If you aren’t careful, customers will walk all over you. The reason that contracts are so long, and that the “fine print” is so small, is that as soon as someone sees a way to take advantage, they usually will. If it isn’t spelled out, if the price on an item is marked incorrectly, or if an employee happens to make a mistake, most customers will jump on the chance to save money – even if it means the company will suffer. “They’re a big company, they won’t miss one small discount.” So when the son of a small businessman notices that his father has been swindled…he wants to do something about it. But what happens next changed the way he saw business forever.
Everything I learned about selling I learned in one afternoon from my father, Walt, at his furniture store in New Era, Michigan. I was 12 years old.
I was sweeping the floor when an elderly woman entered the store. I asked Dad if I could wait on her. “Sure,” he replied.
“May I help you?”
“Yes, young man, I bought a sofa from your store and the leg fell off. I want to know when you’re going to fix it.”
“When did you purchase it, ma’am?”
“About 10 years ago.”
I told my father that she thought we were going to fix her old sofa for free. He said to tell her we’d be there that afternoon.
After screwing on the new leg, we left, and on the ride back Pop asked, “What’s bothering you son?”
“You know that I want to go to college. If we drive around fixing old sofas for free, we’ll go broke.”
“You had to learn how to do that repair job anyway. Besides, you missed the most important part. You didn’t notice the store tag when we flipped the couch over. She bought it from Sears.”
“You mean we did that job for nothing and she’s not even our customer?”
Dad looked me in the eye and said, “She is now.”
Two days later she returned to our store and bought several thousand dollars worth of new furniture from me. When we delivered it, she put a gallon jar filled with change, singles, fives, tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds on the kitchen table. “Take what you need,” she said and left the room.
I’ve been selling for 30 years since that day. I have had the highest closing average in every organization I have represented because I treat customers with respect.
While I will admit that this probably worked very well 30 to 40 years ago, it might not actually work so well today. Most people don’t support small businesses like they used to in the past. Maybe one day, small businesses will once again get the recognition and respect that they deserve. Still, the moral is clear here in this story! Respecting someone will take you farther than you may think – whether or not they appear to deserve it!
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