Saturday Morning Sales Meetings …


TiesAs a Promising Young Man, I spent a few years in retail …

During that period, I worked in a culture that does not always seem still with us, at least as strongly as I felt it.

Part of the ritual involved Saturday Morning Sales Meetings, where we gathered in the shoe department (more chairs) to hear about special promotions, the latest in merchandise from each department, and to learn how to sell in the spirit of the traditional and slightly upscale retailer within whose walls we toiled.

From 9:00 AM to 9:25 AM, we were a learning machine.  Then, the doors opened for business and it was show time …

This was a somewhat surreal time for a farm boy, still getting used to the Big City and its ways.  As I continued, I became part of the agenda for these regular gatherings and learned some of the simple, but effective presentation and speaking skills that I still use every single day.

During that period, I had several teachers, some of whom reported to me, some of whom I reported to, and some who were just walking the same path at the same time.  We had four classrooms, each with their own set of rules and ambiance:

1)  The Sales Floor …

Sacred Space where the transaction occurred.  Whatever was going on in your life, it had no place on the sales floor.  This was public space, where both colleagues and the public gathered.  Your actions and your words were public and fair game for comment, especially by other salespeople.  Did I mention we worked on commission?   One reason existed for this space and one reason only:  To sell the customer what they needed at a reasonable price through careful listening and excellent service.

2)  The Back Stock Room

Just off the Sacred Space above.  A place for a quick and quiet correctional chat with a supervisor, a venting place for frustrations with whatever had just happened out in the Sacred Space.  A safe, but temporary space for getting yourself quickly back into Sacred Space mode.   Also a great place to keep the clutter and back stock out of the public eye.  We all used this space on an “as needed” basis.

3)  The Store Manager’s Office …

Official space, where formality ruled and things happened.  Sometimes a place of great pleasure, when you received news of a promotion or a raise, while at other times, a place of pain …    Never entered casually and not part of the daily grind.

4)  The Back Dock and Shipping Area …

My personal favorite space, where lessons were learned and reflection on the business and on life itself occurred.  A leveling place, where the titles fell away and one could just talk.   Work always awaited here, even if just breaking down boxes, packing up things to ship out, or checking out new merchandise, but that was just the excuse to visit a much more personal sacred space.  Those who frequented this part of the operation were both more grounded in reality and more thoughtful about the philosophical aspects than those who lived and died on the Sales Floor.

So this was one of my earliest learning environments.  Here are some lessons learned through repeated behavioral modification in one or another of these four learning spaces:

The customer, right or wrong, is the reason I am here …

Helping the customer have a pleasant and rewarding experience magically contributes to a paycheck each week …

Every customer does not know what they want …

Sometimes a customer wants something for which a more suitable alternative exists …

At times in life, you just have to smile and swallow your impulses …

What was your early learning experience?

Remembering with deep appreciation an earlier time in the Heartland ….

John