How a tie salesman's trust changed the way I look at sales

by Steli Efti

The best salespeople can change your life. Not because of what they sell you, but because of how they make you feel. 

More than 10 years ago, I was a young entrepreneur, and I was really excited about buying nice ties and nice suits. I spent a lot of money on looking "professional". (As you might notice, I've outgrown that by now.)

So one day I walk into this expensive store in this European city where I used to live, and I want to dress for success.

I'm one of those guys who walks into a store and says, "No, I don't need any help" when a salesperson walks up to me.

But this one sales guy is different. Dressed really well, full of charisma, and he gives me just enough space and steps in just a the right moment. We start chit-chatting, and he drops some interesting tid bits about the ties and the shirts ... 

Eventually I've got everything I want, we go to the cashier, the sales guy rings up all the items, puts it all together, packages the whole thing beautifully for me, and it all adds up to more than a thousand Euros. 

My hand goes to pull out my wallet... and there's nothing. I forgot my wallet!

I just spent an hour in the store selecting expensive clothes, and I don't have any money on me. Most people would feel embarrassed about this—so did I!

Me: "I'm so sorry, I forgot my wallet at home. Just keep everything, and I'll try to come by again sometime to purchase the items." 

This sales guy looks at me, "No, sorry. I can't do that for you."

I just reached a new level of embarrassment. I was young, appearance really mattered to me, and then forgetting my money and hearing this guy tell me "No"... I just wanted to disappear from the face of the earth for a moment there. I'm starting to sweat, fumbling for words, and he continues talking:

Sales guy: "Are you crazy? These items, Sir, are yours. You take them with you, and you come whenever you have the chance, and you pay. I don't want to keep that. You come and pay whenever you have a chance. Don't worry about it."

I was flabbergasted. "Seriously? This is over a thousand Euros worth of items, and you just give them to me? This is the first time I have shopped here." 

Can you guess what happened next?

I walked out of that store with my thousand Euro bag full of ties and shirts. I drove straight back to my office, picked up my wallet, drove straight back to that store, and paid.

I can guarantee you, if the guy would have put the stuff to the side, I would have either not showed up again, or showed up weeks and weeks afterwards. I'm just a really bad shopper. I don't often take time out of my day to go shopping. But because of what he did, he got his money immediately.

And you know what else?

I continued shopping at the store, from that sales guy, every single month. For the next two years that I lived there, I spent probably around a thousand Euros on average every single month there.

Why?

Because he made me feel incredible. He made me feel like somebody who was valued and trusted and important. And this feeling never left me. Ten years later, I still tell the same story. 

Take a moment and reflect

What was the best sales experience you've ever had as a customer?

Why was that the best sales experience? What did it do? How did it make you feel?

Experiences like these provide you with opportunities for the most meaningful learning, the deepest insights into how to sell.

To become a true master of the sales game, don't just consume sales courses, read books or visit workshops. You need to dig deeper than words and pictures—it's the experiental and emotional level where the true sales insights unfold.

The gift of sales

When you really make an impact on somebody while you sell, that feeling, that moment you create, it might stay with them forever.

It's not just about making them a loyal customer. It's about making an impact on their life. I'm still telling this tie sales man story ten years later on the other end of the world. Nobody up to that point, and I'm not even sure ever after that, has made me feel like that. It made me feel really special.

And you as a salesperson, you have the chance to make people feel special every single day—take that chance and run with it.