On our way to South by Southwest in Austin (SXSW or "South by" if you are hip and you need to say it out loud), the TentCraft team of TJ, Kurt and Matt was laid over at Chicago O'Hare airport.
Right next to our gate was a little, nondescript Sunglass Hut kiosk. Let me state very clearly that (i) I did not need sunglasses as I already had a pair in my suitcase and (ii) I swore off expensive sunglasses a few years ago and have been happily purchasing $7 pairs from www.knockaround.com. To make a long story short, both Kurt and I left that kiosk with designer sunglasses that neither one of us needed, but we both had huge smiles on our faces.
What happened? Well, the X factor and difference maker was one of the best salesmen I have ever encountered—a 20-something year old kid (everyone that is younger than me is now a kid) named ‘Henny.'
Kurt and I were bored and we just started browsing the shelves. I imagine that this is the real world version of surfing the internet. Henny came over, asked if we needed any help, and then confirmed that the sunglasses we were looking at were "cool." (Great move, Henny—I look at cool things because I am a cool person) He then proceeded to blow me away with his sunglass industry knowledge. He knew more about sunglasses than anyone I've ever met. Which Ray-Bans were limited edition, how this year's model had changed from the previous years, what has been selling, how the lenses have changed, special coatings, proprietary materials, etc. In a non-pushy way, he clearly established himself as the expert. He also has a palpable passion for the product.
He had already been observing us, so he knew directionally what we liked. He then asked us if we'd seen sunglasses of a different manufacturer. We hadn't. He offered to grab them for us. He then noticed that Kurt's glasses could use a little adjustment and offered to adjust them for free — great customer service.
He proceeded to ask us a little bit about where we were from, where we were going, what we do (we pitch tents!), and just made nice, pleasant conversation. All the while, he was making sure that we saw everything that might possibly be interesting. He sensed us getting short on time, so he went in for the close. He told us that he'd give us a nice little discount if we both bought a pair. At that point, I liked him so much that I told him that I'd only buy if he received a commission, because I wanted to be sure that he was rewarded for his customer service excellence. He confirmed that he did receive a commission, but it was clear that the commission wasn't driving the sale—he just wanted us to find some stylish shades.
While Kurt and I were waiting in line to pay, we got him talking. He had worked there for ~2 years, and he said that the airport Sunglass Hut was the best store in all of Chicago—better than the flagship store on Michigan Avenue. I have no doubt that Henny is a large part of the kiosk's success.
I realize that this post is running long—but Henny did everything that I hope our sales folks do when a customer calls about a custom tent project.
Henny listened. He understood what we needed—what we liked—far before he tried to push us in any direction. When he did suggest solutions, it was because he knew what we needed. When a customer calls about their custom tent need or event signage, I hope that we always listen more than we speak. "Think you need an inexpensive? Let us tell you why a MASTERTENT is better."
Henny was personable. He was funny. He was a real person. He didn't have a pre-recorded sales pitch that you could see coming from a million miles away. When a customer calls TentCraft, I hope they always feel like they are talking to an interesting, dynamic rep that just happens to be able to help them with tents or any other marketing material. We have a supremely interesting crew of customer service experts, and my hope is that any potential customer gets to know the person on the other end of the line. We are real people, and we are here to help you out.
Henny's product knowledge was superb. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge. When I'm thinking about spending a lot of money on sunglasses, or if a customer is considering TentCraft for some of their tents or other outdoor marketing collateral, it is extremely helpful to have the reassurance of a trusted expert to point you in the right direction. When you call TentCraft, I want you to know you are talking to an outdoor marketing expert.
Henny went above and beyond the call of duty. Opening boxes to show us additional sunglasses, showing us pictures of other sunglasses on his phone that he didn't carry. All to help us find a pair we liked, whether or not we bought it from him. If you trust TentCraft with your business, you get more than just a custom tent — you receive the service and help from every member of our team. I want customers to know that we want to be their custom tent and print expert, any where, any time any place. Your problems become our problems.
When the timing was right, Henny asked us to buy. He asked for the business and gave us a little incentive to buy from him, right there. TentCraft loves your business. As a small company, we need your business to keep our growing team busy. If our team is certain that we can solve your marketing problems, I don't ever want our team to be shy about asking for the order. We want to be your partner.
As he handed back our receipts, we were his biggest advocates. Another girl had wandered into the kiosk while we were checking out, and Kurt and I were both gushing about how Henny would help her find exactly what she needed. (Note: By the time we boarded the plane, she was in line to purchase some sunglasses with about four people behind her.
Henny — thank you for showing me what a great sales experience is like. If you ever find yourself looking for a new job, I'd love to talk.