Season’s Greetings, friends! “Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all” (EmeraldFrog). This makes sense, right?
I really don’t want to offend anyone. This is because, as a salesman, I understand that I am the third lowest form of existence imaginable (only slightly ahead of politicians and lawyers and noticeably behind sickle-cell anemia). Nobody likes me, nor cares to be upfront and honest with me; that is a given and accepted part of being in this business. Many people in this world consider it a sin, wrong-doing or general unpleasantness to lie to another person (at least without good reason), yet to a car salesman it is a normal part of every conversation. Take for example, the worst of the worst—a used car salesman.
A Car Salesman’s Story
Car Salesman: “Good afternoon, folks! Is there something you were looking to find today?” The salesman happens to notice the 83 bullet holes in the 35 year-old clunker that just used all of its strength to make it up the car lot driveway.
Male Shopper: “No, thank you. We couldn’t find anything better to do today, so we thought we would see what cars were rusting away on this lot.”
Car Salesman: “I would be happy to show you something that might be a good fit for you if you could give me an idea of what you like.”
Female Shopper: “We don’t really like anything, but thanks for your offer.”
Car Salesman: “I am happy to help if there is anything you need. Let me know if you’d like to look into any of our available cars. Thank you.”
Male Shopper: Knowing that he has absolutely no way of making it to work tomorrow and if he misses the day he will be fired, decides to ask, “Sir, do you think we could take a look at this minivan? I don’t like it, but am curious to see inside.”
I certainly understand there are people out there that if you are honest to them about your needs will try to take advantage of you; however, I am pretty sure that we, as a society, consider it a BAD THING to prejudge a group of people based on the actions of a few of their members. Again, I know that many do not consider sales people to actually be a part of the human race, but we are still a part of this earth and I do believe it is popular to be earth conscious these days. Allow me to share from a recent personal experience.
Phil’s Website Sales Story
A few weeks ago I had been working with this prospect. We met quite randomly at a Starbucks as he had some questions about the new site he just launched for his business. Despite the amount of work I still had to do that day, I chose to be helpful and listen to his concerns with his current web provider. Very quickly I was able to discern that he would not be able to afford the type of services he really needed, and I let him know directly that I doubted I would be able to help him professionally, but I could at least arm him with some questions to ask so he could get what he needed from his current provider. This initial discussion went on for almost two hours. When we finally parted, I reminded him that I would be happy to be a friend, but given the information he offered to me, I would not be a good fit for him professionally.
That did not stop him from contacting me a few days later and asking for a proposal to do what we discussed. I reiterated to him that the solution he was requesting was over 5 times more expensive than the original website he had already purchased and paid for, yet he was insistent on receiving the proposal. I am not one to turn someone away that seems desperate to want to work with me, especially because, as he put it, he wanted to work with us do to my honesty and willingness to help even when a sales wasn’t a possibility. I truly appreciated (and still do) his sentiment. At this point, I was on cloud nine and couldn’t wait to tell the story of how this person became a client. Yet this was going all too smoothly…
Less than an hour before our scheduled meeting to go over the proposal, he called and cancelled the meeting. He said he still wanted to work with us, but couldn’t meet that day, so we rescheduled. A few days later we rescheduled again. And again. Eventually we did meet and went through the details of all he needed to buy. Then we together started taking out things that he couldn’t afford that that time. In the end, the proposal was severely slashed, but still something we could certainly help him with. As I normally do, I asked him for a date that I could follow up with him that he would have his decision. He asked for a week. I was ready to call it a meeting and let him get on his way (I also had another meeting I needed to prep for that day), but then he started asking me questions that had nothing to do with our business together, but were obviously bothering him (of a personal nature), so again I chose to be a friend and stay there to listen. He opened up to me about some very personal things he was facing in his life and it was clear that he did not have anyone he could talk about it with, yet he felt free to share with me.
Though it was definitely uncomfortable for me, I cared for him and his story and wished there was something I could do to help; though the only thing I could truly provide was a friendly ear. Another hour or so later and we were finally able to get on with the rest of our day (thankfully I did make it to my next meeting, though it was down to the wire). Again, I never expected that sale to actually close, despite the numerous hours I had now invested in this person. That’s why, much to my surprise, the next day he emailed and officially accepted my proposal, requesting to get started the next week! By the end of the day I had sent the contract and all of the onboarding material in writing, set him up with his assigned Account Manager, and scheduled the kick-off meeting. Everything was approved in writing and I was ecstatic! My time, honesty and friendliness paid off! It was truly a surprise and a gift.
That is, until about 30 minutes before the scheduled kick-off meeting, when he emailed me to reschedule. After responding to his email, he requested pushing it off for a few weeks, then a few days later cancelled everything entirely. Of course, when a person tells a sales representative “no”, there is nothing that states they have to tell you why, but it wasn’t hard to figure out when I pulled up his website a little while later and found that the current web company started incorporating my ideas on his site; he was playing me for a fool (obviously he won this time around).
Being Courteous in our Words and Actions; Even to Salespeople
While I have other stories that went the opposite, this does happen more often than you think. I had given and invested; he lied and took what I gave him without paying. Granted it was just advice, but still. This situation happened a while ago, but I have been thinking about it a lot lately as we settle into this year’s holiday season. This time of year has always been about peace on earth and good will to all mankind, but over the last few years it has become increasingly a time of fear as people are not sure what to say to each other. Growing trepidation over using religious-centric words such as “Christmas” has limited the ways and amount of joy in which people can celebrate. Stores replaced “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” and removed Christmas trees and wreaths from their aisles (Forbes). Pretty soon, I wonder if other religiously charged words like LOVE, HOPE and even HOLIDAY (holy-day from the Old English root) will disappear. I am guessing they will be replaced with words like FEAR and PARTISANSHIP.
The word I’d like to focus on today, however, is COURTESY. Yes, I celebrate Christmas and I do like to wish people I meet a Merry Christmas. I also like it when someone who finds joy in wishing me a Happy Hanukkah tells me so. If you have a love in your heart for something, I would hope that you would want to share it. As Penn Teller (a noted atheist) said, “If you believe that there is a Heaven and a Hell, and people could be going to Hell … and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, … how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it … there’s a certain point where I tackle you, and life is more important than that” (Christian Post).
A Courteous Greeting from this Salesman
I am not looking to start a whirlwind of controversy in regards to the appropriate holiday greeting, but to give people a glimpse into the efforts of this website sales executive so that all people hopefully think twice about the way they speak to any sales representative. Please don’t flippantly cancel meetings or assume our schedule is blank and waiting for you. If you set a time, honor it and stay true to your word. Every salesperson would appreciate a clear “No thank you” as opposed to having to chase an unresponsive prospect. And yes, feel free to share with me the joy ‘or pain in your heart.
Somehow, in our crazy mixed-up world, sharing something you love and care about with another person became offensive. I am not here to argue the act of proselytizing, but simply being courteous to one another. I choose how I respond to other people. I can choose to take that Hanukkah greeting as a friendly statement of brotherly love or as a message of his superiority. I choose to take it as a statement of love. So why the diatribe into holiday greetings?
Because we ultimately CHOOSE how we respond and act towards other people. And all people, even detested salespeople like me (yes, politicians too) are still people. While I cannot speak for every apple in the bunch, I can say that I choose to treat all people I meet with honor and respect. That means replying to an email or phone call in a timely fashion, honoring an appointment time and speaking to other people in LOVE, regardless of the situation. I hope that your days are filled with joy, wonder and smiling faces of the ones you love this Christmas, Hanukkah, Qwanza, Festivus, New Year and all! And also that you choose the COURTEOUS and HONEST path and respond with brotherly love no matter what wish or greeting you are given.