“Son, you talk too much.”
I received this unsolicited advice while waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant during a summer break from college. The adviser was a weary conventioneer who made the mistake of asking what kind of tequila we served.
Coincidentally, the previous night, at the owner's insistence, the entire wait staff had stayed late to sample and learn about the restaurant's extensive tequila offerings. The local distributor spoke eloquently about each bottle while we, the young and the parched, soaked in the information as well as the liquor.
By the end of that night I was both drunk and extremely well informed. So when my thirsty customer innocently inquired about our tequila selections, rather than just listing them for him I was eager to pontificate about the colors and the smell and taste characteristics of all our offerings. Though still a bit hungover from the night before, I dutifully cited regional differences in distilling approaches and the effects such differences have on taste.
And I didn't stop there.
I ended my presentation with a discussion of the various brands' suitabilities for sipping versus mixing, followed by a listing of the more obscure mixed drinks that feature tequila.
At the end of my discourse, I was dispatched to the bar with the above-mentioned advice sternly administered along with an order for a frozen margarita with the house tequila.
I'm reliving this experience now because the other day—almost two decades later—I learned the same lesson all over again.
We had recently supplied Jack, the owner of a local real estate company, with a millwork package for his renovated home. During his project, Jack had complimented the thoroughness of our company. He had been very pleased with our attention to detail as well as the care we took in presenting him with a full range of options. So when the opportunity arose to supply him with replacement cabinets for one of his rental properties, I wanted to do an equally good job for him.
I then priced each plan in good, better, best cabinet lines, presenting him with plenty of choices. I dropped the package off and followed up with a phone call a few days later.
“Um,” Jack stammered after thanking me for the reams of material I had unloaded on him. “Would you mind just replacing the cabinets that are there with something cheap? You can pick them out. It's just a rental.”
In other words, “Son, you talk too much.”
It was like the tequila incident (but without the hangover): I had been so eager to please that I overloaded my customer with options he didn't need nor ask for.
Good salesmanship often entails the communication of product knowledge to the customer in a manner that answers concerns, instills confidence, and guides the customer to the correct product for the project at hand. And sometimes, good salesmanship is understanding that a thirsty man wants a drink—not a lecture.
Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa. 215.493.8600. E-mail: TadNT@aol.com