Selling Out

When Danielle asked me to work at the êShave store for a day and gain some experience moving our product, I was hesitant.  Despite my natural charisma, I never pictured myself as a salesman.  All of the smooth talking and slick manipulation I had seen on television struck me as overly artificial, and I personally hate it when I’m in a store and some clown with a name tag and a clip-on tie insists on showing me every expensive item on the rack until I buy something.  If I want to silently walk into a store, touch everything, and then leave without buying anything, that should be my prerogative, and I don’t appreciate anyone disrupting my method.


But of course, being a part of this company means knowing how to sell, so I spent the day at our shop at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.  Navigating through the mass of tourists and important looking men in suits, I found the store among other upscale boutiques and fancy eateries.  While I did not find a beleaguered Liz Lemon around the NBC offices, waiting for me was Christopher Gerrard, a student from France engaged in a summer internship here.


As I admired the creams, brushes, and razors lining the walls, Christopher taught me the business.  He had only worked at the store for a couple days, but he was already proficient in almost every aspect of its operation, from dealing with customers to operating the computer check-out.  He explained that êShave salespeople refrain from badgering customers and instead provide insightful help in choosing the best product for their needs.  From him I learned when to approach a customer and when to stay back, as well as how to spot someone who clearly was uninterested in buying anything.  He had answers to all my questions and could readily name which scents came in after-shave soothers (Verbena Lime, Lavender, Fragrance Free) and which came in after-shave creams (White Tea, Cucumber, Almond).  The only thing he could not teach me was how to use the computer; I messed up enough check-outs (and probably cost the company enough money) that we eventually decided he could handle the cashier’s job for the rest of the day.


Also present was Said, the barber.  The Moroccan native offers top-quality shaves and haircuts, and the deftness of his work was mesmerizing to watch.  During a lull in the store’s sales, I took the opportunity to receive a shave myself, but that is a topic for another column.


After observing Christopher and learning the basics of the sales method, it was my turn to try.  The next man to come in was a well-dressed gentleman in his mid-twenties, probably on his lunch break from an office upstairs or across the street.  He looked around for a minute or two before I approached him with the customary “Bonjour” and asked what he needed.  He explained that he had heard about wet shaving and was trying to start but was unsure of what to buy.  Using many words I did not fully understand like “paraben-free,” “astringent,” and “sandalwood,” I led him to a new set of shaving products including a badger brush.  Christopher rang him up as I beamed at my accomplishment.


I had never made a sale like this before, so I was on top of the world.  This must be what Don Draper feels like after a pitch, I mused.  Where’s my glass of rye?  And a secretary?  Confident in my newfound mercantile prowess, I hovered over the next customer excitedly, expecting another easy sale.  Unfortunately, my exuberance may have been too much, and he hurried out empty-handed.  From here, I learned that sometimes in the art of business, less is more.  Also, customers hate salespeople accosting them the second they walk in the door.  Granted, I probably should have been able to figure that out in the beginning, but it was my first day, after all.


As the day progressed and shoppers came in and out, to buy products or get a trim, Christopher and I chatted despite our cultural differences.  I tried to hold a conversation about international soccer using only knowledge gleaned from FIFA 12.  (Apparently Poland is a dark horse for this year’s Euro Cup.  Go figure.)   I gradually gained a better understanding not only of sales tactics but for the brand and image in general.  Until now, I had been taught how to use the products by the makers themselves, but of course most buyers would not have this luxury.  Part of working at êShave means teaching others a new way of shaving, one with which they may be unfamiliar or even wary.  A company is only as effective as its salespeople, and this company is lucky to have such knowledgeable and helpful employees.


Meanwhile, now that I have discovered that I am a retail genius, I am officially leaving this company to start a new life as a traveling salesman.  I don’t know what I will sell, but if I end up intentionally crashing my car, then something must have gone terribly wrong.  Until then, I have Christopher and the good people at êShave to thank for helping me unlock my potential.

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