My being a brick-head in my early 20’s often resulted in making quick decisions. Unfortunately, those decisions didn’t include a lot of thought. In about a four week period, I quit my job, married my wife (not that that was a poor decision, it’s just about the timing), bought a brand new pickup (the salesman didn’t know I’d quit my job) and landed in Anchorage, Alaska with all of our stuff crammed into the back of the pickup.
Upon arrival at that great state, it occurred to me that I had no job (see what lack of thought will do for you?). I needed to pay rent, make a pickup payment and there were those other annoying things a person has to pay for like food, clothing, and a cold beer now and then.
I went into scramble mode.
I went everywhere looking for work. I literally went downtown and walked store-to-store looking for work. Did I mention that at the time I had absolutely no marketable work skills? Another result of poor thinking.
Finally, I landed at a furniture store. They were looking for a salesman. They asked if I had experience in sales and I said, “A bit.” Complete lie right there, but I was desperate.
Amazingly, they hired me. They told me they would put me under the wing of their top salesman, T.J.
Picture the slipperiest, sneakiest, oiled-back-haired, cheap-suit-wearing, paunch-stomached salesman with a toothpick poking out the side of his mouth. There ya go. You just met T.J.
I quickly found that T.J. had an embarrassing habit. Whenever within the proximity of any woman (and I mean ANY woman), he rarely looked them in the eye. His gaze went from breast to crotch and back again…repeatedly…over and over. After three or four up and down circuits, he’d glance up at them and give them a flash of a lecherous smile and then go back to perusing their nether regions.
The thing of it is, he got away with it every time and every month he was consistently the store’s top salesman. I didn’t care for being under his slimy wing, but if it kept me the job…well, what are you going to do?
He coached me on the ABC’s: Always Be Closing (the sale). Continually ask for the sale. Once you close the sale, push the ad-ons hard. Ad-ons primarily included fabric treatment and extended warranties. (Here’s a rock-solid tip: extended warranties are a total waste of money. They equate to pure profit for the store and a healthy bonus for the salesman. If a salesman keeps offering you the extended warranty, just tell him you used to sell them yourself. He’ll drop it like a hot biscuit straight from the microwave.)
T.J. also schooled me on the “If I, will you?” method of always asking for the sale. If a customer says, “Does this chair come in blue?” your response should be, “If I can get it for you in blue, will you buy it?” This can be done with just about any question the customer might ask. Try it. It’s kind of fun. He also taught me how to quickly judge whether a customer will buy or not.
T.J.: “Throw them a ridiculously low price. If they don’t pounce on it, they’re wasting your time. Dump ‘em and grab the next sucker, uh, I mean customer.”
Then he gave me what he said was his biggest piece of advice: never, never, EVER try to sell to two women who come in to the store together. Avoid them like the plague (his words, not mine). He told me they always talk each other out of buying something.
Me: “But I see you try to sell to two women who come in all the time.”
He gave me a lecherous grin and wiggled his eyebrows up and down a few times.
Him: “So you understand everything?”
Me: “Yeah, I think so.”
Him: “Okay, the next customer through the door, I’ll sell ‘em and you just tag along and watch.”
The next customers through the door were two women. T.J. wiggled his eyebrows and bounced out of his chair to greet them. I followed behind like a mute puppy dog.
He greeted them, jerked a thumb at me and told them to ignore me, I was the new kid in training and he was seeing to it that I learned how to “best serve the customer.” Of course, he said this while scanning both women from bulkheads to sterns. The older of the two did the talking. The younger of the two avoided looking at T.J. I avoided looking at any of them. If a rock had been handy, I would have crawled under it.
Woman: “Where are your dinette sets?”
T.J.: “If I show you where they are, will you buy one?”
Lots of nervous chuckling. He winked at me.
He led them over to the dinettes and they landed on one they kind of liked.
Woman: “Can we see this with the leaf taken out?”
T.J.: “If I take the leaf out, will you buy it?”
Quick wink at me. More nervous chuckling.
He took the leaf out. The ladies looked over the dinette set again. T.J. looked over the ladies again.
Woman: “I like it, but $1,200 seems like quite a lot for a small dinette set.”
T.J.: “If I can sell it to you for $400 will you buy it?”
There was more nervous chuckling as he checked to make sure their female parts were still in place. Behind his back he held up two fingers, indicating that in one question he had tested to see if they were serious buyers and fit in the “If I, will you” thing.
I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too embarrassing. I felt like I had been witnessing some weird kind of visual sexual assault and a purse snatching at the same time. I walked to the other side of the store and sat at the desk wondering how I was going to do a job like this and still be able to sleep at night.
Soon, T.J. came jogging over to the desk, grabbed a sales contract, winked once again at me (he may have even given me the pointy-finger-gun-bang thing as well) and jogged back over to where the women sat at the dinette set.
I was in shock. He’d sold them. Two women. However repulsive he was, this guy could sell.
But it didn’t last. After a couple of minutes, the woman who did the talking jumped up, knocking her chair over backward. She said something through clinched teeth, but I was too far away to hear. Both women stomped to the front door and slammed it behind them on their way out.
T.J. came back to the desk, his head down a bit, the sales contract hanging listlessly in his hand.
Me: “What happened? I thought you had it sold?”
T.J.: “I did, but when I wrote $1,200 on the contract she said I quoted her $400. I had to clarify. I told her ‘No, I said if I could sell it to you for $400. I can’t.”
For just a split second I almost felt sorry for him.
But then another woman came through the door and he launched out of his chair like he had pulled an ejection lever, grinned at me and winked. I wondered how this one would take the visual undressing. I wondered if I would be able to do this job. I wondered if all sales jobs were like this.
I never found out, because after leaving that job, I never tried sales again.
* I hope you enjoyed this installment of my blog. If I keep writing them, will you keep reading?