Walk in the Alternatives (Issue 1027)

In which we are reminded that, sometimes, we have to give even well-informed clients or prospects time to sit with our recommendations and their alternatives before they make decisions.

“I want to buy running shoes, please.”

I was standing in the Marathon Sports store on Mass Ave in Cambridge, wearing my well-worn, bordering on ratty-looking, supremely comfortable Saucony shoes. My every-day walking and jogging shoes. Before me, a wall of shoe samples in colors ranging from dark gray to blow-your-eyes-out lime green. 3:00 in the afternoon, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Three other clients in the store. A store team member, Ryan, introduced himself.

“What are you thinking?”

“Well, I’ve spent hours on line looking at hundreds of shoes and a dozen manufacturers. I bought a pair of Brooks Revel 4. I like the structure of the shoe and the heel-to-toe drop. They’ll be great for knocking around but I need a little bit more cushion under the balls of my feet and mid-foot. So, I’d like to try a pair of the Brooks Ghost which has a bit more cushion.”

“Certainly, what size?”

“10 ½ medium,” I replied.

A couple of minute later, Ryan appeared with two boxes. “I’ve brought you the Brooks Ghost and also another pair that I think you might like.”  Saucony Ride 14s.

I tried on both pairs. I walked up and back, up and back on the store’s honey-colored oak floor. I jogged in place a bit. I jogged backwards. I noticed that the Brooks shoe, ‘though designed to be neutral, felt like it was correcting for over-pronation (foot rolling to the inside). Not comfortable. And not as springy as I wanted. Ryan watched silently.

After about 20 minutes of walking first in one pair and then the other, I asked, “Ryan, could you show me a shoe that has more cushioning?”

Out he came with two pairs of electric blue New Balance shoes – the New Balance 1080 and the New Balance 880. Beautiful shoes.

I pulled them on. I walked…and walked… another 30 minutes. Ryan watched and, from time to time, disappeared to take care of other customers.

The 880’s didn’t feel right. The 1080s… I couldn’t decide. They are a very springy shoe.

I went back to the Saucony. After five minutes, I retried the Brooks. Another five minutes, I went back to the electric blue New Balance 1080s and walked for another ten minutes.

“Ryan,” I said, “my feet feel tired in the 1080, with the deep cushioning.”

“That’s typical,” he said, “your feet have to work harder with the additional cushion.”  He suggested I try one type of shoe on one foot and one on the other. For another 30 minutes, I tried all possible combinations. Ryan watched from a short distance as I transferred from shoe to shoe and paced up and back, the length of the store.

Just before the store’s 5:00 pm closing time, I chose the Saucony Ride 14s.

“These are the shoes you suggested two hours ago. We could have been done at 3:15!”

“Yes,” he said, “that happens a lot. And, sometimes, I just have to give people time to walk in the alternatives before they come back to the one I recommended.”

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 https://clarityadvantage.com/knowledge-center/ .

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