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Tall Sales

Salesman is a Dirty Word

In the early 1980s, when Gaynor opened an upscale discount beauty products and drug store, he put comment cards in each aisle so he could follow his customers' lead. Later, in 1985, he opened TNG strictly as a nail products business. But he listened again to customers--and as they demanded more, Gaynor happily obliged.

Customer service and selling may not seem simpatico, but they are to TNG's salespeople. Knight bristles at the term "salespeople." He knows all too well that used-car-salesman stereotype. Says Knight: "We call our people 'business development specialists.'"

The BDS title isn't BS. TNG's salespeople--sorry, old habits die hard--are trained to help budding entrepreneurs open salons and spas. Clearly, they want the salons and spas stocked with TNG products, but in getting that done, they'll also offer free advice and education on how to organize the layout for a salon, manage it, motivate staff and set goals.

"If you grow, then I grow," explains Knight. "If I give good customer service, then your bottom line goes up, and so does mine. I'm not viewed as a salesman, I'm [seen as] your partner. And then, while everyone else is trying to sell you something, you won't even talk to them, because you're waiting to talk to your partner. That's the strategy."

Inside The Lair

THIS COMPANY TAKES CULTURE TO A POSSIBLY ZANY, BUT NO DOUBT PROFITABLE, LEVEL.

For all of its friendliness and community goodwill (the company donates $100,000 to charity annually), there's a military-style seriousness to The Nailco Group. To get into the first-floor offices, for instance, you need a special code key. And sales soldiers get pumped up by watching a video that shows the TNG Rebel mascot in an airplane dropping animated bombs on competitors.

But the real military games are just that. Drop by founder Larry Gaynor's office, and on those dark mahogany shelves you'll find special board games his crack marketing team designed especially for him. There's Nailco-opoly, Nailco Pursuit and TNG Payday, complete with play money featuring Gaynor's face splashed across the $10,000 bills.

Nailco-opoly lets you purchase Asia and Europe instead of Park Place and Boardwalk. Instead of the "Go to Jail" space, you might land on "Go to Larry Gaynor's Office."

But nothing compares to Kill the Competition: Collectors Edition, modeled after Risk. Inside the box is a stiff cardboard map of the world, complete with game pieces and cards. The premise? Rival beauty product distributors have taken over nations. The object according to the directions? To win, Nailco must "conquer whole industries, watch enemies and fortify borders adjacent to enemy territories."


Geoff Williams is happy to say that he's already read Tuesdays With Morrie, and he wrote Entrepreneur's February cover story on lessons from Harry Potter.

Contact Sources

  • Tony Alessandra
    (800) 222-4383
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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the August 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tall Sales.

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