Want to Buy a Toothbrush?

Traditional sales and selling techniques have changed dramatically over the years.

Fading fast are the door-to-door canvassers, dinner-hour telemarketers and transactional salespeople who appear to be interested in only making a quick sale and then moving on to the next one. The so-called  “trickster” sales companies who rely upon sleight of hand selling approaches and gimmicks to entice you to buy are also dying out as consumers become better educated and informed about the products and services they choose to purchase.

One of my favorite stories from sales lore reflects the progress we have made over the years in changing the dynamics of the buyer-seller relationship. It’s the timeless story of a toothbrush salesman who consistently failed to meet his quota and was told by his boss at a trade show that if he did not achieve his sales goal for the event he would be fired. After delivering his stern ultimatum, the salesman’s boss left for a series of meetings, but told him he would return in a couple hours to check on his progress.

Faced with an impending job loss, the struggling toothbrush salesman decided to take action and get creative with his selling approach. When his boss returned to the trade show floor, he noticed a crowd had gathered in front of their booth and the toothbrush salesman was feverishly selling toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash. Shocked by the sudden turn of events, the boss made his way to the front of the line and saw a sign that read, “FREE CHIPS AND DIP”.

He said to himself, “surely just offering free chips and dip could not account for the salesman’s new found success?” However, he decided to sample the chips and dip anyway, just to satisfy his curiosity. After tasting the dip the boss gasp out loud, “This dip is horrible; it tastes like s**t.” Hearing his boss’s outburst the salesman peered at him (smiling broadly) and said, “It is … would you like to buy a toothbrush?”

Obviously, this was the salesman’s last day of employment. However, the morale of the story should be clear. In order to be effective in sales today, you must develop enduring trust-based relationships, meet your commitments and deliver value to customers, not rely upon tricks and gimmicks (or feed them a load of s**t), to get them to buy from you.

In my “Who Wants Customers for Life?” presentation, I show examples of how to convert a $100 sales transaction into a $15,000 customer over an extended period of time (LTV) in order to emphasize the importance of building long-term customer relationships. The question I always ask each group after reviewing the content of these examples is …

If you knew the first $100 sale to a new customer would generate $15,000 in total revenues over the life of the relationship would you treat them differently?”

The short answer is always yes — so why don’t you? Customers are not transactions, they are people too! As referenced earlier, effective selling in this new era, or any era for that matter, is not rocket science. It still boils down to three things – building great relationships, meeting your commitments and delivering value. No tricks, no gimmicks, and no sleight of hand required.

Now that we have this problem solved … Do you want to buy a toothbrush?


COPYRIGHT © 2012-17 John Carroll