After 6+ years as a hospital social service director and 10 months of unemployment; I tried retail sales. Not that I had a passion for same, but I wanted my Dad to buy a Florida boutique I would run and pay him back with the profits. My Dad was a wise man who said he’d be glad to once I spent some time in retail sales. So I answered the ad for assistant manager of an Indianapolis Casual Corner shop at 2 West Washington – smack in the middle of downtown! I was hired immediately because I had a master’s degree – as if a degree in counseling education and O.D. qualified me to make $5.00/hour as assistant manager of a downtown retail establishment. But I digress. . .
2 West Washington was a hub for professional women working in one of the high rises and corporate suites in the area. The shop was small, packed with suits and stuff for the career-minded woman seeking to rise the corporate ladder. Anna, the manager was an awesome mentor and one of the best sales persons you’ll meet. But the newly installed computerized cash register and noon hour rush was more than I could handle so I handed in my resignation after only a few months. To my surprise, the district manager offered me the same position at one of their mall stores which was a much quieter environment. Since I needed to work, I accepted.
I could go on and on about the young ‘whippersnapper’ manager who was anything but a mentor with the wisdom of an Anna, but that’s not the point of this post. However, she does figure in the point I want to make.
It was one of those days when I was in the mood to sell. And I mean – sell BIG! I prayed for a prospective client who would seek me out and we’d put together an entire wardrobe which would put numbers on the cash register to the amazement of all. My prayer was answered!
She was a woman who’d just been promoted to a top level management position and felt she needed a total makeover. We were about the same age, so she did indeed seek me out. We walked through the store getting acquainted, shared about our children and personal life adventures while I hand picked items for her new “look”. The longer we walked, talked, shared and handpicked; the more we became friends. Similar backgrounds and life adventures. Similar tastes in clothes and accessories. Similar everything. It was so enjoyable we both forget about the time.
When we walked to the cash register, the tally hit well over 4 figures and I had met my quota several times over. But I had also spent 3 hours with my new-found friend. As I walked her to the door, I saw Lisa (the young whippersnapper manager) glowering with arms crossed her chest waiting to jump me when I returned to the desk. I must admit to a wee bit of nervies in the stomach as my new friend with an armload of goodies asked to meet for coffee soon; said she’d tell all her friends about the awesome time she had at Casual Corner with Linda and would return soon to buy Christmas gifts.
“You spent 3 hours with one customer,” Lisa screamed! “Three hours! The rest of us had to pick up the slack while you chatted away instead of getting the sale and moving on!” When she took a breath, I simply motioned her to the daily sales sheet where the total of friend’s sale was recorded. I then noted the tally of the 3 other sales persons, including herself – none of which together totaled what I had just done in my 3 hour “chat”. I suggested we continue our discussion in the back room where I unloaded!
“Lisa, not only did I develop a whopping huge sale, but I made a friend. Not just for myself, but for the store. She plans to tell all her friends about her experience at Casual Corner; plus she’ll be back in a few weeks to buy holiday gifts. My 3 hour “chat” will net us more than your flouncing around the store with an air of importance could do in 1 week – maybe in one month!”
Lisa never did learn the importance of the relationship when it comes to retail sales. She continued to flounce around with an air of self importance rushing from one customer to the next. But the other sales women took a cue from the more ‘vintage dame’ who took the manager to the woodshed rather than take a tongue-lashing. A tongue-lashing for taking time to build a relationship that had far-reaching impact over time.
A few months later, I accepted the position of development officer for an Indy area non-profit and put the thought of boutique ownership out of my mind.
Is there a moral to the story? Yep there is. If you read this to the end and are in sales of some kind; decide if you are a Lisa – or a Linda. Your future success may depend on it!
Linda S. Fitzgerald, Visionary Partner
Champion of Ordinarily Extraordinary Women of the World
A Women’s Place Network, Inc. dba
Affiliated Women International
Empowering Women to Thrive
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