The Right Opinion

A Lesson in Sales

By Roy Exum · Sep. 19, 2010

At one time I sold houses for a living and, believe this, that has developed into a tough profession in this economy. The market is flat and not many people are buying and a lot of my buddies are having to scramble.

But the other day I ran into an old friend and she was crushed; she’d just found out one of her closest cronies had bought a house from somebody else and there is not much worse that can happen when you are down. So as I gave her a hug and told her there would be other fish to fry, I told her about the greatest salesman I ever knew.

If you think the real estate market is fickle, the beer business is tougher because the competition for market share and customer loyalty is ever more intense. When Bob Beasley was the Budweiser distributor here in Chattanooga, I was with him one time when he shared a trick I’ve never forgotten.

We walked into a crowded bar and Mr. Beasley told the bar tender, “Give everybody in here another bottle of whatever kind of beer they are drinking and tell them it is compliments of Budweiser.”

Well, if you don’t think that didn’t get people’s attention, you are wrong.

Now, down through the years I’ve seen other distributors “sample” a saloon, where they’d pass around buckets of their particular brand, but Mr. Beasley had a different tact. He knew better than most that if you love people they’ll love you back, and I bet he caused more beer drinkers to switch to Budweiser than anyone else who ever lived. The way he did it was with kindness.

You don’t see that much anyone. When some incredulous soul would ask Mr. Beasley why he’s just bought him a beer from one of his competitors, the silver-haired Beasley would wink and say, “I want you to enjoy it but sometime try one of mine because I think you’ll like it.”

Inside he might have been dying because his brand wasn’t selling like it should but rather than getting mad or upset, his lesson was that you can attract a lot more bumble bees with honey than you can with vinegar and, time and time again, it worked.

When I get word one of my friends has bought a house from somebody else, it hurts you if you’ll let it but the better trick is to share in their new-found happiness and vow to work a little harder. I told my shaken friend the other day not to dare let on she was mad but, instead, tell her friends how delighted she was that they’d found a house they liked. Getting mad only makes you tired.

Sometimes you must act the opposite. There once was a delicious story, probably fictious, swirling around the Internet about the Budweiser truck driver who was rightfully incensed when he saw some Mid-eastern types who ran a convenience store in California laughing about the 9/11 tragedy right after it happened.

So he called the main office to say he refused to stock the shelves and that he was bringing back the truck and turning in his keys when the sales manager told him, “No you’re not! You go in there and, in the nicest way you know how, you tell them we are not selling our product there any longer and bring back every bottle and can with you!”

When the Miller Lite driver heard the story as they ate lunch together, he hopped in his truck and drove over, emptying the shelves. He did it nicely, politely, but before he was through, up drove Coca-Cola and several others. Within a week or two the laughing boys were nicely and politely out of business.

When you sell and are paid solely on commission, it may be the hardest lesson you’ll ever learn but kindness is undefeated. If you’ll work a little harder, and figure out a way to be a little cleverer than the next guy, it’s just like Mr. Beasley said a long time ago, “ … some time try one of mine because I think you’ll like it.”