We’ll meet again…

Ever been fobbed off because you don’t fit the ‘image’, or been treated with indifference by a salesperson? SUE BARRETT

Sue Barrett

By Sue Barrett

Ever been treated with an attitude of indifference? Ever been ignored as a customer because you didn’t look the part or didn’t fit the stereotype of a typical buyer? Ever been fobbed off in favour of someone else because you are (supposedly) not famous enough, well connected or prestigious enough to do business with?

The world is littered with stories of people who were passed over and ignored by judgemental, blinkered sales people, only to take their business somewhere else where they were treated with respect and were able to buy what they wanted despite how they may have appeared to others. 

Take my grandfather for instance. My grandfather ran his own timber business and was mad keen about Mercedes Benz cars.

When the first Mercedes Benz dealership opened in the 1950s in Melbourne he drove from Geelong to Melbourne in his late model Ford dressed in his overalls and check shirt to the said dealership.

When he got out of his car he was ignored by the senior sales guys – he didn’t look the part. So they sent out the young rookie to look after him.

My grandfather spoke to the young man, asked to take one of the cars for a drive and when they got back to the dealership, he asked the young man how much could he get for his car as a trade-in if he paid cash.

And with that he pulled out a huge wad of pound notes from his pocket to pay for the car in full view of the senior sales guys. Needless to say their jaws went slack and my grandfather made sure the manager gave the young rookie all the commission.

Just because a person doesn’t have a senior title or work for a prestigious firm, or is wearing the “right” attire, driving the “right” car, living in the “right” suburb and appears to not have what you consider important to you, doesn’t mean they’re not worth talking too.

You just never know who they really are, what they know, who they are connected to and what role they could play in your career or your life in the future. And even if you were to never meet them again, why not still treat them with kindness and respect – god knows we could all do with a bit more kindness and respect in the world.

This then leads me to the networking circuit and the often ugly way some people use networking functions as a networking treadmill or career climbing frame often at the expense of others.

You can see them playing favourites, ignoring those whom they deem to be beneath them and you feel they never genuinely connect with you as they scan you for what they can get out of you. I am sure you know what I mean.

OK, it’s a tactic and it can work to further your cause. Many people get what they want by this strategy, but I wonder how many of them think about the consequence of their actions and if any of the people they stepped on or treated shabbily may come back into their lives in ways they never imagined.

I had such an experience recently. I was invited to speak at a major networking function by a long standing client of mine a couple of months ago.

I was honoured to be asked; it was a great opportunity for me and I wanted to do the best for my client and for my audience. However one of the main organisers of the event was the type of person who did not value you unless you had a senior title or worked for a prestigious firm etc. Never mind the work you put in to make the event a success.

“Not worth knowing” was the message this person sent out to me loud and clear. In fact I was so not worth knowing that she didn’t even bother to follow up after the event and did not return my calls and requests for feedback as to the success or otherwise of the event. Now I am a big girl and I know this can happen, so you move on. Ce la vie.

A couple of months have past since the incident and I was sitting on a senior interview panel for a client of mine. I had been requested to participate because of my expertise in sales leadership.

Unbeknown to me, the person I am referring to turns up for one of the interviews. When they realised I was on the panel the look on their face said it all.

Embarrassing to say the least. Did I use this to my advantage? Of course not. I did the job I was there to do – assess each person’s suitability for a job. But I couldn’t help wondering later what was going through their mind and if they learned anything from the experience. I hope they did for their sake.

So the moral of the story is, don’t burn your bridges or they may come back to scald you in ways you never imagined.


Sue Barrett is Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd. Sue is an experienced consultant and trained coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating High Performing Sales Teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. For more information please go to www.barrett.com.au

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