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A Story About Buying Shoes

A Death, a planned Surgical Strike and a Telling Blow – a story about buying shoes

By Matt Pearce

So, I had an interesting experience last week with a retail sales professional that had me literally running from a store.  

THE DEATH

It started last Thursday, my favourite tan work shoes had a blowout. Not just a minor blow out but one of those side of the shoe tearing from the sole in a way of complete destruction, they were dead.

I almost cried. Not because of the shoes, but because what it meant, I would have to do what I hate most, shopping, more specifically shoe shopping as it was the most challenging for me.

THE PLANNED SURGICAL STRIKE

I am the classic masculine shopper. When I go shopping I plan it like an SAS surgical strike.

I identify what I want, find who sells it, check if it is in stock, work out where the store is and plan my parking to be to the shortest distance to enter and leave. My goal - do it quickly and surgically with limited mental damage.

My challenge with shoe shopping is this is not possible. With shoes I must try them on. I have a size 13 foot that is almost as wide as it is long.

Okay I start my buying process, I have a budget, I define what is critical, important and the nice to haves for me, and I formulate a plan to minimize the pain. Easy.

I chose my location – it’s an outlet mall, it has several good stores in one area that has easy access from a parking perspective. This wasn’t going to be a surgical strike, but it was still going to be a short, limited engagement. I make my mind up, I will do it Saturday morning.

EXECUTION

Saturday morning arrives, I dress for comfort and to ease the stress, t-shirt, shorts and my trusty pluggers (thongs/jandals). I have my comfy thick socks on hand, I am prepped for my mission. 

I enter the first store I have identified. It was a premium store with a reputation for high quality products. There were two attendants, one the Manager and the other a young Clerk who was obviously relatively new. The Store Manager looks me over and turns away. Boardshorts and thongs don’t suggest a buyer. The Clerk however does the right thing and approaches.

The engagement begins:

Clerk: “Can I help you?”

Me: “Hopefully you can I am looking to buy a pair of shoes”

Clerk: “Well you have come to right place. We have a few choices. What particularly are you looking for?”

I told him in general terms. I didn’t mention budget as I was a bit flexible due to my foot size.  

He then clarifies a quick few things around styles (gave description), what were they for, what would I be wearing them with and then went as far as do you want a brown, dark tan, mid tan or light tan? He picks out shoes to clarify as we went. He asks about my work and what I do, showing real interest. It was tick, tick, tick for this reluctant shopper.

Wait a second, I am enjoying this buying experience.

He asks my shoe size and on hearing it politely says, “That narrows the options a bit but let me have a look as I think we have a few shoes in your size that fit the bill.”

I am thinking the universe is providing, I am getting close to a surgical strike. He brings out three pairs. They are all close, but I am not totally sold on any of them. The clerk is not fazed and asks the Manager for his input on some options. The Manager suggests a pair.

THE TELLING BLOW

The Store Manager is now getting interested as it looks as though I, contrary to my look, have a good chance of buying.

I try the shoes on, they fit the bill on every front, except my budget. I weigh this up in my mind. I am almost there. I am ready to spend as they meet all my other needs and that bit extra means not going through this again. The Clerk has done a great job.  I was going to close myself.

Then the Store Manager speaks and begins Telling me why I should buy these shoes.   

“These are fantastic shoes man. They are handmade, Italian leather, hand-stitched, they scream prestigious, well-dressed man. It’s impossible to find shoes like this at the price on offer.” None of which ticked my buying boxes.

He then asks what do I do? I tell him I am in sales.

Well with shoes like these you can be selling to CEOs. Do you know what I CEO is?”

Before I can reply he answers his own question “A Chief Executive Officer. My man these shoes will allow you to sell to the top dog, the CEO.” All I am thinking is shut up I know what a CEO is and work with them regularly, let me work through my buying decision, you are not helping here.

 But no, he is on a roll “Well these shoes. A CEO is gonna look at you, see those shoes, think success and say I have to buy off this man”.

I physically cringe with every statement and the last, it is too much, I just want to get out of there, this guy has no idea. After politely thanking the Clerk I leave.  

The Telling blow - Telling blew the sale.

I brace myself and walk into the next store. Thankfully the clerk is everything the first clerk was, and I find what I am looking for, pay for it and am out of there. Mission Accomplished.   

DOES THIS RESONATE?

I am sure everyone has had a similar type of experience in their life. If you have bought a car or a house at some point you will have come across the Telling Seller.

 For all the Sales Leaders and Business Owners out there the question you need to be asking is are any my Clients having this experience with my Sales staff? What impact could this be having on my bottom line?

The great part is the SG Partners Sales Candidate Assessment Tools we use can help with this as it has a qualitative measure for Consultative Selling or Asking (Selling) vs Telling.  

It allows you to know if your Sales Candidates are Tellers and are taking this approach with their client engagement, impacting your business.

Even better news is the ability ask rather than tell can be developed with the right training. A Teller can become an Asker.

If you would like to check whether any of your Sales People are afflicted by the Telling Approach reach out, and we can discuss how to measure it and how to help them find a better way to engage with clients.