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Sell Your Smarts

I first discovered my passion for gadgets in 2004.  Back home in my small town after completing first year of university, I found a job at a cell phone store in the mall. I figured ‘Hey, I get along with other human beings quite well, why not try out sales?’

It’s harder than it looks! Apparently, reading a product brochure verbatim to a customer while they are standing in front of you wasn’t exactly a sales booster.  After a few unsuccessful and slightly stressful shifts, I discovered that knowing what the heck I was asking people to spend their hard earned cash on was going to be important. Right around here is where I learned about and fell in love with the awesome devices I was selling and began to love working in sales for that reason.

Of course now I had to get my own cell phone! Oh man, the Audiovox 8500 was it! A sleek little flip phone with changeable backlight colours.  I rocked that hardware.

Alas, as is technological tradition, it was soon outdated and dumped for something that could better entertain me.  My subsequent cellular relationships ended similarly, as I spent the next six years in wireless sales.  This obsession with having the coolest devices kept me at the top of my game, however.

One of the most important tools to have in any sales environment, to me, is knowledge. Know what you have and know what’s coming next.
Everybody “Googles” before they shop now. Why wouldn’t we? It’s harder to get roped into a spiffed product by an apathetic sales person when you already have an idea of what you’re buying, right? Or worse yet, you get to the store and the sales person knows less than your minuscule “googling” taught you…

I challenge anyone who has spent time in retail to say you’ve never experienced that horrific moment where your client was more informed about your product than you.  If you are not familiar with this situation, I applaud you.  It’s painful, it sucks, it’s embarrassing and you can flush all that confidence and rapport you’ve built with that smarty pants right down the porcelain throne.

Avoid this! Control your sale, try teaching your client something about the product. Show them why they came to see you instead of ordering it online while checking out the user reviews. Keep up to date with your industry news through newspapers, handheld apps or blogs.

If you haven’t yet, check out the online coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2012) to learn about exciting new product launches and manufacturer’s grocery lists for this year.

What’s on your geeky wish list this year?


Separation Ringxiety

I recently had a friend reach out to me through a social media app that I have on my phone.  What gave me a laugh is the manner in which he reached out, along with a recollection of the last time I had seen him; sharing an impromptu golf weekend some two decades ago.

What made this trip in the early 90’s so memorable were the circumstances that lead up to it.  We had both endured a hellish week at the office, and felt absolutely justified in leaving at noon; fully deserving a couple of days of nothing.  And by nothing I mean golf.

Of course, not five minutes after merging onto one of the 70 lanes on the 401 in Toronto (it has since expanded to 300 lanes), my cell phone rang.  It was the office.  I took the call (it was legal back then.).  While I was on my call, my friend’s phone rang.  It didn’t matter.  We were on our way to an incredible golf course just a couple hours away in eastern Ontario.  What’s a phone call?  After only a few minutes, we both laid down the electro-cinder blocks.  Done.  Onward.  To the golf cou…  BRRRINGGGGG….

Phone call.  It was his.  It was a client.  Not a problem.  We’re on our way to play gol…  BRRRRINGGGG….  Okay.  This time it’s mine.  He’s on the phone anyway, so I might as well get it.  Bzzzzzzzz…   Bzzzzzzzz…. As I’m on the phone, my pager goes off.  Not a problem.  I’ll return the call after I finish the one I’m on.  I end my call and start dialing the number that paged me (work) because I want them to know I’m going to go golfi… BRRRRRINGGGG…   It’s John’s phone again.  It’s the office.  They’re asking John if he has seen me.  They just sent a page, hoping to catch me before I was out of town.  It had been well over three minutes since the page came through, and I haven’t returned it yet.  John passes me his phone.  BRRRRRINGGGG…  my phone rings while I have John’s to my ear.

And then it happened.  After my call, John put down the passenger seat window, and out it went.  The most advanced technology (to ever fit in what was then the size of a toaster oven) was now out the window.  My turn.  And I did it.  I disposed of it.  I was free.

It was, without question, the most liberating feeling I had had in years.  Euphoria.  Primal screams followed. We had just killed the beast!  By slaying this dragon, we were disconnected from the outside wor…  Oh… my…  GOD!  I’m disconnected from the world!  What if my wife goes into labour?  No… she wasn’t pregnant, but what if she was?  What if my parents were trying to call?  Sure, they call me at the home number every Sunday at precisely the same time, but what if this one time they were trying to get a hold of me?  What the hell have I done?  And my clients!!!  What if, on this Friday afternoon, I had a client who was desperate to reach me?!!!  Sure, we had a support team that was second to none.  I had an assistant that was more capable than I.  I haven’t had a client call me in a panic in two years… but what if THIS ONE TIME they really needed me?  Oh God!  What have I done?

I was miserable for the remaining two hours of the drive.  I knew I was disappointing the world with my selfish act.  I remember imagining the forty voicemails that I’d have.  I knew at least one person would call the police, and possibly every hospital in the Toronto area, desperate to learn that I was okay.  John’s anxiety wasn’t different from mine.  We had disappointed the world.

We got to our destination.  I checked in as quickly as possible, grabbed my room key, waited in an elevator that moved at a painfully slow speed – evidently aware that I was either without a cell phone or desperately needing to pee.  I lunged myself to the hotel room and dialled in to my voicemail.  I was fully prepared for the turmoil.  I readied myself for the impending doom.  I had done something extraordinarily stupid, and I was about to get called on it.  I should have been available and I wasn’t.

And so, rocking back and forth, taking deep breaths to avoid asphyxiation, phone slipping because of the sweat, I was sent to a state of reality.

“You have…  no new messages”.

The moral of the story?  Nothing changes.  I still check that I have my phone before I dare leave my desk or my house or the office.  I still experience separation ringxiety .  And you still don’t stand a chance of reaching me this Friday afternoon.

Not that you were going to try anyway.

How do YOU deal with separation ringxiety?

Get it in their hands: the power of demonstration

Earlier this year, I took the photography plunge and bought my first DSLR camera.  My experience at my local camera shop got me thinking about the power of demonstration.

Within 2 minutes of entering the store, I found myself back outside in the crisp March air, camera in hand, and sales guy in tow.   Viewfinder to my eye, I tracked a passing car and squeezed the shutter button.  Pulitzer Prize, here I come.


A glance at the display window revealed a blurry Ford Taurus.

…is there such a thing as impressionist photography?

“Now,” my sales guy continued, “this wheel adjusts your shutter speed.  The higher the number, the faster it closes.  This will let you capture fast moving targets.  Let’s put it up to 1/2000 and give it a go”.

I, somewhat clumsily, rolled the wheel, and zeroed in on my next victim.


I looked at the display and was amazed.  If I didn’t know better, the car could have been stopped at the light, not cruising by us at 60 clicks.  Then I smiled.

Looking back on the experience, I know that the sale was made in that moment, shivering on the front step, and not when I finally plopped down my soon-to-be-weary credit card an hour later.

I learned a valuable sales lesson from that exchange.   “Get it in their hands.”

It could have gone so differently.  I could have walked into the store, been shown an endless variety of models, and been barraged with a list of technical mumbo jumbo that you’d need an advanced engineering degree to understand.  Instead, within minutes, I was taking pictures with MY new camera.

I left the store a satisfied customer, with accessories and extended warranty to boot; it was a good day for my sales guy as well.   Will I be back?  Absolutely.

Do you “get it in their hands” in your store?  What techniques have worked best for your business?  Share your stories!

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