Norm Brodsky is a
He is the co-author of Street Smarts:
An All-PurposeTool Kit
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NORM BRODSKY ; STREET SMARTS
A Tip of the Hat
Watching master salespeople is
entertaining and instructive.
She also has a wonderful way of handling people.
There was, for example, a woman looking for a hat for a
friend of hers with cancer. “She’s on chemo, and she’s losing her
hair, and she doesn’t want to wear a wig,” the customer said. “So
I thought I’d get her a nice hat she can wear when she goes out,
something that makes her feel good about herself.”
“I have the perfect solution,” Linda said, and started rum-
maging through boxes on the floor. She pulled out a hat that
wrapped around the head like a turban and could be shaped
easily thanks to a built-in wire support. “I’ll make a video for
your friend to show her how she could wear this,” Linda said.
The customer thanked her, paid for the hat, and left smiling,
obviously satisfied with the purchase.
In fact, everyone left smiling. Linda has a gift for reading
people. Another customer wanted a hat for a friend who never
wore hats. “Let’s look at some starter hats,” Linda said. She
brought out a couple and showed how they fit.
So it went for at least an hour, until Linda felt she could
take a break and came over, apologizing for having kept us
waiting. “No, no,” I said. “I had a great time. That’s quite a
show you put on.”
“It’s what you have to do these days,” she said. “It’s how
small retailers compete with Amazon. The show, the informa-
tion, and the experience are what’s missing when you shop on
the internet. So I create an experience for everybody who
walks into the store.”
She was, of course, absolutely correct, although I hadn’t
taken it in before she told me. And that’s another reason for
watching great salespeople in action. You just might learn
or all the changes I’ve gone
through since I began my entrepreneurial journey 40 years ago,
I’m still essentially what I was
back then—namely, a sales-
person—and I suspect that, what-
ever changes you’ve gone through,
you are too. Most of us who start
businesses are salespeople—in
part, I suppose, because we couldn’t get anywhere without
selling. Aside from selling products or services to customers, we
have to sell our idea to investors, creditors, and other people.
Fortunately, I like selling, especially if negotiating is
involved. Not only do I like it, but I also like to watch other
people doing it, which makes me a prime target for ropers, as
I call them. Those are the people whose job is to round up
potential buyers for selling sessions staged by marketers
of condos, time-shares, cruises, exotic vacations, and the like.
I’m never actually a potential buyer, but I’m happy to pretend
to be one so I can get inside and see how the marketers are
getting prospects to commit to the purchase. Sometimes, I
start negotiating right there on the street. It’s a game I play.
The roper will stop me and say, “Can I o;er you a free dinner
“Dinner for two?” I say. “No, no—we have six of us here.”
My wife, Elaine, has watched me do this so many times that
she just stands there and laughs.
But I have the most fun observing great salespeople in
action. Linda Pagan is one of the best I’ve seen recently. You
may recall her from my previous column about her hat shop in
the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Last spring, Elaine
and I were in the area and decided to stop by to say hello. The
shop, which is tiny, was packed with customers. Linda, who
was busy helping them, said, “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
I was happy to watch what Linda was doing. She knows
everything there is to know about her business, from the
history of di;erent hat styles to the science of hat selection.
; ; ; NOVEMBER 2019 ; INC. ; 99