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Sales Pitch Education

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A conservatory house

Hey bub, want to buy a conservatory? Believe it or not, a little old lady sitting in a booth at the exit of a British hardware store asked me that very question last week…well, maybe she didn’t use those exact words, but that was the general gist of what she said.
I was a bit shocked as up until a few years ago I didn’t even know such things existed.    A conservatory, by the way, is a mostly glass room that many cultured residents of the UK, and other so called developed countries in the northern latitudes, tack onto the backs of their homes so they can sit there and make believe they are out in nature…even when the weather is total crap…which it often is.
Anyway, the truly amazing thing is that I replied, “Err, um, well, I might be,” so the woman took down the address of the home I recently bought in the English midlands where my girls will be going to school and arranged for a sales rep to stop around for a chat the next day.
And that brings us, in a round-about manner, to what I want to talk about today; the art of selling.  The guy who showed up 20 minutes early to make the sales pitch was a real pro, I mean listening to him talk about conservatories was like taking university courses on energy conservation and antitheft engineering, and he really seemed to love his job.
Or maybe it was just that he believed in the product he was selling and he loved talking to people and trying to get them the best deal possible.  I don’t know for sure what Kevin’s secret was but I do know that he was good and that after talking to him for about two hours it felt like we were friends.
I knew all about the insulating advantages of five-cell virgin polymer plastic walls and the security advantages of the Kenrick Excaliber eight-point window locking system, but I also knew Kev was a season ticket holding Aston Villa supporter and that he had to give up singing in a boy band six years ago to secure a regular income when his wife became pregnant with the first of their three children, and that the band had great potential but the members had signed a bad contract with their booking agency that was preventing them from getting a lucrative recording deal…and I knew Kevin loved performing but he had no regrets about moving into sales as he loves his family even more.
Old Kevin is all right in my book and I think I’ll invite him and his family around for a meal when the conservatory is built.
Yeah, that’s right; after one very good sales pitch and absolutely no research or comparison of prices on my part I bought the thing; partly because I wanted the foundation work to be completed while I was back in Botswana and partly because the cheque book for the bank account I wrote about in last week’s column had arrived in the incredibly efficient British post that very morning. It was also mainly because Kevin had all the information I wanted at his finger tips and he raised and answered a great many questions I hadn’t even thought of yet, and because – here’s the big thing – I was convinced he truly believed in the product he was selling.
And that, I guess, is the real trick to being a great salesman; you have to believe you are doing the customer a favour when you try to convince her or him to buy your product or service instead of one of the other similar ones that are on the market.
That, of course, raises some other tricky issues.  What do you do if the company that is paying your salary has an inferior product?  Obviously you should try to get a job selling the best product on offer but those jobs are usually filled and sometimes you really need the steady income, like, say, when the wife gets pregnant.
Hum…that kind of sounds like what happened to Kevin, doesn’t it?
Maybe I should go have a closer look at the fine print of that contract.