The meeting was going very well.
"Do you like the design?" I asked, showing the homeowners the renderings of the cabinet design we had prepared for them.
"I like it," said Mr. Samson. "Do you like it, dear?"
"I like it," said Mrs. Samson.
"How about the countertop?"
"I like it," said Mrs. Samson. "How about you?"
"I like it," said Mr. Samson.
Two for two.
This was the first time I was meeting Mr. Samson. I had met with Mrs. Samson during the initial planning and had met with their builder to discuss the renovation, but Mr. Samson traveled frequently for work and had never made a meeting until today.
Sometimes with couples where one half does the initial legwork, things don't go this well. At best, it means simply reviewing product information and decisions made already. At worst, the second half doesn't like anything the first half selected. At the very worst, when the second half is appalled by what the first half picked, you get the blame.
"I can't understand why you would suggest a wood floor," he might mutter in your direction, shaking his head in disgust. "I hate wood floors." Never mind the fact that you suggested a wood floor because the wife asked for a wood floor. At those times, we have to tactfully explain the process that delivered the selection that the other half finds so offensive without blaming the first half. No one likes a tattletale.
Other times, you find yourself brokering compromises between couples with different tastes, gently balancing the preferences of each while steering the two toward a conclusive decision.
But that was not the case with the Samsons. Whatever Mrs. Samson had selected, Mr. Samson liked. Whatever Mr. Samson had told Mrs. Samson he would like, she had relayed to the builder or to me.
Things were going swimmingly.
"How about the cabinet wood?"
"I love cherry," she said.
"So do I," he said.
"What about our stain selection?" I asked, pulling out a sample of the dark, rich color Mrs. Samson had selected.
"Well, normally I would be concerned about something that dark," Mrs. Samson said. "But for what we are planning with this house, I think that is outstanding!"
Good. I looked at Mr. Samson for his approval.
"I don't know what she means sometimes," he said. "But I understand her perfectly on this. It's great."
Wonderful! We had navigated all the decisions, and they were in perfect agreement. Or so I thought.
"What do you mean by that?" Mrs. Samson asked her husband, clearly forcing that smile on her face.
"By what, dear?" he answered, also straining to grin pleasantly.
"You said, 'I don't know what she means sometimes.' What exactly did you mean by that?"
"I meant that I don't always know what you mean about things," he told her, no longer trying to smile.
"Cabinet things, or other things as well?" she asked.
"Everything! Everything!" he exploded. "Sometimes I have no idea what you are talking about!"
And just like that, a smooth selection review meeting turned into a knock-down, drag-out domestic squabble, complete with accusations, threats, and tears.
It was clear this tiff went deeper than product selection. No amount of samples, encouragement, or compromise was going to help me help them. At times like these a salesperson's job is simply to just get out of the line of fire.
At least, that's what I told myself as I hid in my office until the shouting in the conference room stopped.
Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa. 215.493.8600 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org