One of our outside sales reps came in today with another special. I say another special because he almost always brings something new to talk about when he comes through the door. This time, it was a new brake line his warehouse has just taken on. I’m not sure how really “special” this particular special is, but I will never be the one to discourage this behavior. I think walking in the door with something new to talk about is important, and having something you can touch and feel invaluable.
It gives the rep something to do with his hands while he’s talking and serves as a tangible, tactile icebreaker when he hands it off to you. And, realistically, you just never know when that something will be the one thing you’ve been looking for — the competitive edge you’ve been waiting for to take your business to the next level.
Consequently, I always try to slow down at least a little and marshal whatever attention I may have left in order to listen, if not actually stop long enough to hear whatever it is they have to say.
Today it was brake pads and he was excited. It seems everyone loves these pads, and they especially love the fact that they are made in the same factory as another popular and well-respected brake manufacturer’s pads are produced — a factory in this hemisphere. In fact, he made a point of letting me know where they weren’t made as if that in and of itself was reason enough to trash our current brand choice, change lines and damage, if not destroy, a relationship — which has existed for decades — with the vendor presently supplying that line.
Things started to go south when I asked if the friction material he was holding, the pads being produced in “the same factory,” as the popular pad brand everyone loves and trusts, was in fact being produced by the same manufacturer of the coveted line.
Don’t look at me like that, I though at his reaction — it was a reasonable question, and I wasn’t trying to be a jerk!
In light of the answer, it turned out to be a good question. You see, the brake pads he was talking about weren’t being produced by the same manufacturer, in the same plant, with the same or at least a similar brake compound as the ones everyone loves. Oh, they were being manufactured in the same plant, all right. No question about it. But, the pads were being manufactured to a different spec, by a different manufacturer.
The implication, however, was clear — not accurate. Not even not honest, perhaps. But, clear.
And, that’s when things really got interesting. That’s when the outside sales rep (who I happen to like, by the way!) steered the conversation in an entirely new and different, perhaps, even more appropriate direction.
He started to talk about real quality. He started to talk about how the pad was made and a lot less about where it was being made (or, by whom!). He started talking about the pad being clean and quiet and about its the warranty. And, when he got to the “unconditional, 100 percent, customer satisfaction guaranteed” part, the part where the warranty was being provided by a company so confident in their product they were not only willing to pass another set of pads across the counter if there was a problem; they were willing to pay the cost of labor to get it done, he had my attention!
Apathy to interest; indulgence to action, that fast!
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you just how much the relationship we share fascinates me. Just as I would be lying if I told you that I rolled over and changed brake lines based upon this conversation alone. But, this was — no, is a good example of turning things around, of literally snatching at least a small victory from the jaws of defeat, if not knowingly, then by a serendipitous mischance of fate.
Not all shop owners are fixated on price. Nor, do all shop owners care where a product is made, so long as it’s made well and supported with integrity by a brand we both recognize and trust.
We are not all alike and if you treat us as if we were, you’re just liable to take the conversation from desire to despair and the relationship from synergistic and symbiotic to distant and dysfunctional!