• August 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

Article Featured Image

Memo from the desk of Marshall Lager, August's Chief Pitch-Buying Officer:

I like to think of myself as a tough sell. If I'm window-shopping, or doing in-store research on something I'm thinking of buying, I'm not going to be swayed by the first knucklehead in a polo shirt who sidles up and asks if I want help. When it's time to buy, I know what I want and will reject any offered bells and whistles beyond what I'm buying.

As I said, I like to think of myself this way. The reality isn't always in line with it.

It's easy to understate (and underestimate) the ability of salespeople to get you to buy something when your mind is already moving in that direction. I've learned this time and again, especially when it comes to wearable items. It's a good thing we have a lenient business-casual dress code here, or I couldn't afford my rent.

Normally I'm something of a schlub -- because it's hard to find a good fit when you're built like a fire hydrant - but I have a weakness for nice things. About eight years ago, I had my first brush with custom-made clothing, sold by a guy who essentially cold-called me. The idea of paying $175 for a shirt shocked me, but I had the money and I decided to give it a try. I was still getting over my shock when the shirts arrived'but damn, I looked good. After that it was pants (starting at $250), jackets ($400 and up), more shirts'and a trade-off between self-image and belief in my own willpower. Several years and several thousand dollars later, I realized I had a problem'so I scaled back my dealings with the guy. (I'm completely off the sauce: I can still reach him if I need the fancy duds.)

I have the same problem when it comes to glasses, something I started wearing in the mid-1990s and have only come to use full-time in the past few years. (Stop all that journalism -- you'll go blind!) I rationally perceive that the price for a decent set of frames that fit well and look good is outrageous'at least until I walk into the store. After my exam, a nice lady (she's always middle-aged, a bit rotund, and Caribbean, no matter where I go) helps me pick out a pair, and I will invariably choose the expensive ones. I don't even have a strong prescription -- just some minor corrections and a mild astigmatism -- but I've got these killer lightweight frames that are super-flexible and completely unbreakable (except for the last pair, which I broke). The bottom line? Between my regular glasses and my shades, I'm toting over $700 worth of eyewear on a daily basis'good news for anybody who wants to mug me, I guess. [Provided the perp is nearsighted with a mild astigmatism. -Ed.]

On the other hand, salespeople occasionally have been able to take a hostile impression and turn it around. There's a major electronics retailer I've disliked since my days of writing about consumer electronics. The sales staff always exhibited the worst traits'laziness, pushiness, lack of knowledge'and as such have not received much business or regard from me. Recently, though, I've had nothing but good times: knowledgeable men and women who will hustle a bit, and are wise enough to realize they can't (and shouldn't) coerce me into buying now. I might not buy from them, but I'm no longer opposed to it on principle. Those salespeople haven't sold me a TV (yet), but they've done something even more remarkable: They resold me on their company.

Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com, unless you have something to sell.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues

Related Articles

The Message Has Two Faces

Find the truth hiding behind the brand.

Your Savings Are My Services

Think about what you're giving off when you're giving in to pressure.

Buyer's Guide Companies Mentioned