The Musings Of A Salesman

The role of a salesman is not the best job in the industry; this is a general perception. And, if we see where it is coming from its obvious. Think for a moment, which salesman have you interacted with recently? For me, there was a book salesman who was selling encyclopedias, huge books in hardcover with glossy print, too much to attract a bibliophile like me. For you, it might be the person selling life insurance to you, or the one selling shampoos in your local boutique! Common thing is, they are all door to door salesman. But there is an elite class of salespeople to whom this article is referring to, they are the salespeople at the stores. If we compare the ‘pitch’ by all these salespeople, they just reiterate the functional benefits of the product/service offered. And most of the times the sales happen because the customer is genuinely interested. Their role is not to facilitate the buying process, there are helpers for that! They are there to convert those dicey people who come to buy a tie but end up buying a whole lot of other clothes. The salesman at the store is for convincing you to buy their products, he should use every technique under his belt for that.

As an experiment, I visited the salespeople in different stores to see how they pitch their products, and the general observation was as follows. A salesman from Amway was the most convincing, who will hit on the hedonic values, who’ll trick you psychologically and if you listen to them with an open mind without any force in your mind stopping you, you will definitely buy their products. They receive a training for that. The other salesman was from pantaloons. I visited to buy a shirt for a special occasion; I went to one of the salesmen there and announced, that I’m going for a special occasion and I want a shirt. You see what I did there, ‘I directly told them what I need’. Then the guy asked me to follow me and began asking questions to me, ‘what colour is your favourite’, ‘what is the occasion’, ‘what are you planning to wear’, ‘what will be other people wearing’. He showed me a few shirts, he was constantly with me while I was trying different shirts and he made sure that he gave me proper feedback whenever I came out wearing different shirts. I selected one shirt, then he asked me ‘what pants I’ll be wearing’, I tried to describe him and ended up showing a photo of me wearing that pant. He looked at me and explained to me, ‘sir, this won’t go with the occasion you are going to, and you’ll look underdressed’ the way he explained this to me was one of a kind, he was not insulting me, yet he was saying that it’s a bad choice. By that time, I have given the control to the salesman, now he was charging me and I was doing what he was saying. He showed me pants followed by a belt. And you know what’s the best part? I was happy about my purchase.

If I look back, why was I happy about my purchase? I clearly brought something which I didn’t require. The reason I was happy was ‘chemistry’. It was endo-morphine, the same compound which is secreted when you are high on alcohol. And in-fact the sense of ‘high’ you feel when you get 500 likes on your Facebook photo is also due to secretion of morphine into the brain. It gives you euphoric pleasure. And this is exactly what salespeople do, they make sure you have a euphoric moment after the purchase. This is called your purchase satisfaction. It determines how satisfied you are after a purchase; this will again determine if you will visit that store again or not.

Now consider a similar scenario where I’m saving money to buy that shirt and one fine day I decide to visit the store. No matter how much the salesman tries to convince me, no matter what he shows me, I have a constraint at the back of my head, ‘money’. I just don’t have enough to buy anything extra. So, in that case, no matter what he says I’m never going to buy it. A similar incident happened to me while I was passing from a company outlet of luxury cream. It was for face massage, I was walking down, and this salesman was standing in front of the shop saying “take a free sample of the cream sir, give it a try” [Attracting the customer] how can I say no to that, thinking that I went inside with him in the store. He brought out a bottle of cream, from the looks of the shop and the mere fact that I have never heard about that brand made me sure that I can never afford that bottle of cream. He was explaining to me the benefits one after the another [functional benefits], I said: “I’m not looking to buy this, it’s too expensive for me”. He said “sir this bottle will last for 3 months, and it costs $100 i.e. mere $1 per day for your face, it’s even less than what you pay for coffee” [comparison to guilt me into buying it] He had me with this, but again my ‘force’ was strong I couldn’t afford this cream. I firmly said no to him again and told him “I can’t afford this” at this he changed his tone, now he was becoming sarcastic he said, “so you are telling you can’t even spend one day’s coffee worth on your face” I didn’t like that all, but that doesn’t change the fact that I couldn’t afford it. I ended up getting a free sample of the product and that was it for me. However, if I had even a little willingness to buy, the way he went around his sales pitch I would have brought the cream. It was the mistake of the salesman here that he didn’t identify his target carefully or maybe he was taking a shot at me. I was a defaulter for him, otherwise, if he hit the ‘right customer‘ he’ll surely make it through. This incident led me to think more about the push marketing techniques. Will explore them in the coming articles.

Pankaj Mann

Pankaj Mann is a 22 years old electronics and communication engineer and a PGP2 student at IIM Lucknow. He's a huge Harry Potter fan and when he says his hobby is reading, he means reading Harry Potter again and again. He's an avid runner and a marathon enthusiast. His passion lies in teaching!