I seem to have gotten a lot of the actual anger out of my system last night for the firing of my friend, which is good.  Long term it doesn’t affect me at all, so there was no reason to walk around with bad vibes from it, especially if the person actually affected doesn’t.  Yet I still keep mulling it over in my mind, so I decided to focus instead on one of the lessons I learned from Chris over the course of working with him.

When I started this job, I thought I knew how to sell.  I had worked at the Big Blue Blinky Box for almost five years.  I knew how to sell theatre equipment and TVs.  I was a bad ass in my own mind.  Yeah.  Not so much.  Chris showed me that I was a rank amateur splashing around in the kiddie pool of sales.  This was a guy that had made a living hawking perfume in grocery store parking lots, which yeah, is exactly as shady as that sounds.  This is a guy that went down to Mexico working for Verizon to sell phones, and didn’t speak any Spanish.  I was a retail sales guy.  Chris was a Salesman (C).

To this day, I am not quite able to figure out if Chris actually believed half of the crazy crap he would spout, or if he was just trying to get a rise out of me.  I guess I will never know now.  He would give us instructions on how to handle customers that would only be forgivable if they worked, but they always did.  He was the master of being able to read someone and know what button to push to get them to jump a certain way.  A lot of what I know about business and sales is the cleaned and sanitized version of a Chris lesson.  One of the best lessons I ever saw in action was the gratuitous use of the Free Prize.

It was a Saturday, and for some reason Chris and I were working with no scrubs.  So we had to handle everyone ourselves.  A guy came in with the typical just looking strut.  Hands in pockets, big wide steps, leaned back a little.  He was signalling to the world that he wanted to waste our time.  This strut always raises my blood pressure, but not Chris.  Chris saw him as a stool pigeon just looking for a roost.

So Chris goes into the engagement.  This guy isn’t looking for anything at all.  Chris shows him one of our theatre systems.  They spend about 10 minutes standing there talking about how great it sounds and how awesome it is.  Chris isn’t even trying to close this thing.  He is just getting the customer to point out how awesome it would be in his living room.  The customer is falling into the trap of selling it to himself, and doesn’t even realize it.  So finally, the guy says something along the lines of “Yeah, that would sound awesome in there” and Chris pounces “Great, I’ll grab it and meet you up front.”

The customer realizes what just happened “Whoa, whoa, whoa.  This is the deal you give everyone, what are you gonna throw in for me?”  Chris just looks at him “So if I have some stuff to throw in, you will take it?”  Customer, “Yeah, I just need to get a deal”.  Chris says “Ok, I’ll go get some extras and bring them out with your system”.

Now we aren’t allowed to throw stuff in.  Our company prides itself on having the same prices everywhere.  No wheeling and dealing.  So I have no idea where Chris is going with this one.

A few minutes later Chris comes out with a theatre system on the dolly and a little object in his hand.  “OK, I got you a coffee mug, some dum-dums, and about 5 packets of salsa.  All yours.” Then he hands it all over to the customer, who is laughing his ass off.  They walk up front, ring out, and the guy spends about 3 grand in our store.  3 grand.  A $3,000 sale was closed on stale Halloween candy, condiment packets and a mug.  Who the heck even has the stones to try that, let alone have it work?

I learned two very important lessons that day.  First, have no fear when you are selling.  Customers are like dogs, they can sense fear.  Two, it’s much more important to make the customer feel like they beat you, than it is to actually give them a prize.  That guy didn’t actually get squat, but he felt like he negotiated hard and got it.  Maybe some lessons we can use in the homestead businesses?