Working in an independent record shop was fun, even if it wasn't everything the film High Fidelity suggested it might be. And the boss, Jim, had never had a sales lesson in his life. And yet he was gifted in that department. I was killing time inbetween sales managers jobs and having been trained well for years in sales etc, I was left kind of infuriated by Jim's ad hoc selling 'methods' although I recognised that his natural demeanor was perfect for his market. And he had acquired many of the obvious salesman's technique unconsciously, and by necessity, along the way. for instance, whenever a prospective customer came into the store he knew what they'd be interested in after just a few words exchanged, if any, and his first move was to put a record in their hands.
"Get something in their hands within a minute of them coming in."
"Is that what you recommend?"
"No, pal. It's the law! In here it is anyway. They come in here to fall in love or buy something they already love. Get it, or something like it, in their hands. Then talk about what they like."
"What if I don't know anything about what they like?"
"Then say nothing, get a hold of me, and tell them 'the manager wants a word'. I have a 50% conversation rate with anyone who comes through that door. See, I did do some sales years ago. Double glazing. I lasted until lunchtime on the first day of the training course, " said Jim, smiling.
The other law, according to Jim was to make sure they at least heard a record. We had a record player in the shop for that purpose. "They come here to hear music, so make sure they hear music."
But Jim was the opposite of pushy. "The minute they say 'no' to anything, then step away from the thing. Be polite. Recognise you've not got the sale. Don't get hung up on 'closing the deal'.
"But don't you need x amount of deals to stay in business?"
"No. What I need is x amount of customers, around 50 in fact, to stay in business. See, I'm not interested in sales. I'm interested in customers. They have to enjoy coming here. Enjoy the banter, the knowledge, the actual conversation. Dance with them if you have to! If they do enjoy coming here, then they will buy enough every month. The minute they hear a song they like on the radio I want them to think of me, and to think of coming here to buy that song, or that album, or even better, albums, plural. See, if you get their confidence to that degree, you don't worry about a £5 sale. You're already thinking of around £40 a month. More if they are serious collectors."
"Do you treat the collectors differently?"
"Sometimes. There's less need to a joke and a laugh. They know what they are looking for. All that's on their mind is 'how much buyer's remorse will I feel if I buy this rare records for £30? How can I justify another big spend? Do I really want it? Is the condition perfect? If I don't buy this today, will someone else buy it and will I have something worse than bloody buyers remorse?'"
"What's worse than buyer's remorse?" I asked jokingly.
"Non-buyers' remorse! The thought that some other collector is sitting their with a glass of whisky just looking at the record in its sleeve on a table in their room. They'll never play it."
"Cos it will lose value. See, there's five different grades of 'mint condition'. Also, when selling to them you do the opposite of selling. They do the selling to themselves. Don't interrupt the process. In these instances, Silence is golden. Remember that."
It would have all made sense in any high powered sales seminar anywhere in the world. In fact, there are guys like this doing this all over the world, naturally cultivating clients as they go.
But I still couldn't help but feel that these natural geniuses would get more sales just by simple application of basic sales training. Nevertheless, I never forgot the main lesson which was the more customers you have the more sales will occur naturally.
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.