Selling is partly about reassurance.

If you’re hoping to create trust with a potential customer, reassuring them that you consider their judgement sound is a good start. If I’m in the market for fruit and you want to sell me oranges, it ill serves us both for you to criticize the bag of pears I’m carrying. When you criticize my choice of fruit, you criticize me; not a good start.

The conceit of the insensitive salesman is that his choice for me is better than my (current or past) choice for me. He might well be right, but the logic of any new decision must accompany the emotion, a process that’s murky enough for it to be mostly art.

I saw one of my “supervisors” go about this entirely the wrong way yesterday. A customer wanted a specific type of coal for his wife. (Important that it wasn’t for him, which moves the whole transaction away from the head to the heart.) I’d met this guy before, and knew the story, but “Superman” launched straight into a pitch for different coal.

Our guy’s disdain was all over his face, like he’d just swallowed a lemon. Without any basis for trust, the chance of any future sale reduces just a the magic barrier between us increases. Why should he change when we’ve denigrated both him and his marriage?


The owners  – and presumably the management – of the coal mine are very keen to formularize the sales process. Their prescription is that every interaction with a potential customer should follow the same script, a five-step process aimed at converting small sales to large, and any sale to one of higher margin coal.

One wonders what the driving logic is behind this policy. Is it to make every customer experience at every store with every coal miner the same? Have the figured that this is the best way to maximize profit? Does it fit to some meta-goal, to, for instance, re-cast consumer sales techniques?

Whatever the answer, it’s a simplistic solution. Sales will always be an affair of the heart, mind, gut, wallet and peer group. In other words, for any product, for any individual buyer and any salesperson, no sale will ever be precisely the same; too many variables apply.

They can box up the path to a sale as much as they like, it won’t change real-life.

Go Ahead, Make Me

Unveiled yesterday, a new sales target at the coal mine.

The manager concerned – back from a week-long surgical absence – promised a box of coal for a couple of minor prospective achievements.

Fine. The reaction from his miners was telling, in that there was no reaction. For a start, the prizes come from a “competition” with another mine, for which we will receive…what? I don’t care what happens to other mines relative to ours, and success would be transparently a corporate win for the manager, not for us.

In other words, there’s nothing in it for us, and especially me. I’m not a coal guy; my preference is for nuclear.

First Impression

It takes seconds. When someone lays eyes on you, the visual assessment is practically instantaneous, and there’s good confirmatory research (mostly in the area of sexual/relationship attraction, but the process is the same.)

Once that’s established, there looks to me to be a cascade of secondary and tertiary grading that either confirms or conflicts with the first snap judgement. In business, the qualities upon which we are judged are the way we talk, the way we carry ourselves, whether we keep our word, ability to empathize, punctuality, consistency…in short the demonstrable qualities that anyone with integrity possesses. Mostly they are the mechanical personal habits and character traits decent people exhibit automatically.

The key here is that a good first impression creates a positive expectation of the second and third activities. If you fit the mold visually, the more happily people are disposed towards what we do next, and if you’re a winner in all categories you’ll have created a good impression for quite a while. Or another way to look at it is that you’ve create wiggle room to be less than perfect. Either way, starting strong is valuable in any job, whether you’re boss or not-boss.