When Reality Strikes, Will It Ring Up More Sales?
This is not a White Paper! White Papers pretend to be unbiased.
by Ted Steinberg, Co-Founder.
Whereas it took Harvey, Jimmy Stewart’s 6’ 8′′ White Rabbit (the father of my Genie) to open my mind to the benefits of The Fantasy World, it took a fellow rep, Tom Bradley (cowboy suit and all) to show me an unbelievable Reality World, very different from any kind of selling I had previously experienced and many times more rewarding.
Bradley said he would show me how to shortcut the sales process and get people to want to do business with me, in my way, in the first part of the sale, without having to overcome objections, employ closing secrets, show the product line, or discuss the details of how much of what items should be on an order. Even though his income was 15 times as much as mine, I thought he was full of something unmentionable. There were 17 reps in our company; I was 17th in sales, he was 1st. Hmm, should I listen? I invited him to visit me in Milwaukee, the biggest city in my territory. He suggested I set up three appointments with the biggest department stores who also happened to be accounts of mine. Despite their potential, they were among my smaller accounts
Earlier in Jimmy Stewart’s Rabbit, either you expected something good was bound to happen or you’re fascinated with rabbits who can father genies!
Schusters, Milwaukee’s biggest department store, is our 9:00 am appointment. Instead of hauling in 5 bags of samples and then fussing with each garment to make it look less wrinkled, Tom only takes a briefcase containing layouts of forthcoming magazine ads in Seventeen, Glamour, and College, and his scrapbook of snapshots of young women wearing Thermo-Jac sportswear, and one pair of pants to show the buyer they are sewn in a manner which guarantees a good fit for junior figures. He warns the buyer that the pants will look crunched up unless they are displayed differently than the norm or they will never sell. He features the biggest gotcha, Thermo-Jac’s pants are cut on the curve so they will look good on a junior figure, but they look terrible on a hanger. Until they’ve been tried on nobody can believe they are outstanding. Why did he lead with this negative? I sensed he was setting the buyer up for allowing us to be responsible for a relationship that ensured success, and to establish our position, he had
to simplify the buying and selling interchange.
When Bradley opened his scrapbook, the buyer’s eyes got wide looking at all the Polaroid pictures of customers wearing Thermo-jac sportswear, only these customers were the customers of Neiman Marcus, and other well known Texas retailers. The buyer could see the photo of Miss Texas helping a young woman pose for her chance to be Miss Thermo-Jac of Houston and be considered as a model for Thermo-jac’s ads which always included amateurs who were customers of the retailers who put in complete Thermo-jac departments. Tom Bradley showed the buyer how we provide new customers for our retailers. (“We bring new customers to your table” plays better than “we sell your customers,” the one’s you already have that every other manufacturer wants to sell. “We bring new customers to your table!”)
The buyer just looked at Tom and asked, “what do you need from Schusters?” Tom told her to let me: 1) write up the opening order for $2,500 per month for six months, 2) be responsible for assisting her with merchandising, windows, and local advs, and 3) come in on a Saturday with a professional models and with the support of Polaroid we would put on a half day event and select Miss Thermo-Jac of Schusters. The buyer called Schuster’s Merchandise Manager, he showed up, and she pitched the deal, Tom and I just smiled and answered a few questions. All they wanted to know was, how soon could they get started and where did I think the Thermo-jac department ought to be.
For impact, there were prizes for the participants and the hope of being in a national magazine. The photos taken that day would be on display in the store for two weeks for everyone to see, and then the contestants could come back and retrieve their pictures as keep sakes. The return of the particpants prrovided double exposure, pun intended! In case you are wondering, there were never less than one hundred young women who were delighted to try on their favorite Thermo-jac outfits and be photographed, too. At one event, I took over 300 photos of customers wearing Thermo-Jac sportswear.
The Day Provided Big Surprises = five sales, not three. Each sale was 6 times bigger than Bradley’s forecast!
- The night before, Bradley told me he intended to sell an opening order for $2,500 at cost. He never mentioned it would be a continuing order of $2,500 a month for 6 months; in other words he intended to get a $15,000 commitment. Adjusting this to estimate the annual value of the decision, an account believed they would sell $60,000 a year at retail or around $30,000 at cost. My commission was 8% and the first half of the sale to Schusters put $1.200 in my pocket, more than twice as much as I made in a month.
- Our next appointment at 10:30 am is Marshall Fields. Bradley does it again. (Six months later she told her management about this young guy who went out of his way to call sororities and invite them to special events, in addition to the Miss Thermo-Jac events. Her management then initiated a contact for me which brought me an even larger opportunity than the one I had with Thermo-Jac. I discovered the importance of bringing other values to customers which demonstrate how willing a seller is to assure a great relationship. Did I mind calling sororities and being invited over to talk about fashion? I was 25 and single; it was something I looked forward to doing. When I told my father about this extra work and how I never complained about the moonlighting, he was unable to keep from laughing.)
- Our third sale was not from a prior appointment. Tom asks me if I was hungry. I laughed. Who needs to fill their stomach when the gold rush is on? He wonders if I’d like to call on another account before we showed up for our 2:00 pm appointment at Gimbels. We called on Singers, a three store specialty shop. I made the sale with the understanding that they could only have one department to start with and if it went as well as we planned, then they could add the other two stores. In other words, with Bradley’s coaching, each store would become a $30,000 annual account. He was not going to have an account spread the merchandise among branches and run the risk of an inadequate representation.
- The fourth sale was Gimbels; I made that one, too. I was walking on air, and everything was working. Imagine being able to sell anyone you want, anything you want, any way you want, providing it’s good for them. I imagined it before Bradley showed me how to open the door. Yes, I was walking on air.
- The fifth sale was a complete cold call, We just walked in, spoke with the owner of an up-and-coming suburban store which I had noticed before a few times, but had never called on them. I made that sale, too.
By the end of the day, I knew I could do it too. Five sales at $15,000 each = $75.000 at 8% commission = $6,000 in commission in 1959 dollars, about $50,000 in 2014 dollars. One month later I was 2nd in sales for the company. My income by year end was $350,000 in today’s dollars. In 1960 my income exceeded $500,000. Bradley convinced me that my dreams of Genies were applicable to The Reality World.
Addendums discovered between 1959 and 2014:
- Bradley offered his personal assistance to the other Thermo-Jac reps, by showing them how to flip the sale (my term, not his). Only one other rep accepted his offer, the others turned him down with various know-it-all excuses. When I heard this, I was stunned, but now, decades later, I realize that egos are fragile when it comes to selling. Very few people are willing to tolerate any of this, because, with or without Harvey, Jimmy Stewart, my Genie, Tom Bradley, the idea that maybe the way a person’s way of looking at business and selling is in need of a clean sheet of paper. Bradley flipped the way he sold. I flipped the way I sold. I have been lucky enough to have some clients who would let me take them to a customer, and using my Fantasy World to set up The Reality World, the client flipped – right in front of my client. Some of these customers, even took their hands and flipped them to show that they were happily knocked out by what we were proposing. (FWIW, Mitch Gooze, Editor of The Matchmaker’s Triangle saw this happen when he gave me full rein to redo the relationship with one of his most important customers. It was a dream come true,)
- Because the idea of a Genie to brainstorm with appealed to him, I was encourage to create scenarios for other types of products and selling situations which were flippable. Flipping the sale, means that the customer flips in a positive way about the opportunity being provided by the scenario and offering, and decides to make the seller responsible for getting the Devil out of the details. I told one customer, if he would grant me the right, “I would find Murphy, before Murphy found him.” He laughed. Did he say yes? He did.
- Bradley and I kept our friendship going until 1968 when he died unexpectedly. I visited him in Dallas about once a year and he even came to South Dakota and spent a few days with me, the mentor and the protege, sharing notes. He was fascinate that our concoctions worked in other industries.
- The biggest change in the way I looked at selling is that I was willing to tell the customer about the kind of relationship I wanted and why it worked for me and why I wanted it to work for them and that I wanted a major say in how the relationship played out so that I could really be involved as a participant and not a spectator. Instead of talking about my products, I talked about the opportunity that both parties could share in by doing business together. This affected my way of operating in project mode and production mode. The product line for Thermo-jac and their promotions were the same before I listened to how Bradley approached selling, all that changed for me was what I insisted on emphasizing. That day, when those 5 sales took place, made me realize that it was I that needed to change and not all that other stuff that clogs up the minds of under-performing sellers, singular and plural.