May 25, 2009

Tea-ed off: Knowing when to leaf well enough alone

Thank you for all your suggestions! The contest is closed. (Leave your best title for this post in the comments, along with your comments on the post, of course. Best title wins a copy of my e-course! Deadline 5/29.)

Hubby and I stopped into a new tea shop in town the other day. We've been to other locations of this chain and wanted to see what their new shop was like here. It was opening weekend, and for a tiny shop, they had about ten staff on the floor!

As we walked in the door, we were met by two employees offering samples of tea. We each took a cup, thanked them and moved on. We were followed by one employee who immediately went to the next teapot and said, "Do you want to try the rarest tea in the world?" Before I was even able to answer, she went on.

"Antioxidants... healthy... good for complexion... make a face mask when you're done drinking it... blah blah blah."

I didn't get half of what she said, because she was bombarding me with one piece of information after another. She continued to follow me, telling me about products, until I found a moment to interject and tell her I didn't need any help.

Here's the thing. Hubby and I are quite knowledgeable about tea. Hubby is in the specialty foods industry and has been working with tea and tea vendors for many years. We are both certified by the Specialty Tea Institute and have been planning on opening a tea shop ourselves for some time. Rarest tea in the world? I can think of ten teas that are more rare than the one she showed me.

When I made my way to the tea counter, there she was again! She asked me if she could tell me about any teas, and then immediately opened a canister and started waving the lid in my face so I could smell the tea.

Did it occur to this woman to ask us if we were even tea drinkers? Did it occur to her to ask us if we had been in their store before? Or to ask us what kinds of teas we like?

No, and I was immediately turned off.

Just like your audience is when you don't make an effort to find out what they care about.

I understand how exciting it is to want to share your information. To you, it is the most fascinating thing in the world. You want everyone to know what you know!

However, what is interesting to you is not necessarily what's interesting or valuable to your audience, and if you don't find out what that is, you will turn off a lot of people.

I couldn't wait to get out of the store. I didn't want to buy anything and I don't feel at the moment like I would bother going back.

Don't assume you know what they want or what they already know. Ask. Get to know them. Be sensitive to their needs and concerns. Be interested in them and don't just focus on pushing your own agenda.

Share your story about a pushy salesperson (or speaker...)!
And don't forget to submit a title for this post!

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21 comments. Please add yours! :

Diane L. Broos said...

Great piece! My title would be "Teaed Off" LOL

Tim Gonzo Gordon said...

I think the title of your post should be: "Too Much About the Tea, Too Little About Me"


Have a great rest of the weekend!


Unknown said...

No brilliant ideas about titles.

I get this all the time in wine stores, and I know a thing or 2 about wine.

Richard I. Garber said...

Ask, don't ASSume!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for the comments so far! Jan, I think you feel my pain. :-)

Jim Cronin said...

"Two ears and one mouth...its no accident!"
Please give my prize to a worthy person!
Best wishes from the UK,
Jim, MySpeakingCoach

Anonymous said...

"If I need help I'll call an ambulance, thank you!"

In situations like this I always despise sales people who's first question when I enter their store is: Can I help you. Wouldn't it be appropriate to find out what your customer wants, before throwing suggestions in my face?

Bill Reichart said...

"When Telemarketing Meets Tea"

That is my post title...because that salesperson acted just like a telemarketer..she had a script and wasn't interested in conversation and knowing the customer..just like what you get on the phone around the dinner hour. Those telemarketers don't even stop enough to take a breath.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your contributions, Bill, Nils and Jim! Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

The title should be "Tea for Two, but not for You"

Lisa Braithwaite said...

LOL -- Sassy!

Topher said...

Excellent Article. I used to work in sales and the first thing out of my mouth was "What are you looking for today?" I'd always as probing questions to find a solution best suited for the customer. I found that this was often the best way to help people. There were many people in the store who acted the same way as the woman did in your story and so many people just walked out because of it. No one wants information shoved down their throats especially if they don't know what that information actually means.

As for a title...hmmm "Tea for Two" is taken...maybe "Tea Time Talk" that's about good old C.S.Lewis "Tea should be taken in solitude."

Jean said...

This is a great post. I've been thinking about it, and I'm sad to say I think I'M guilty of it. Whenever I give a presentation and I feel like the audience isn't engaged - flipping ahead, looking out the window - I lose confidence and just try to get through the presentation as quickly as possible to not waste people's time. I know I should reach into my toolbox and try to find a way to be relevant and get them engaged (need to expand my toolbox!!).

So what about "Expanding the Teabox" or "Expanding the Teapot"?

Lisa Braithwaite said...

This contest is getting tougher and tougher! I'm going to have a hard time picking a "best" title for this post! Thanks for your comments and suggestions!

Robert Stevenson said...

How about A Tempest in a Teapot, or Knowing When to Leaf Well Enough Alone.

Another Jean said...

Know When to Can It :D

david said...

it should be Tempest in a TEA SHOP!
and that wasn't my shop was it Lisa?
Hope not! We do have the rarest teas however and are not shy about sharing them (after we have qualified you!)

victoriark said...

Many A Slip Between Cup And Lip - I have no doubt that their head office will be wondering why sales are so poor when they invested so much in staff training.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Victoria, the sad thing is that their staff *are* very well trained and it's clear that the company invests in and believes in training. They just seem to be missing the people skills part of training!

knitgurl said...

Great article and great titles! I have this happen a lot, as well as the other extreme of no one being interested in helping customers.

My suggestion for a title would be "Tea Schmea" (from your reaction to the salesclerk only; I'm a big tea fan as well!)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Can you believe I didn't think of "Tea Schmea?" Hilarious!

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