Sep 18, 2008

Honesty in sales

Yesterday my wife stopped to gas up the car at a local hardware chain. As she was waiting for the tank to fill, watching the numbers go by faster than the price of a barrel dictates, she was accosted by a woman flashing a large smile, and the conversation sounded like this:

"Madam, today is your lucky day. We are going to give you a $10 coupon which you may apply to your next gas purchase. Isn't that great?"

"Yes it is, thank you."

"Great, all I need is a bit of information to be able to send you the coupon by mail. What is your name? Address? How many children? How much money do you make? When did you get married?"

At which point my wife, spotting a logo at the bottom of the woman's notepad, interrupted to ask: "Are you registering me for a credit card?"

"Yes, I am. So if you'll give me this information I can..."

"I'm not interested," my wife firmly replied.

"What?" was the incredulous answer, "you don't want $10?"

"Sure, I'll take the $10 but I don't want the credit card. Besides, I don't live around here so this won't be of any use to me."

"Ma'am, I'm sure there is a store close to you. Where do you live?"

My wife was flabbergasted. As the woman walked away, she watched her attitude as she coached a younger salesperson doing a similar job. This woman's approach was highly aggressive and she had a derogatory attitude toward anyone who didn't want to buy her credit card.

There are several things wrong with this scenario. Number one: are these people reading the news at all? We have a phenomenal financial crisis on our hands and a lot of it is due to the high level of indebtedness of the general population. Regardless, they are aggressively pushing people to add more debt to what they already have.

Number two: the woman's approach was deceitful. Under the guise of wanting to give a gift, she was only interested in selling a credit card. If my wife had not asked, I am not sure she would have told her what was happening. This lack of honesty is the main reason people dislike salespeople.

Selling is about relationships. If you don't like a person, you will not buy from him or her. Furthermore, a bad salesperson tarnishes your image and it makes people not want to return and give you their business.

When people have bad experiences, they will talk about it much more than if they have a good experience. I would not have heard about this incident if it had not bothered my wife enough for her to tell me about it. And I suspect she will tell other people around her also.

I won't say the name of the company at fault because I don't know if the problem is a bad salesperson, an unscrupulous third-party credit card company, or if it is the company itself.

All I know is that they left a bitter taste in my wife's mouth, and that's never a good thing in business.

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