I had just completed a one day programme for a major bank in Sheffield and, as is my volition, I was catching a train home to Cheltenham that evening. It was November, dark and moody, a sprinkle of rain in the air.
I’d arrived at the station rather stressed especially after I missed my train. Not to worry, another one was leaving in an hour, so I decided to have a little stroll along the roads surrounding the station. Sheffield was busy, it was rush hour, cars everywhere but not too many pedestrians wandering the streets, except me.
A shadow appeared from behind the advertising boards.
The shadow moved towards me as I walked the pavement, I slowed down. The shadow stopped and it appeared to be a young man under a large raincoat. I wasn’t scared, the road was busy and well lit with street lights.
“Sorry to interrupt you sir” announced the shadow with a Cornish accent. I thought that’s odd, this is Sheffield he should be speaking in a Yorkshire twang.
“That’s OK” I said moving backwards slightly.
“I’m sorry to ask this” he began “I’ll get to the point. I’m a student here at Sheffield Hallam”
He did look like a student, dressed in his heavy raincoat and was about the right age.
“My dad’s been taken really ill, I live in Truro, in Cornwall and I’m trying to get back to see him, but…”
Here comes the but.
“I haven’t enough money for my ticket. Don’t worry I’m not begging” he continued, “I noticed you’re not wearing a watch, and I’m willing to sell you my watch for £40 which is the amount I need. The watch is worth over £200. My dad gave it to me for Christmas last year and he wouldn’t mind”
What would you have done in the same situation?
You see it’s all about understanding and believing someone’s intentions. In selling its vital to have trust between you and your customer and sometimes we don’t have long to engender trust. Trust is made up of three ingredients – competence of the salesperson, common ground between you and the customer and finally, your intentions are known.
The shadow quite clearly expressed his true intentions. It was credible – Cornish accent, student, university, we were close to the station. Watch, value and he only wanted £40. His intentions were very clear.
So in selling make your intentions known to your customer early on, have an agenda, verbally express what you’ll be doing, signpost as you continue along the buying process.
So what happened? Let me explain. I’ve a son at University so I said to the young man I’d buy him a ticket to get him to see his dad. I hope one day, if my son were in the same boat, someone would do the same.
We talked about his University degree. He was studying history – 19th Century political history – that was my subject at college so we spoke about Bismarck and the reunification of Germany. Fascinating.
He followed me down to the station, it was only a short walk. The ticket office queue was long and arduous so we chose the machine. I tapped into the machine Truro and asked him if he wanted a return ticket, after all I figured he probably wanted to get back to his studies at some point. I looked around to ask him again.
And he’d gone.