Funny and instructive sales episode.
A few days ago, I bought from a hardware store the last 17 black glasses. These slides are black, tempered glass rectangles, 10 cm x 7 cm (4 x 2,7 inches) in size, which are usually used by welders for their work glasses.
The hardware store owner knows me, he knows I’m not a welder, and then he asks me amazed why I want to buy all 17 slides at once, since he barely sells one a year …
I then explain to him that I didn’t change my job, and that the slides are actually for my daughter Serena and her classmates (average age between 14 and 15): they have to go to a park with the Science professor to watch the solar eclipse that would occur a couple of days later.
He tells me that he cannot apply me any quantity discount “because the price is at least five years old”. (???, I don’t know the logic…). But I do receive a roll of adhesive tape to be applied all around the slides to prevent the boys from cutting themselves. It’s a deal.
Purchase price of each slide: € 3.00.
I take the slides and the tape home, and my daughter the next day redistributes the merchandise to his fellow subscribers (strictly via WhatsApp).
So far, therefore, everything is normal, including the fact that of course my daughter has kept for herself the 3 euros she has collected from each of them, about fifty euros …
But finally, this eclipse comes.
In the afternoon I call her and ask her about the eclipse, and whether the slides had been useful. But apart from the usual laconic “No big deal…”, she tells me with amusement that one of her classmates, before the eclipse, sold his slide back to another class!
Sales price: € 18.50!
Great. A pimply teenager buys a black glass rectangle from my daughter for 3 Euro and resells it the next day at 18.50.
A 600% ROI.
As soon as he graduates, I’ll hire him as a salesman!
Table of Contents
Selling Lesson No. 1
I have always been convinced that no child is born a salesman: all children are born the same and then become a salesman, banker, worker, architect, etc…
But over the years, evidently, the family, the character, and personal experiences begin to shape a certain attitude that then could blossom in a particular talent as an adult.
And this young man has undoubtedly been able to take advantage of a sales opportunity.
All his other companions didn’t even think about it. He got the chance, or even created it, and closed the sale.
Good boy. Perhaps the science teacher may not have been proud that one of her students preferred money over the eclipse, but I’m sure Briatore would also choose him in “The Apprentice”.
Selling Lessons No. 2 and No. 3
The story is also emblematic of two other factors that influence the relationship between supply and demand in every market:
- the scarcity of the product/service;
- the urgency of the purchase;
Both factors may work in favour of the seller or the buyer. In this case, it must be said, they worked in favour of the seller, whose merit was, however, to exploit them and close the sale.
The scarcity of the product/service
For a few days now, welder glasses and goggles had not been available in any hardware store. So, ask the stars.
The eclipse lasted from about 9:30 to 11:45. The customer therefore had to buy the product by this deadline, and the seller had to close the order in the same period of time, otherwise the glass would have lost completely value.
This dynamic is comparable to what happens in front of stadiums for concerts or sporting events whose tickets have been stolen. That day, in fact:
- Touts can sell tickets for Madonna’s concert at astronomical prices.
- fans in delirium are willing to spend such high sums to enter the stadium
- and the transaction must take place within the start time of the concert … because two hours later that ticket that is now worth gold becomes waste paper
It is no coincidence that the fundamentals of direct response marketing include two elements to be included in any offer:
- the SCARCITY factor (“last 17 slides available”);
- and a DEADLINE (“look at the eclipse today at 9:30, or you’ll have to wait another 50 years”).
Having few products available and fading a promotional price if you don’t buy by a certain date, makes the offer more attractive, sustains the price, and accelerates the purchase decision.
How can we include these elements in our commercial offer?
Maybe we never thought about it, but are we really sure we can’t include a bit of scarcity and urgency in our proposals?
And the excuse that “my market is different” is not valid: this effort can also be made by the more traditional multinational companies selling high-end products or professional services in b2b markets.
If I sell a product:
Can I create an offer of a limited series with unique features? Can I create a package with another complementary product, offer them together at a special price, but only for a week? Or say that we have only 10 available? etc…
If I sell a service:
Can I offer a free assessment only to the first 5 who request it? Can I combine two services? Can I package an offer that includes my basic service plus a kind of “flirt product”?
Every single marketing director or sales director or company owner must pause every day to think “what can I do to differentiate and add value to my offer?