Dated: December 01, 2014

Fragrances or wedding bells, the coat or the cut, tiles or lifestyle… and that knowledge lies at the heart of selling, says Achal Rangaswamy

What are you Selling? Is the customer really buying That?

In the previous issue we savoured the sizzle of the steak. But there was someone who actually wasn’t precisely doing that! He was, in fact, buying a great evening, a successful date, and of course, attention.

This time around it is time to walk around a bit as we go shopping this busy, festive season.

You walk into the lifestyle products wing and then into the fragrances section of the upscale shopping plaza. The eager salesperson greets you with a beaming smile and urges you to try out some of the latest additions to the already overflowing range. You tell him that you are looking for something for a lady, not for yourself (remember, fragrances are generally bought for someone else, no matter whatever the reason!!!). The salesman pulls out an interestingly shaped bottle, swishes out some of the stuff onto a narrow strip of paper that he then proceeds to thrust at your nose.

And then comes the spoiler: “Most popular one since it arrived, sir! I have already sold over 85 of them this week!” You look up and walk away, in the least bit amused. You aren’t impressed.

Your only wish at that stage would be for the salesman to whisper into your ear: “Limited edition stuff, sir! I have only two bottles. One has been reserved for this elegant lady from…” And before he can finish, you cry out, “Let me have the other one, NOW!”

Why does this happen? Because no one is buying 75 ml of methylated acetate or whatever have you, in a translucent, purple-tinged teeny-weeny bottle. Nor are you buying a perfume, a cologne, a deo or a “scent”!

What you wanted was the most exclusive, the most elusive, the most sought after but oh-so-difficult-to- get-hold-of-gift. What you wanted was that walk down the aisle to the proverbial altar. Or the much-photographed seven rounds of the holy fire. And the salesman spoilt it all by telling you that all the yuppies of Noida (no disrespect meant either to yuppies or Noida) shall reek as one!

It is your wedding now, young man. You select the fabric with a lot of fanfare, and youthful energy around you exuded by your very enthusiastic bachelor friends and one mandatory elderly brother-in-law. You have just got your wallet lightened by a little more than a few thousand bucks. But you have absolutely no qualms or a second thought about paying the man with the measuring tape and a reassuring look, who tells you that you are going to eclipse all else in town with your wedding sherwani. You pay more than the attention he truly deserves or demands. The man with the measuring tape and the reassuring look looks much married and absolutely sure of himself as he picks your pocket to the tune of a little more than what you paid for the fabric.

Marketers, you never sell the perfume. You sell the wedding bells... And the lesson for you, young marketer is, you never sell the coat. You sell the cut!

And the lesson for you, young marketer is, you never sell the coat. You sell the cut! No wonder the man with the measuring tape is called ‘Master’ at most establishments. People would give their right arm for his cut.

He is sure you are going to look ‘The Complete Man’, even if for just that evening.

Closer home, when it came to one of the brands I got to look after and nurture for over a decade and a half, we would take pains to tell everyone within the organisation and outside that we never sold tiles. We would take a deep breath, draw ourselves to our full height, and proclaim that we sold HEALTHY AND HAPPY HOMES.


Because, to be very honest, most other slots were already taken by the biggies or the early birds, who sold beauty, elegance, durability, and even lifestyle. We had to dig deep into the consumers’ psyche as well as into history to figure out that ceramic tiles were basically bought to cover muck, hide damp walls and floors, and also prevent leakages, seepages and what have you. So, what did we have? Hygiene. “Go back to your school days”, we implored all of them. “Where did you first see those tiles, those square, white, Spartan, gleaming pieces of brick?”.

The idea was to tell people that you may on the surface buy tiles for aesthetics or inspire envy and competition, but you first looked for hygiene and safety and, therefore, good health. And where there was good health, happiness was bound to follow!

And ah, yes , of course! Happiness also came from colours and designs and textures and finishes and all the embellishment that was now possible on your ceramic wall or floor tile.

Never ever ignore the inherent, hidden, ‘core’ benefit the customer is looking for. Because beauty isn’t skin deep, nor is it glaze deep, we home beautification “experts” said, with relish. We would try and “live” healthy and happy homes even at work, down to rewarding dealers who looked after their health and lost weight, and not just sold more boxes of tiles. You live your talk, not just walk it.

In their desire to somehow get the customer to grab the product, marketers often ignore or fail to see the most important part of the transaction, the real, tangible, most obvious, and high-yield benefit.

So, don’t knock down your customer with the axe, or tie him up with ropes. He needs space to breathe and time to decide. Let him be. Let him walk around a bit, feel like a hero, and then ask you to help him become one.


Achal Rangaswamy is a proud salesman, a marketer, and a multilingual, quarter-of-a-million-km biker. He feels people who sell features will have no future, and if you can’t sell you must prepare for hell, no less. He is Director, Marketing and Operations, at a building materials company in Ahmedabad, and has been an AMA-Zydus Cadila Marketing Man of the Year Award winner.




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