"Are you Being Served" was the title of a British TV comedy series of the 1970s. It was set in the men's and ladies' departments of a fictional department store where it housed an odd bunch of eccentric employees. In its day it was considered both funny and a bit naughty. It came twentieth in Britain's Best Sitcom. When I think back to that TV show, I cringe a little. As a teenager I worked for a retail establishment in London that was not that dissimilar to the TV show's store. There was one big difference though, and that was no one was even remotely funny...ever.
Nowadays, being served or attended to either in the retail arena or in the world of services, particularly in London, continues to be a challenge. I think that's because it's still thought of as unskilled and not exactly a real career. After I left school, apart from a brief stint at the local Church Times newspaper, going into retail felt like a natural place for me to be. After all, almost all of my family worked in that arena. And in theory, it had all the qualities I bought into: interesting people, surprises, conversation, challenges and money for products. What could be better?
I did have one problem that seemed insurmountable; I was very shy and had no real idea how to interact with strangers. So selling didn't come naturally to me. After about six months working at a men's clothing store in London's East End, (long before that part of London became fashionable), the Manager told me that if I didn't sell something that week I'd be fired. I was truly scared. I didn't want to lose my job. A couple of days later, whilst being fervently watched by the Manager, a woman and her son entered the shop. They marched up to the counter, and the woman asked to see a V-neck wool sweater for her son. Here was my moment, I hastily opened the knitwear drawer and yanked out a sweater. It was a mid grey lambs-wool. I displayed it on the glass countertop and stood silent. My Manager stared at me as if to say, "Say something, Malcolm."
So I did, I offered the woman another colour, burgundy as I recall, she looked at it and said, "I'll have both". I saved my bacon.
Clients are waiting for us to convey our savvy and our ability to sell to them. They want us to enable them to buy. They require us to take charge, to engage with them, and most of all to take care of them. They want us to be of service to them, whether you're selling sweaters or an airline ticket, the client wants you to be their ally and provider of all things good. And to do this, as a provider, we must first instil trust. Trust is the magic ingredient that can win electoral votes, cement a relationship and decrease stress and worry. It is the entry-level solution for being able to influence outcomes, to convey our beliefs convincingly and to do these things in an authentic fashion.
It is incumbent on us to be of service. And to be of real service takes passion, an enjoyment of being with people, and a heart-felt desire to help others. When we adopt a desire to assist individuals, just this one characteristic tends to fulfil our needs and the needs of others. We are all selling, be that our service, product or beliefs. We all want others to buy... and to achieve that end is something we could all do better. To encourage your clients, boss, partner or potential customers to favour you, your service, proposal, or your product must come before all others. In essence, clients want to experience your enthusiasm, passion, and your unique ability to make your offer irresistible. Your desire to be of service to anyone is pivotal. With that one quality, your purpose will shine through. It's key to you being the person who is thought of first when it comes to providing the kind of product or service you offer.
Follow Malcolm Levene on Twitter: www.twitter.com/malcolmlevene