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Little things count


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.

I went into Habitat 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.

How frustrating – when I opened the box there was no bulb.

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.

Why is up-selling important?

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.

More importantly, imagine how angry I was when I got home and discovered there was no bulb in the box.  What use is a light without a lightbulb? 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.

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. 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.

Lack of profit is not good from the employee’s and the economy’s point of view either.

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.

If I am 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”.

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.

When I went back to the store a few days later, I was still fuming a little.  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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.  Because the company didn’t teach him how to sell well. Such a little thing.

Author: Pete Burden

New ways to organise and lead - for people with 'purpose' #leadership #inquiry #noticing #complexity #communication

3 thoughts on “Little things count

  1. trying not to laugh out loud on the bus at your indignance. do agree though 🙂

  2. I’m always happy when you are laughing Will!

  3. Pingback: Selling with congruence « Conscious Business

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