Are You Missing Sales Opportunities?

A middle-aged lady came into the store looking for some white gloves to go with her evening dress, and a female sales clerk sold a pair to her. When she had gone, another sales clerk who had witnessed the proceedings, an elderly gentleman, admonished her, saying "How very unfortunate! You missed a chance to sell some gloves there." Thinking how odd this fellow was, the female sales clerk replied incredulously, "But that customer made a purchase. Didn't you see?"

Then another lady stopped and was looking at the showcase. The elderly gentleman approached her and said, "Is it party gloves you are looking for, madam? If there are any you fancy, I'll take them out of the case to show you." "I have so many parties to go to these days," the lady said. "Can you show me that pair, please?" "This design is simple and matches any type of dress," the elderly gentleman said. "It's very convenient." "Yes," replied the lady. "I'll take this pair."

So far the elderly gentleman's approach had been the same as that of the female sales clerk. But after turning to go to the wrapping counter, he looked back and said, "By the way, madam, this is the season of parties. How about buying an extra pair of white gloves to wear while your others are being washed?" "That's true," the lady nodded. "The gloves do get dirty and stained. Okay, I'll buy two pairs." "Thank you, madam."

The elderly gentleman then adeptly wrapped the gloves. "Thank you for your patronage," he said to the lady. "Actually, I had been observing you earlier, and there is another pair of gloves that I would really like to recommend to you. Could you spare a moment?" "Which gloves are they?" The elderly gentleman then got out a pair of silver-gray gloves. "Although this color is very fashionable," he explained, "these gloves are not suitable for everyone, so I don't often recommend them. But I think they would look very good on you, so I definitely wanted you to see them." "What a lovely color! I wonder if they would suit me?" "The color is rather elegant, so they only suit people with a good sense. Have a look in the mirror. Yes, they really do look good on you!"

In the end, the lady bought these gloves as well. When she had gone, the elderly gentleman turned to the female sales clerk and explained, "The first pair of gloves was not a sale. The customer came to the shop to buy a pair, so we handed them to her. Only the next two pairs of gloves can be called sales."

Actually, the elderly gentleman in this paraphrased tale was none other than John Wanamaker, the department store pioneer. The story teaches us that while looking up to the customer, people engaged in sales must always adopt a proactive stance. An enthusiastic salesperson is one who is forward-looking and positive at all times. In this age of management by computer, however, efficiency is the be-all and end-all, and more often than not chatting with customers is deemed to be wasteful in itself. And the baneful effect of point-of-sale systems, I think, has been to obscure the manner in which sales clerks actually sell things to customers.

What is important is sales oriented toward the consumer mind and efficiency based on this approach. These days there are far too many sales clerks who know next to nothing about products and their application. In order to revitalize our industry, I think we must keep repeating the story of John Wanamaker.