How Are You?

Suitably reprimanded by a survey that suggested I cease with the national ‘deskwich’ trend, I spent an enjoyable lunch-hour waited on by the impressive Gavin at Cafe Sofia, on Main Road as Three Anchor Bay becomes Sea Point on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard a few weeks ago.

Eventful for two reasons, one had nothing to do with selling, as an armed robbery took place at a ladies’ fashion store yards away during this time, with the two protagonists apparently running past right in front of me, of which I was unfortunately completely unaware.  I trust this was an isolated incident though, as Sea Point really has cleaned up over the past couple of years.

Then in strolled a young lady with a bag strapped over her shoulder and a big smile.  She went out of her way to say hello to everyone eating, also asking “how are you?”.  When approaching the bar, she did the same to the barman, before going on to say, “can you help me with my mailshot…”  He simply shrugged and said she’d have to wait for his boss.

When Gavin returned she repeated her routine, then whipped out some box-wrapped item but was sent packing.

I was immediately struck by how sales has changed this century.  It is an awkward paradox, that in one sense selling hasn’t changed, yet so demonstrably it truly has.

Weren’t we always taught to be smiley, upbeat, polite?  Start with ‘how are you’ and await a gleaming reply?  A pal of mine once cold-calling for a huge business process outsourcer was encouraged to ask “how are you?” when reaching an executive, then promptly shut up.  The thinking was that the pause shook concentration from whatever task was pre-occupying the cold prospect to your advantage. Yet all that seems to happen nowadays is that kicking-off with this brings the shutters up straight away.  Announce yourself as another rep on the blower and it’s goodbye.  In one way, this exchanged highlighted a necessary evolution, namely get straight to the meat.

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