A LIFE LESSON
There is a part of town where people who make a very handsome income live. Then, a part of town where people live that are not as blessed. Can I say it like that? The not so blessed live in housing that might be considered seedy, tired, dilapidated, maybe the term is neglected. This story is about a salesman who prejudged a request for services in that “not so blessed” part of town and thus received a life lesson in the process.
Back in 2003 a salesman, who shall remain nameless, was selling a home improvement product. The product was gutter protection. The product is added to the existing gutters of a home and is considered by many, who know anything about the gutter protection industry, to be the most expensive product on the market for protecting gutters from leaves and other debris.
The client or homeowner is always taken back by how expensive labor and materials are to cover their gutters. If the homeowner is thinking it would cost $1,000, they would soon be aware of a price four times that amount. The salesman’s job is to sell the features and benefits of owning and installing the product and to close the sale. Close the sale! Yes, close the sale!! The close ratio is normally around 25% -35%.
A seasoned home improvement salesman can quickly look at the home and neighborhood and know if he has a chance for a sale. On this “lead”, it didn’t look good. The salesman already felt this call was going to be a waste of time. The home was in an area where housing values were depressed and had been for years. The home in question was no different than the surrounding homes. The house was a shotgun style home. Meaning the home would need gutter protection on both sides. The home was very narrow and long. The salesman was making a quick mental calculation of what the job would cost and was thinking this home would be in the $5,000 range. The home itself wouldn’t sell for much more than that, $5,000 – $7,000, maybe $10,000 max. The closer the salesman got to the home, the more he realized a sale wasn’t happening tonight.
Mr. Twines answered the door and invited our salesman into his home. The television is broadcasting the funeral of Frank O’Bannon, Governor of the State of Indiana. The funeral was a big deal. Mr. Twines asked our salesman if he wouldn’t mind watching the funeral for a few minutes. He very much liked Frank O’Bannon.
Our salesman lied, and said, “I’d love too.” The salesman knew he was trapped. He would need to dutifully sit and wait for the funeral to be over before he could make his pitch and leave. The standard pitch wouldn’t be necessary tonight. Just giving him the cost of the job would end his personal inconvenience and he could get on with his life. The televised funeral did have its impressive moments.
Four jet fighters came thundering toward the funeral. One of the jets, at just the right moment, lifted and left the four-man formation. It flew straight up into the clouds and out of sight. The other three jets screamed across the funeral in the missing man formation.
Sandi Patty and the Key Strummer’s Children’s choir gave an upbeat and toe-tapping feel to Back Home Again in Indiana. Even the salesman was impressed.
With the funeral over it was time to talk turkey. The salesman gave an abbreviated features and benefit sales pitch. All that was left to do was give Mr. Twines, the homeowner, the cost to do the job. The cost of the job involved material, labor, tax and county improvement fees, $4,990.00. The salesman half-heartedly reduced the cost by offering the nice guy discount. Followed by the senior citizens discount. Don’t forget the AARP discount that brought the cost to installing gutter protection down to $3,940.00. The salesman then waited for his answer.
The salesman knew how to read body language. He knew what was coming. Sitting on his dining room chair across from the salesman, Mr. Twines looked up from the sales brochure, paused and said, “I think I’ll take it.”
The salesman was sure he misunderstood Mr. Twines and asked him again what his intentions were. Mr. Twines once again said, “I’ll take it, let’s do it.”
The salesman was stunned with his decision. The salesman brought out his paperwork. Before it was time to leave, the salesman couldn’t resist and had to ask Mr. Twines, “What part of the presentation made you decided to buy?” Mr. Twines looked down at the brochure and said, “Well, I’m sure it’s a good product,” He then looked directly at the salesman, “Because you waited and watched TV with me and you seemed to enjoy the funeral as much as I did, I knew you were the kind of man who wouldn’t steer me wrong.”
I was talking to the salesman a few days ago. He told me he was going through boxes in his garage. He was looking at his old appointment books and came across the sales call above and told me the story. He was also saying he wanted to save his appointment books for his family to look through. I then realized the salesman was looking for a way to have his life live on after his death.
The other life lesson for me? There is no doubt Mr. Twines left a huge impression on the salesman’s life. This moment could be a life lesson for me too. You receive what you give. If you give respect, you receive respect. Sometimes life can be so simple.