Considering my last post, I thought about skipping over this particular experience. But let's face it - it opens up a whole new world of inquiry!
I was out shopping for some miscellaneous articles of furniture and finally found what I was looking for in an unexpected location. When I went to the counter to pay for the pieces I selected, I had a saleswoman that was very friendly and talkative. However, it became apparent very quickly that the computer system wasn't cooperating. She begged for my patience and understanding as her computer processed her clicks at a snail's pace. After waiting another length of time, I suggested that perhaps there might be another method to make the sale - perhaps a paper form where she could simply copy my information and process the actual sale later. She said she didn't think there was an alternative method. Another woman came from behind her and pulled out a form for her to fill out. She was surprised, slowly took up a pen, and sat staring at the form as if it was an alien scroll. She started filling in the most straightforward information; before she could finish asking me for my first name, my wife interrupted and took the pen, simply saying it would be quicker if she just let her fill in the blanks. The saleswoman easily relented and actually seemed grateful, and my wife had the form complete in seconds. The saleswoman then hunted about for product number and miscellaneous details. This whole experience was starting to seem a bit surreal. At this moment, the saleswoman casually looked up from filling in price numbers and asked, "What is the rate of sales tax these days?" I stared at her, unable to register if she was joking or not. I couldn't believe my ears. I think I managed to respond and we left as quickly as we could.
I am still ... flabbergasted. Are there really businesses out there whose salespeople are asking customers for basic information? Stop and think about it right now. If you don't know what your business is doing at this end, find out. Test and measure. Access feedback. Does your sales force need training? Get them trained. Get them confident. Get them knowledgeable. That will get your product moving. Don't hamstring yourself by a force that doesn't know what they are doing. Give them the answers and they will get you the bottom line.