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Just Sell It, Already

Being a salesperson: that dirty little job that someone--you--has got to do

When I was in high school and for part of college, I worked in a shoe store in the mall. Most of the time, it was pretty fun--I liked the people I worked with, I got decent money for my age, and I got a juicy 40 percent discount on the shoes. Some say this is what led to my current shoe obsession--I did own, at one time, about 40 to 50 pairs of shoes solely from this shoe store, and currently I own in excess of 100 pairs of shoes. But I think I always had a shoe obsession--working at a shoe store just made it more obvious.

There were days, though, when I would have rather scrubbed the mall toilets with a toothbrush than be in that store. Particularly around back-to-school time, the majority of customers would turn into demanding, self-involved freaks whose only wish in life seemed to be making my life a living hell. I still have nightmares about measuring some kid's stinky feet, retrieving 14 different styles of shoes from the stock room only to have the kid or the parent change their minds, or being yelled at when some kid's shoes fell apart (never mind that the shoes were 8 years old and withstood a daily beating on a skateboard). Yes, truly, evil incarnate walked through my store's door on more than one occasion during the back-to-school rush.

This is partly why I am such a tolerant person today when it comes to dealing with salespeople. If someone is obviously busy and working hard to service several customers at once, I am understanding. Likewise, I am highly intolerant when I encounter incompetent, rude salespeople, because I think any salesperson ought to treat customers with respect (even the obnoxious ones). Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, though--the busy, friendly salesperson and the nasty SOB--is the typical salesperson. And that's a very dangerous place to be--just as dangerous as the salesperson who cops a 'tude with anyone and everyone.

By typical, I mean the salesperson who does nothing to further sales. The one who continues to file her nails when a customer walks in the door, barely glancing up even when ringing up a sale. The one who can't even muster a "Hello" when a new customer passes by. The one whose standard response to every inquiry is "That's our store policy." In short, the ones who refuse to take an active role in the selling process, instead choosing to passively let customers wander in and out (mostly out) the door.

If you're in the business of selling a product, take a look at your customer service techniques. When customers approach you, are you friendly and helpful? Or are you a zombie? If you're anything but a knock-out salesperson, you will not be able to get or hold on to any business, because customers will not stand for subpar service. Today's world of selling is brutal--customers want what they want yesterday, and they want it with a smile.

So go ahead. Suck it up, and be an outstanding salesperson. In the end, you will be the one who benefits in the form of increased sales, even on those days when picking lint off your clothes sounds like more fun than selling.

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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