Selling Requires you to Adapt your Style to the Situation at Hand

Seeing the despairing face of the Asda food hall manager, I paused. He was sitting at his desk, looking at a hand-written report. I always waited for a nod before walking in. This guy was a nightmare – the type who’ll keep you waiting an hour then shout at you for being late. That day he was clearly under pressure: this could be explosive.

As I took one step into his office his tired expression turned to frustration, then anger. Again, I stopped. In my left hand I was clutching his stock order form and a two-page brand-sell of the new fabric conditioner. It was my objective to get him to order all four SKUs – five cases of each. Oh yes, even back then, in 1988, it was SMART. On my right shoulder hung my briefcase – I always took the papers out before entering to avoid the small talk when shuffling around in a bag. This guy hated that mindless dead time. There was a noise behind me, and I turned around to see his junior. He looked anxious: ‘I’ve asked him to wait by reception,’ was all he said. Getting a nod, he walked on.

I turned again to the food hall manager – there was something strange going on, perhaps a personnel issue of some sort I thought. Today was different. What should I do? This was usually a 15-minute slot and it would take me a further 10 minutes to cover off the benefits of having an Alpine fresh scent in your washing machine. Still standing at the door, I held up my left hand and fanned the two papers. ‘The order is routine other than 20 cases of this new fabric conditioner – that OK with you?’ The food hall manager relaxed his shoulders and said: ‘Sure, fine’. As I turned to leave he called out. ‘Hey’ I spun around and he looked at me, still weary but smiling. ‘Thank you,’ he said, then looked back down at his report.

Two months into being a soap powder rep. I took it all very seriously! Still, that day did help me to understand that your selling style does depend on the situation you’re faced with. Time pressure can not only ruin your buyer’s listening, it can also turn them sour on you for not noticing. So be responsive and it might be beneficial for both parties.

That day launched my career in sales really. Twenty cases. Bang. Salesman.

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