Good selling is just a little thing

<p>My son has recently learnt to read. What a wonder and a joy. A whole new world of ideas magically available to him - the wisdom of the ages, and access to dreams of the future.</p>
<p>I went into Habitat, a local home furnishing retailer, to buy him a reading light. I saw a nice little light. I noticed it had a small, low energy bulb. I took a boxed one to the counter. Bought it and took it home.</p>
<p>How frustrating - when I opened the box there was no bulb.</p>
<p>For the first next couple of days I ranted and railed at anyone who would listen about the salesman's failure to up-sell me. As I have said before anything to do with selling seems to have a bad name but it's poor selling I don't like, not selling itself.</p>
<p>Why is up-selling important?</p>
<p>Increasing the size of a transaction is directly related to the company's profitability. Here was an opportunity for the salesman to increase the sale value by 10%. At very low additional cost to the company. They offer low-energy bulbs. All he had to do was ask if I wanted one.</p>
<p>More importantly, imagine how angry I was when I got home and discovered there was no bulb in the box.&nbsp; What use is a light without a lightbulb?</p>
<p>That salesman and his company upset my feelings and those of my disappointed child. Upset my feelings and I will not only be angry next time I go near the store, but I will tell as many people as I can what a bad experience I had. Not great for the company's profitability.</p>
<p>Is profit king? For me, yes. Profitability is a direct measure of the value the company gives to its customers. Profit is used to develop and grow the company, invest in people, training and capabilities - and ultimately in giving a better service to customers.</p>
<p>Some people complain about profit but what they are usually complaining about is what is done with profit (excessive executive pay, greedy shareholders etc) not profit itself.</p>
<p>For me, lack of proft is not good from the employee's and the economy's point of view.</p>
<p>And what about the environmental angle? Maybe I shouldn't have bought this light at all. My view is less extreme - we all need to live, and while I will do my best to reduce my carbon footprint and help others do the same where I can, life without some of its basic joys seems grim indeed.</p>
<p>If I <em>am </em>going to buy the light, then I am the kind of consumer who'll pay extra for a low-energy bulb not an old-fashioned one. I'll happily pay extra for anything that assuages my conscience in this area. I hope Habitat's record on sweat shops and human rights is OK. I hope they have a "Plan A".</p>
<p>So what happened from an environmental point of view? The failure to up-sell caused a wasted trip to replace the bulb, with all it's environmental consequences. Of course I can time it so that I am in town anyway, but you get the point. Failure to up-sell can be environmentally inefficient too.</p>
<p>When I went back to the store a few days later, I was still fuming a little.&nbsp; Maybe that's why I wasn't thinking well. I told the guy I needed a bulb for the light. I nearly started talking to him about up-selling but bit my lip. As I said, I was still a little angry. He sold me a bulb. I popped it in my bag and took it home.</p>
<p>The end? Not quite. When I opened the box, I discovered an old-fashioned bulb not a low-energy one. The display lamp had a low-energy bulb. I'd assumed that's what I'd get. The new sales guy got me something else.</p>
<p>If I had any hair, I'd tear it out. Good selling to me is about understanding needs. I had a need. A need for a light bulb, yes. But also a need to feel good about myself. To do something better for the environment. To confirm my self-image as a good citizen.</p>
<p>This poor sales guy failed. He mis-sold me. He's damaged the reputation of the company. He's reduced its turnover. He's reduced its margin (I swear there's more profit on a low-energy bulb than an old-fashioned one). He's made me very unhappy.</p>
<p>And maybe he's contributed to damage to the environment - maybe I'll use the old-fashioned bulb? Or should I make a third trip?</p>
<p>OK, I wasn't clear enough about my needs. That's clearly my responsibility. But the company also contributed to the problem, because the salesman didn't ask me what I needed.&nbsp; Because the company didn't teach him how to sell well. Such a little thing.</p>