THE JERK CUSTOMER AND A THUMB ON THE SCALE
Tale of The Sale: It’s around 1965 and a customer walks into a small Italian grocery store in Troy, NY. The store is run by a married couple, Celeste and Jimmy. The customer says to Celeste, “Hey, Guinea, give me 2 pounds of sausage links”. A young boy looks to see what his grandmother would do after hearing the slur. To his surprise, she says nothing and starts to weigh the sausage on the scale. The customer grabs a few more items and calls Celeste a “guinea” another time during his shopping. Her grandson looks at her again and she just smiles. He is confused but does not say anything. The man pays for his groceries and leaves. Her grandson says, “Gram, why did you let that guy talk to you like that? You should kick him out of here”. Celeste goes on to tell her grandson Jimmy (named after her husband) that there are only so many customers in their neighborhood and the surrounding ones. If she kicked out everyone she didn’t like, she would end up losing a lot of business. She then tells him not to worry. Grandma Celeste smiles and says, “Jimmy, my thumb was on the scale”. What she meant was that when weighing the sausage, she was applying a little pressure to the scale to increase the weight and the price of the sausage. The Jerk paid a little more that day and had no idea. Lesson Learned From This Tale of The Sale: Many times in sales and in business, you end up with customers who either don’t respect the sales function in general or, in some cases, are just jerks. I am sure there are many days you would like to tell that person to go pound sand or even worse; however, you have a sales goal, a company reputation, and a paycheck to think about. In rare cases, a customer can be really nasty, unprofitable, or unethical; and in those situations, you need to move on regardless. It’s probably more likely that your PIA customer or customers are just tough to deal with, needy, and maybe short-tempered instead of unethical or unprofitable. In these cases, you should be aligning their pricing with the extra effort that the customer causes you and your support staff to deal with. You can’t afford to fire every customer just like Celeste couldn’t all those years ago. Instead she “put her thumb on the scale” and demanded a premium for her product because of the extra headaches caused by the jerk customer. I would challenge you to do the same when that annual or quarterly price adjustment opportunity comes along.
Always remember that you are not a punching bag salesperson. You are a professional who deserves to demand equal standing with prospects and customers. You earn this status by adding value and bringing insight through your expertise. Best-selling author Anthony Iannarino calls this “trusted advisor” status. Check out his blog and books here if you want to learn how to achieve this very important status with customers and prospects. Fun note: Jimmy and Celeste Testo were my great grandparents and the boy in the story my father. The “thumb on the scale” story has been in my family for over five decades and still applies to business and sales today.
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