Ever heard the expression "People love to buy, but they hate to be sold?"
Here's the thing - While I don't disagree with the first part, I think people love to be sold. But I think we love to be sold only when people do it well. When people suck at it, that's when we hate it.
Hear me out.
A couple weeks ago, I'm in a men's store that you're well acquainted with. I have some loyalty points on the books so I stop in to see if I can find anything good to add to my wardrobe. Maybe some shirts. Maybe some shoes. Everybody seems to be wearing brown shoes with suits these days. You know the ones.
I don't have a ton of points so I know if I walk in there, I'm going to be forking over a good bit of my own cash.
So I walk in. I'm immediately greeted by a 6-foot-tall gentleman around sixty-years-old with white, wispy hair that is just a bit longer than you'd see in any boardroom. He dons a royal blue blazer, not velvet, but it's darn near close. He wears a pocket square that communicates: "When it comes to style, I know what I'm doing here." Everything fit together with this guy. Nothing was overdone.
His demeanor immediately puts me at ease - he is warm and friendly and his overall vibe is: "I'm here to serve you. Sure, I want to make money, but I'm not going to pressure you and I'm certainly not going to sell you anything you don't need." He didn't say that, but I felt it. I told him I could always use some more shirts, so he showed me a few.
This man loved his job. You could tell by his energy and his enthusiasm. He was actually happy to be there. I came to find out that years ago he had owned a few men's stores himself. Putting men in great looking clothes was something that brought this guy a lot of joy.
After some hemming and hawing over the shirts, I made my way over to the shoe selection. I told Mick - of course his name was Mick, right? - I told him that I wanted to go with something a little out of my comfort zone, but "maybe I should just go with something conservative and just play it safe."
Mick immediately countered with a question. "What is it about those "modern" shoes that you find appealing?" I told him, "I speak on college campuses and staying young and relevant is important to me. But more than that, it's just my style to dress a little more fashion forward. Sometimes, though, especially now that I live in the South, I feel pressured to dress more conservatively."
After some more careful listening, Mick simply responded: "I think you can pull it off. In fact, I think they'll look great on you. Why don't we try them on and see how they look?" And we did. And Mick was right. He went on to tell me they were one of his bestsellers. I was sold.
I've never received so many compliments on a pair of shoes. Like, ever. And every time I put them on, I feel great.
Here's the thing: If it wasn't for Mick, I never would have bought them. I would have chosen the "safer" route, and I'd have missed out on an unbelievable addition to my wardrobe. Make no mistake about it: Mick "sold" me. In fact, looking back, Mick sold his ass off. But at no point in the "transaction" did I feel like I was being sold.
Want to know what Mick did that was so effective? He listened to me. He asked me why I was in the store, what I was looking for, and what was going on in my life. He asked me where I was, and where I wanted to be. He introduced possibility. He gave me the space to decide. He made me excited about the possibility of owning those shoes and the feeling I'd have if it were a reality. Mick LEAD me to a great decision.
We could all learn a little something from Mick. If you're in sales and you are talking about features and methods and logistics and God forbid, price, you are not selling. People who sell "well," first and foremost- listen well. Then, after they do that, they lead. They lead their customer to a great decision, and after they give them the space to do that, everyone is happy. When the customer looks back on the transaction, just like I did, they think to themselves: "Man, that was a pleasure. I will go back to that guy and do business with him again. Maybe I'll even write a blog post about it."