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Archive for April, 2010

Sales, Part One

Working in sales is a funny thing.  I never, in a million years, thought that I could be even a halfway-decent salesperson.

I was educated and trained to work in government affairs – to be a corporate lobbyist.  So, in a sense, I guess I was supposed to be selling something – ideas and policy proposals.  I’m a pretty smart person, and I knew what I was doing, but in my former career, I always felt like I was a couple of steps behind.  Maybe it’s because when it comes to politics, everyone has an opinion, and in a sense – everyone is an expert.  I’m not confrontational or argumentative.  I’m not partisan or extremist.  I always felt like I was in over my head.

My husband can speak in front of a crowd and win them over in a heartbeat.  He doesn’t even have to be incredibly well-versed in the topic about which he is speaking…he’s just good at it.  That is so not my forte.  I’m much better on paper or in one-on-one conversation.  I don’t think that I’m very good at coming across as an expert on anything.

I’ve said before that losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me.  With every day that goes by, I believe this more and more.  If I may make another confession, losing my first job in wedding gown sales was another good thing.

I don’t think I’ve actually written about this before.  Last year, I worked at another shop in Atlanta for three months, and I was fired because I didn’t sell enough.  I showed up for work one day with a plate of cookies, and the owner told me that I needed to go home.  I would be paid through the end of the month (which happened to be the next day), and that was that.  My cookies and I went home.  She said that selling dresses just wasn’t my thing.

Three months after that, I started working at the shop where I work now.  Within three months, I broke a record for most money earned by a single salesperson.

Yup, sales must not be my thing.

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I had a walk-in at the shop yesterday, which we don’t normally take.  But she was very sweet, and her wedding is SOON – like early July, so I took her upstairs to at least take a look at what we have to see if she’d like to make an appointment for another day.

She wandered around with her mouth wide open, exclaiming over our dresses: the fabrics, the styles, the quality.  She told me that she had shopped in Atlanta, LA, and NYC, and she hadn’t seen anything as good as what we have.  Honestly, I was flattered, and since I did have a little bit of time, I let her pick out five dresses she wanted to try on.  The very first one I put her in was this one:

It’s one of my favorites, which we just received on loan from a designer we recently started carrying.

She GLOWED.  Admittedly, she’s a beautiful girl to begin with, but this dress just transformed her.  It was truly amazing.  We talked through the rush order we would need to do, as well as the (minor) changes she wanted to make to the gown, and she made an appointment for this morning.

Just after 11:00 today, she came in with her parents to order the gown, and they agreed that the dress was simply perfect.  I was so excited for her, particularly since she had been dress shopping for three months with no luck.  I can’t even imagine how frustrating that was for her.

As we were checking out and placing the order, I asked her what she does for a living.  I knew that she lived in LA, and that she was originally from Atlanta, but that was about it.  Well, it turns out that she’s an actress.  And she’s getting married to this guy.   I hadn’t heard of her before yesterday, but even I know who he is!

It may sound silly, but I’m glad that I didn’t know her profession until after she left.  I don’t *think* I would have treated her differently, or offered her any preferential treatment, but I’m not positive.  I do buy a lot of Us Weekly mags, but I’m not obsessed with celebrities.  I think it’s really cool that she bought a dress from me, but I tend to think that about a lot of the brides that buy from me.  I feel honored to play that role in their lives.  She’s a happy, beautiful bride, and that was the most important thing today.

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Taking it Personally

I sold a dress today to a bride from Panama.  Her fiance lives here (I think he’s in school), and she was visiting with her family for the Easter weekend.  He’s moving to Panama over the summer, and they’re getting married there.  She and her family primarily conversed in Spanish; in fact, her mother spoke no English.

The bride was just lovely, and she purchased an absolutely beautiful gown – my favorite one by a Spanish designer we carry.  As she left the shop, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for giving her a wonderful experience.  It seems that she had not fared so well at other boutiques.

I realized something after she left.  She truly could have bought a gown anywhere.  (And I mean anywhere – like Panama!)  She was stunning, with a fantastic figure, and every dress she put on looked great.  But I was patient and accommodating, and I didn’t dismiss her.  And I think that played into her decision.

I’ve been guilty of it in the past – getting frustrated with brides who are just playing, writing off those whose budgets fall below the prices we carry, and getting impatient with those who don’t speak English as a first language.  I don’t make much money hourly, and ideally, my monthly commission comes out to a little more than half of my take-home pay.  It can be a little frustrating to spend a couple of hours with a bride, oftentimes on multiple occasions, and only make enough money to pay for lunch.  I put a lot of energy and effort into what I do, and I take the entire process very seriously and very personally.

It would have been easy to dismiss a foreign customer, with various family members in tow, who spent most of her time speaking Spanish.  I didn’t.  And it was appreciated.  I need to keep that in mind every day I work.

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