Weekly Thoughts



Get out of the ticket booth!

For the past couple of years, many of our businesses have been blessed with strong demand.  Cash has been plentiful and purchase decisions have been made quickly. 

As the economy changes, some of that demand has (somewhat expectedly) waned.  Customers are more conservative in their financial decisions.  They deliberate more; they shop around for deals.  Businesses must work to make the sale.  

As our team adjusts to this new operating paradigm, many of us have had to change our mindset with regard to salesmanship.  As such, we enjoyed a recent Seth Godin post titled Bought or Sold?:  

Most things that consumers acquire are bought, not sold. We decide we’re interested in something and we go shopping to get it. Potato chips, wedding venues and cars are all purchased by people who set out to get them.

Selling is a special sort of marketing. It’s interactive, generous and personal. Selling brings individual attention, connection and tension to each customer. And selling takes time, effort and money.

Many companies believe they have a new product that will sell itself from the first day. But that’s unlikely. We shouldn’t disrespect selling by pretending we don’t need it.

Godin’s message resonates.  Take, for instance, the small example of a ticket booth at a boat tour company.  In times of strong demand, an individual working in the ticket booth can, well, spend most of her day sitting in the ticket booth.  Prospective customers call or walk up, ask to purchase a ticket, and the transaction is complete.  Boats fill up without much effort, so there is no apparent need to ever leave the booth or upsell a phone customer.  When tickets are being bought, the role of the ticket booth agent is more akin to a processor than a salesperson.  

Today, fewer people want to go on boat rides and those that do have less disposable income.  If the person in the ticket booth plays the role of processor, potential sales may walk by all day — without a transaction.  That results in sad, empty boats.  

Conversely, if that person understands that the product must be sold, she can make a tangible difference.  She gets out of the booth to proactively interact with people walking by.  She hands out brochures.  She tries to sell a ticket to everybody who calls in. 

Consider, for example, the outcomes of these two (real) phone conversations: 

Scenario One: 

Customer: I’d like to buy 6 tickets for your 1PM boat trip on Tuesday. 

Ticket Booth: I’m sorry, that trip is sold out.  

Customer: Ok, I’ll guess we’ll figure out something else to do. Good-bye. 

Scenario Two: 

Customer: I’d like to buy 6 tickets for your 1PM boat trip on Tuesday. 

Ticket Booth: I’m sorry, unfortunately, that trip is sold out. How long are you in town for? I have spots available for Tuesday for the 10AM or the 3PM; or we could get you on the 1PM on Wednesday or Thursday. The weather looks fantastic this week and we are booking up fast so I recommend booking now. 

Customer: Oh that would be great, I didn’t know you had a 3PM trip. Let’s do that. 

While this example seems trivial, the reality is that small behavioral shifts in countless daily interactions by numerous ticket booth agents make a difference to the bottom line.  So, whether it be in boat tour ticket sales or an entirely different industry, we are working hard to make sure we are not resting on our laurels and pretending that the world innately wants to buy our products and services.  We are heading into a world where our products must be sold, and we are gearing up for that challenge.  Game on. 

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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