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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.


Let Your Story Make Your Point

Here’s an example of how a simple story can make a great point.

In 1990, I walked into a clothing store looking for a new pair of pants. I was wearing new sneakers I had just purchased from another store. I was standing by a display of pants when a salesman came up to me and asked, “Can I help you?” I gave the standard response, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” He replied, “Well, if you see anything you like, let me know,” and off to other business he went.

I selected two pairs of pants that looked identical in every way except for the price. I now found myself needing help. I looked around the store and spotted the salesman who had offered to help. He was standing near the back of the store with another salesman, and I was the only customer in the place.

I caught the salesman’s eye and beckoned him over with a wave of my finger. He looked at me with a scowl and held up his finger as if to indicate that I was interrupting him, and I was to wait until he had time for me. Now, had he been helping another customer, I would have understood. Had he smiled and gestured with some measure of friendliness, I would have been satisfied as well. Instead, his posture was completely negative and he was displaying irritation that I would dare bother him while he’s in conversation with another salesman. I felt his manner was not appropriate, so I left the store without buying either pair of pants.

I walked into a second store, and while I was looking at a pair of pants, a young sales lady approached me and asked, “Can I help you?” Again, I responded with the obligatory, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” She replied, “Well, if you see anything you like, just let me know,” and then walked back to the front counter.

I found a pair of pants I liked and tried them on. They fit well and I was ready to make my purchase. I stepped up to the cash register, placed the pants on the counter and pulled out my wallet. Now, in the world of professional sales, we refer to that as a “buying signal.”

It seems that our young sales lady went to a different sales school than I did, because she just sat there speaking on the phone and ignored me. Once again, had she been speaking with another customer, I would have understood. But, I don’t think it was another customer, because she was arguing with the person about where they were going to have dinner that night.

I waited for a reasonable amount of time, but, since she didn’t seem to want to help me any time soon, I put my wallet back in my pocket and walked out of the store.

I walked into a third store. I was standing by a display of pants when another young sales lady walked up to me. I was bracing myself for the usual, “Can I help you?” and was ready to blurt out, “No thanks, I’m just looking.”

Instead, her words caught me off guard, because she began with, “My guess is that you’re about a size 32, is that about right?” It was about right, so I confirmed it. She continued with, “Are you looking at something for work or for leisure?” and I told her I was playing in a band and that I needed something for the stage. She asked what instrument I played, whether I sit, stand or move around a lot on stage, and about the lights and temperature during the show, and a lot of other questions.

Once I had given her all the answers, she smiled and said, “Come with me.” Now, it’s a rare occasion that a pretty young lady looks at me, smiles and says, “Come with me,” so I eagerly complied!

She walked me over to a display of pants, grabbed a pair off the bottom of the pile and held them out for me.

As I extended my hand and took hold of the pants, she didn’t let go of her hold on them right away. Instead, she opened the change room door with her other hand and using her hold on the pants, gently tugged me in the direction of the change room. As I entered the change room she said, “Make sure I see them on you before you make a decision.”

I slipped the pants on, and then walked out of the change room so she could see how they fit on me, as she had asked me to do. When I stepped out of the change room, I could see that she had another pair of pants in her right hand, and in her left hand, she held a green shirt on a hanger.

She asked me how the pants fit and I said they were a little snug at the waist. She answered, “I thought they might be. Here, try these on.” And she handed me the other pair of pants she had brought. She didn’t mention anything about the green shirt she was holding, and I didn’t ask about it either. As I entered the change room for the second time, she again instructed me, “Make sure you let me see them on you before you make a final decision.”

I tried on the second pair of pants and they fit just great. As she had instructed me, I stepped out of the change room to get her opinion. She looked at the pants, asked me some questions and gave her expert approval. These were the pants I should buy.

Then, a perplexed look came over her face. She looked at me with deep concern and went on with, “You know it would really be a shame.”

“What would be a shame?” I asked.

She replied, “It would be a shame for you to be the best dressed guy in the room from the waist down, but to be another one of the crowd from the waist up.” And with those words, she stretched out her hand holding that green shirt. Mechanically, I reached out and grasped the shirt as she ushered me back into the change room.

I left that store having spent twice as much as I had intended to, and I was happy about it, all because that young sales professional knew the meaning and value of exceptional customer service.

I included that story here to demonstrate how the simplest of stories can make a powerful point.

So, what’s the lesson? Don’t just share the lessons found in your stories, share the stories and bring the lessons to life.

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