Entrepreneurial Selling

How to Insult Your Customers

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

The true story of the inept glazing salesman, a disgruntled home owner and why you should probably never try to sell UPVC replacement windows to people living in listed period properties.

In order to tell this tale it is necessary to first set the scene.

The events you are about read about took place about twenty years ago when yours truly was living in a coastal town in the UK. Most of the properties in the town were built in the Victorian era and were in the time of our story considered all the more attractive for their period status.

Imagine the wear and tear that exterior woodwork on such properties endures as a result of being victim to the salt air. The windows of my home were not in peak condition. However, I hadn't lived in this beautiful building for long and had plans to restore the place to its former glory.

Enter one replacement windows salesperson. This character appeared on my doorstep one day having knocked at the doors of some of my other neighbors. One imagines he picked the houses whose windows seem to be in a state of ill repair. Much good it would have done him.

Here is a transcript of the man's sales pitch.

Salesperson: Good afternoon. Your windows need replacing.

Me: Replacing? I know they need attention, but I wouldn't want to replace them as such, I was thinking of restoration.

Salesperson: No, you don't want to do that. They're awful those windows. They're old. They're falling apart.

Me: Erm, yes, that's why I am going have them restored. And yes the whole building is old, it's a period property.

Salesperson: You want nice new UPVC double glazing.

Me: Actually I don't want nice new UPVC double glazing. It wouldn't be in keeping with the house's character.

Salesperson: You're just being stuck up. What you want is…

Cue me shutting the door (which needed restoring) quite firmly in the salesperson's face.

Seriously, this is not a joke or a work of fiction, it is an account of an actual event. Even though it took place a long time ago it still grates when I think of it.

So, could the salesperson have dealt with the situation in a different way? Of course. That's not to say he would have closed a deal. I wasn't receptive to having UPVC windows in a classic house. But, if he had been more gracious he would have at least maintained his company's reputation. As it was he must have done them untold damage. Neighbors in the same street all reported being put out by his attitude.

Here's how he might have handled the situation better:

Salesperson: Good afternoon, Sir/Madam. What a beautiful house. I'll bet the maintenance of doors and windows is something of a burden though?

Me: Well it is, but I think the place is worth it. I am going to restore the woodwork this summer.

Salesperson: Have you thought about replacing the old windows with new?

Me: Actually, it's not the route I want to take. I'd like to keep the things authentic.

Salesperson: I understand, but look let me give you my card anyway. Although our company sells UPVC windows and doors, we also supply conservatories. Something you might think about in the future?

Me: We'll, the garden's certainly big enough.

Salesperson: Just give us a call if you think we can help in any way.

Cue me taking the card and keeping it for future reference.

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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