Saturday, October 11, 2008

Salesperson - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

People in sales have to have a pretty thick layer of skin. We are the ones on the front lines. I have heard people say, “Well you are good with words, after all you work in sales”. Sounds ok right? Except it is often said with a negative undertone to imply you are making things up. Let’s take a step back shall we? Do you have to be good with words to be a decent salesperson? Sure, after all, communication is key and you have to know how to lay out the pros and cons of the item the consumer is interested in.

However, people don’t realize the most important part of sales…it is not in talking to the customer but in listening to them. We need to know the customer's need in order to fill it. Once we have their story, then we can qualify them and help them out. Yes, I said help. And no, a true salesperson does not lie…as misrepresentation is actually against the law people…DO some salespeople lie? Yes! I have seen that ugly phenomena in person, when I was on the other side of the counter and knew full well that what I was being told was a lie because I knew about the product as well as the salesperson. It is unfortunate that the reputation of the hardworking, honest to goodness, people loving, helpful salesperson is marred by the shameful few that abuse the trust of the customer.

In my experience over the years, I have had the pleasure of dealing with great customers that ended up on my friends list…and I have also had to take the heat for things that were not in my control…but at the end of the day, it is in empathizing with the customer and in the validation of their concerns that I know I made a difference.

Back in the day as a travel agent, I would have a traveler get to the airport and find that the flights were all cancelled due to horrendous weather. I’d get that call and try to edge in a couple of words in-between the irate customer’s tirade to explain, “No sir, I’m afraid I cannot get you on any plane that is taking off the ground because none of them are taking off the ground, but believe me if I could stop the hurricane and get you on a plane right now I would!”

In the world of online jewelry retail, I was always ready to help people find what they were looking for…maybe they were too lazy to type in the info on the website themselves or maybe they were afraid to order without speaking to a human being on the phone, but for the most part, I have had some great conversations and have heard some great stories - from Grandma Beulah’s cooking to the retired General’s escapades. It got incredibly frustrating though, when lo and behold, something went wrong in fulfillment. When the customer received their item and it had something wrong with it, or did not match what they had seen in the picture on the website. It was my job to take the heat, never mind that I had nothing to do with creating the item or shipping it to the customer. I was their advocate, negotiating a discount for them from my superiors for their bad experience and sending them a new item in perfect shape at a lower cost. My customers loved me, my bosses too at first, until they started to hem and haw and then resent me because I was on the customer's side rather than the company's.

I realized in all this, that the bane of my existence was having to depend on others to do their work right. If they did not have the same work ethic and mentality as I did, then no matter how much I put in the effort it was pointless. Yes I made the customer feel better, but at a big cost to myself. A frustration that has built and built till it is ready to explode.

Yes, I admit it! I am a salesperson - the old fashioned kind - that likes to help people not rip them off. They say good people finish last and the cold, calculated business people are the ones that make all the money. Somewhere in the back of my mind I know I’ll never be rich, I see someone is suffering I have to help…if this customer tells me a sob story and I believe them I want to be able to help them afford what they want…give it to them for free even…naïve I know…but I like to believe that by helping others I will be helped myself.

Real estate, it’s a tough world out there and everyone is telling me I am crazy to go into this field. The economy is bad, people can't make it only selling real estate they have to also have a steady job and the critiques go on and on. Let me tell you something...I have sold people trips and jewelry in worse times and still people spent their money, though in my book, those two things are for the most part luxury commodities. Why not a roof over their heads?...I don't care if the economy is good or bad, people need a roof over their heads - why should I not help them find one? (That said, it is of course imperative to know the economy and know how to meet the needs of the house hunter or seller, to know how to market properties and advise the buyer/seller accordingly.)

Quite frankly I have stuck to fixed salary paying jobs till now because taking care of a little girl and paying the bills on time tends to require a nicely stable income. I don’t want to play it safe anymore, yes the next few months are going to be scary, but I have to believe that my drive, and relentless perseverance to help each person, as they look for a place to live or help them sell their home (complete with the memories it bears), will inevitably be my greatest reward.

This time, it is my work ethic that counts and no one else’s. If I work as hard for myself as I have worked for others it is a given that I will do well. To bear the customer's trust on my shoulders, is something I know will be a perfect fit.

I did not forget that I still have a story to tell...the catlyst that has launched this new purpose of mine...the final straw of hay that broke the camels back…the reason why NOW after years of contemplating it…I am pursuing with every fiber of my being…my career in Real Estate…

The Mystery House story, all true and in print with a couple of pictures to boot in the next blog…stay tuned!

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