Waiting Around Didn’t “Suit” Us
February 4th, 2020
In May of 2020, just about four months away, my eldest son, Harry, whom some of you know, will be getting married. He and his bride-to-be have decided that many parts of their wedding will not be traditional. One aspect of them staying away from traditional constructs is that neither my son nor his groomsmen will be in tuxedos, they have opted for suits instead. When you think about it, this route does have some distinct advantages. Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars for a garment that you will wear once and then return, it makes more financial sense to purchase something that you will own.
Hard to fault that logic. My wife and I were thrilled when he asked the two of us to come to his appointment as he selected and was measured for his suits. Yes, I said suits because the store was having a buy one get one free sale. Me being me, I asked what the approximate cost would be, and he assured me that when he had done this previously the cost was around $300.00. For that price, sign me up. Spoiler alert the cost was nowhere near $300.00.
Our appointment was at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. Like good parents, my wife and I arrived a few minutes before the appointed hour and after locating our son’s car in the parking lot, we went into the store. When we went in, there were two salespeople working and they were both with customers. Harry pointed out the individual that he had met with earlier, but it was clear he was deep in conversation with a couple that appeared to also be purchasing a suit. Fear not, after a few minutes he came over, apologized and explained that he was just finishing up and would be with us shortly. Around 3:50, he came over again and we did the introductions and launched into the process. Barely five minutes in, he had to jump back to the first couple that he had been working with but, again, assured us that he was almost done and then he was all ours.
This process repeated itself several more times. A profuse apology, followed by a few minutes of working on my sons’ order, another break as he went to help the first couple with an assurance that he was almost done and would be all ours. It became a race to see whether it would be me or my wife that would blow a gasket first.
Somewhere in the process, we had been discussing what tie and outfit I should wear. As we approached 5 p.m. it appeared that he had finally finished with couple number one since we watched him ring out the sale and came back over with more apologies. After apology number 57, give or take, he asked if I had decided on a tie. My response was that, honestly, at this point I was so frustrated that the tie was not anywhere in the thought process. He apologized, yet again, explaining that they were short staffed. Instead of ripping him apart and storming out of the store, I politely explained that I would have preferred to wait 15 or 20 minutes more at the beginning of the appointment and truly had his undivided attention as opposed to the back and forth of the last 90 minutes.
You could tell from his expression he truly felt badly about the whole experience. He said that some customers didn’t mind the back and forth while others clearly did. He was often unsure on how to proceed. Thank you, Chet Holmes and others, for your sage advice. Their words of wisdom went something like this: don’t assume you have any idea what people want, if you want to be sure, ask. In the spirit of paying it forward, I suggested that technique to the young man. You may think that I am cruel, arrogant or both, but at this point I had nothing to lose and suggested that in the future he shouldn’t tell people that he was all theirs when that was clearly not the case.
We proceeded with the appointment and by then we had his undivided attention. Seems like he got the better of the deal, he sold two suits, neither one was anywhere near the $300 figure my son threw out and got a sales lesson in the process. I got another reminder of how valuable and fragile our relationships are, especially in the business world. Keep in mind that people do listen to what you say, words are important. Never make a promise you can’t keep and if you are unsure of what the other parties needs, wants and desires are, ask.
About the author:
Ken Abrahams grew up in business in general and worked retail for a number of years. His father, grandfather and several uncles were sales people, business owners or managers. Over the years he has read, watched and listened to a lot of sales advice, some good some bad. He believes that more people, especially salespeople, should treat people the way they want to be treated.
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