How much is that doggie in the window?

Anyone worth their steak knives follows the rule of ‘ABC’ (always be closing), but the true skill of the salesperson is how they finesse sealing the deal. There are many techniques in the sales manual, but none comes close to the power of the ‘puppy dog’ close. Even if you don’t know what I am talking about, you know what I am talking about. As in, “Mr. Smith, I know you said your wife is allergic to dogs and you just refinished all of your hardwood floors, but I’ll tell you what: just take the puppy home for one night and if you really don’t want it bring it right back tomorrow morning and we will refund your money.” We all know what happens after that. The kids love the puppy and cry hysterically when the evil Mrs. Smith wants to return it the next day. And, not only has a puppy been sold, but also the lucrative ‘razor blades’ associated with the puppy (food, outfits, psychiatric help etc.) This is a story of a puppy dog gone rogue, or at least of a salesman who might have thought having rabies was a better alternative than trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner.

Once upon a time I went to the Home Show, which is my idea of hell on earth. The quest for this particular visit was a number of things for my newly acquired house, including a central vacuum cleaner that would be up to the task of four stories of beige carpeting. Naively, I dropped my name off into a draw at the Beam booth to ask for a sales call and then ran for the doors to escape the humanity.

They called the next day to arrange for a visit (no obligation of course). Since this particular brand was well respected (and since the booth babes seemed to have no problem vacuuming up the fake crumbs on the carpet sample) I agreed for a call. On a miserable October day the salesperson who had drawn the short straw arrived at the door. He brought with him the entire built-in vac unit in its original shipping box and proceeded to spend about half an hour unpacking it, checking the packing list against the contents of the box, polishing all of the accessories and generally making himself at home.
Then came time for the grand demonstration. That’s when the audience participation component of the script required me to produce some paper towel to show the suction feats of strengths. And that’s also when things started to go sideways, as this being the dawn of ‘green’ awareness, I did not have any climate destroying paper towel. I don’t remember how he adlibbed this off-scriptedness, but I did get a full demo of all of the moving parts. At which point my patience had been worn thin and I thanked him kindly to send him on his way. That’s when it dawned on me that I had a vacuum cleaner disguised as a puppy dog in my living room.

What he didn’t know is that I was a sales sleeper-agent. I had taken numerous sales skills courses over the years and could easily spar with the best of them (and really, in the scheme of things, vacuum cleaner salespeople are generally not the Mohammed Ali’s of their genre). I (literally) stood my ground and told him I was not prepared to make a decision that night and was still looking at other options, so he could just pack up the (fresh out of its box, all unpacked) equipment and take it away. I guess my stare was just evil enough that he agreed, but not before one last request: could he please use my phone to let his sales manager know he had finished his appointment. Of course, I said, sensing some fresh meat for my sales hamburger. The sales guy then got on the phone to Mr. Blake to tell his tale of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Then Mr. Blake wanted to talk to me. Only one of us came out alive from that conversation and you can probably guess who that was.

The bottom line. I did eventually buy that very central vacuum cleaner. And it was really great at sucking up pet hair.

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