified my expectations – “When you say, light trim, sir, what does that look like to you?” – or offered me options, something like, “ I can do it a couple of different ways….. these are the tradeoffs…. which do you prefer?”

Instead, he did it the way HE does it and I ended up looking like a sheared sheep.

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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