Recently, I had an elderly lady who I had worked with for about 40 minutes say something to me I had never been told before in all my years selling retail. She said simply, “I love you.”
By taking the time to go through the three phases of professional, ethical selling—finding common grounds, the customer interview and demonstrations—Kramer was able to make his customer, Joann, extremely happy for helping her find the right product for her needs, and without breaking her budget.
I have to say this caught me way off guard. But I quickly regrouped and said, “Thank you, but where did that come from?”

She then explained, “You tell it like it is and have really walked me through this whole thing. I was dreading doing this, and now I just feel good about it.”

So I smiled and said, “Well, I can be brutally honest at times.”

She then said, “But that’s what I needed.”

Afterwards, I put some thought into trying to understand how this highly unusual comment came about.

Often we try to analyze what we did wrong in any given situation. When I’m not selling well, I take a look back and see what I forgot to do. In most cases it comes down to three re-occurring things.

Most commonly I realize I was not enjoying my customers and therefore they certainly were not enjoying my company either. My next most common mistake is I started pitching products before I actually knew enough about the buyer to show her the right product. Then the third thing is I forgot to demonstrate a product to physically show how it will fix the problem or situation the customer needs to fix.

But in this case I was trying to figure out what I had done so well. It’s like hitting that perfect long and straight drive in golf. Then your golf partner says, “You kept your head down and your balance was good.”

So after re-constructing this situation I realized I had taken my time and done all three of those things in textbook form. To brag here a little bit, it was from my own selling textbook, “Selling Clean In Retail Flooring.” So what were those three categories that made this situation turn out so well? They are, “finding common grounds,” “the customer interview” and “demonstrations.”

I’ll explain each as I recap the story of my customer who told me she loved me.

Finding Common Grounds                                                            

I’ve always felt that new customers coming into buy any high-ticket item can be very uncomfortable. They’re not sure about what they really need, and they are skeptical about anyone in sales. They are cautious to open up about their means and they certainly don’t want to be “sold.”

So why do we take that person and open with, “How can I help you?” That almost always gets a standoffish “I’m just looking.” Great, now you’ve just proved you don’t know how to be a real person first.

Instead, find a way to be that everyday likable gal or guy. In this case, my lady customer had called on the phone before she came in. On the phone she asked about Tigerwood (not the golfer). So I told her I really liked that wood—because I really do—but it was not the best choice for the climate here in Colorado. That led to me telling her it was a better choice for people in my home state of Michigan because of the humidity.

She then said she was also from the Midwest in Illinois. We then started talking about where we came from and how we each liked living in Colorado much more. As I always say, “Bingo.” Now we’re finding common grounds. And I’m starting to enjoy the conversation. So when she came in my store the first time, I jokingly said, “You look like you’re from the Midwest.” She curiously smiled and I continued with, “Because all of us good looking people come from the Midwest.”

Then I said, “I’m Kelly the one you talked to on the phone.” After a couple of minutes of trading stories about moving away from our home states, I said, “Tell me what you are trying to achieve?”

The Customer Interview

Simply put, the easiest way to learn about a person’s needs is to ask them. Often at night after work I’ll tell my wife great details about an interesting customer I worked with that day. One time she said to me, “How do you know all this stuff about them?”

“I asked,” was my reply. So when I asked this buyer about her situation, she explained that her husband had recently died and she wanted to remodel the house. Without my asking she added, “I have $50,000 now to remodel my house including moving some walls.”

At this point I kindly but bluntly told her, “Just friendly advice here, don’t ever tell anyone how much money you have to spend.”

She chimed in, “Because they will find a way for me to spend it?”

“Exactly,” I responded. I then asked about how she used the house and her remodel ideas. That led to her telling me it would be mostly light use but she needed a tougher floor in the kitchen because she drops a lot of cups and knives. So I said, “I know you like Tigerwood, but let’s look at some laminate floors that look like exotic woods that your knives won’t harm as easily.”


We went to my laminate selection and I quickly did my key demonstration where I bang a key hard on the laminate plank sample.

“Here’s what will keep the things you drop from damaging your floors.” Then I showed her a few more exotic looking floors.

She found one and said, “Perfect, that’s it.”

Then I said, “This will save you a great deal of money that you can put toward the rest of the remodel and maybe you can keep some of that $50,000 for other things like nice vacations.”

As it turns out going on nice vacations are something we have in common. That’s when it happened: She said, “I love you.” That kind of makes me remember why I love my job. Thanks for reading.