Making the Sale
I stood staring into the faces of about twenty-five men and women, the males far outweighing the females. Many of the men bearded, most blue-jean clad and cowboy-hatted, seated on folding chairs, arms crossed, staring at this outsider. A potentially hostile audience. One wrong word and my goose was cooked. How to reach them?
Now that I am a business owner attempting to seduce people into buying my tours, I realize that we are all salesmen of one sort or another. As I drive around town or read the newspaper, I realize how hard sales really are. One of my teachers said it’s like having a funnel that you fill at the top with people who are potential buyers. Slowly, you ease them down the funnel, shoving them in, prying their fingers off the rim, grabbing those who try to escape, scooping up the seepage, talking them down, easing them in, and finally squeezing them through that tiny hole at the bottom to drop into your alligator jaws. Chomp. A Sale!
Much as it may surprise you, teachers, too, have to be salesmen, whether to a classroom full of rowdy second graders or, heaven forbid, an auditorium full of college Freshmen with their cell phones in their laps. Now-a-days, teachers are expected to perform, do a song and dance routine to keep their audience interested and entertained. And believe me, it’s hard with the allure of another hour in bed or those infernal lighted devices in their palms. I bought a plastic shoe holder that I hung over the door where students had to deposit their phones during class. I still had to tap dance down the aisles.
Madison Avenue and their admen have discovered brand new methods to reach us. The days of newspaper ads and billboards are pretty much done. Now, we are bombarded by ads on Facebook or pop-ups on the Internet. If you are going to sell, you are told, you must do it through the new Social Media. And heaven forbid that you don’t have a web page. Now your web page is a daily chore. And you had better keep it up-to-date. You can’t just hand it off to a webmaster and expect them to do it for you. You just thought you were busy before. Now you have to add those web duties on top of everything else you had to do.
But the Great Google makes it easy for Madison Avenue. The Great Google knows what your buyers have just bought. Buy a flight to Midland-Odessa and you are suddenly overwhelmed with ads for flights to Timbuktu. As I read the New York Times or the Washington Post suddenly up pop ads for large-girl dresses. That’s just mean! How did Google know what size I am?
But how do we sell on the local level? Out on the Interstate, I pass a collision repair place for fancy European cars every morning. How do they capture a very limited audience who drives past them without stopping? How does an air conditioning repair business beat out the competition? How do my businessmen friends attract and catch those elusive buyers?
As my mentor and guide, Freddie the Fender, says, it is all about personality. It’s about convincing your audience that you are their very best friend and that you have the perfect item for them. You have to convince people to believe. . . believe in your product, believe in your pitch, believe in your ideas, believe in you.
But first we must believe in them. It may be one lone female scared to death you are going to con her into buying some car she doesn’t really want for a price that she shouldn’t be paying. Or a heart-sick young swain needing a dozen roses. Or a mortified Mom whose teenager has just wrecked the car and is coming in to get it repaired. Or a couple worried about insurance for their house or their soon to be wrecked car. We really do have to believe we are helping our clients. Or our audience.
So I told my bearded, booted, cowboy-hatted audience with their pretty little wives that I really enjoyed being with people who loved history as much as I did. And then I taught them about the Nullification Crisis and the Tariff of Abominations and John C. Calhoun. And I made their leader into Sam Houston, the slave-hating Cherokee. And they learned why the South hadn’t seceded in 1832. They really listened and they may have actually learned their own history.
And there wasn’t a lynching that night in Anderson, Texas. The Sons of Confederate Veterans clapped when I was done.
Chomp. A sale made.