Bob the Salesman – A Parable, Part 2

Last week I wrote part 1 of this story. If you didn’t read that, the following will make no sense whatsoever.

Click on this link to read part 1

And now, part 2….

With one last step he rounded the corner into the family room, and there he saw the stranger – an old man in a rumpled suit eating a danish and watching television.

“Hello, Bob!” said the stranger in an upbeat tone, as if nothing was wrong in the world.

Bob staggered and stuttered. “What?…. How?… Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“Now that’s funny, Bob. Because I’ve been meaning to ask you the very same question. Who are you, Bob, and what are you doing here?”

“I’m Bob, and I work here!” said Bob indignantly.

“Oh, I know that already, Bob. But what I really want to know is who you are and what you do.”

There was something piercing about the delivery. The stranger spoke with a calm and mesmerizing authority. Bob wanted to run, or hide, or call the police, but he could only stand and answer the question.

“I am a salesperson and I sell homes.”

“Well, that’s better”, replied the stranger, “but it ain’t complete yet. Sit down Bob and let’s take a look at what you do.”

Seemingly against his will, Bob took a seat on the sofa opposite the stranger. As he sat down the he noticed the television for the first time.

“What? How? That’s a prop!”, said Bob in astonishment.

“Now, Bob – some things just appear to be fake until you look more closely. Like your sales presentation, for example.”

With that observation the television began to show a woman walking up to a sales office – Bob’s sales office. She had been to the community several days before and Bob remembered the lady well.

“Hey, I know that lady”, said Bob. “That’s… that’s… well, I don’t remember her name but she’s moving here from Minnesota on a job relocation.”

“That’s right, Bob. Let’s watch and observe. She comes through the door and stands in the sales office for a few moments. And you are still in your chair.”

“Well, you see, I have this rating system. And in this case she’s driving a Kia Spectra and my homes start at $340,000. There is no way she can qualify.”

“That’s a rental car, Bob. It’s the car her husband’s company set up for her to drive during her house-hunting trip. And by the way, I drive a Kia Spectra.”

“Sorry.”

“So she stands in your office for a quite some time, like she needs help. Why didn’t you want to help her, Bob?”

“Because she was just looking. She said so!”, said Bob defiantly.

“Isn’t looking the first step that eventually leads to buying?”

“Ummmm… I guess I never thought of it that way.”

“Look at her Bob. What does she look like? How does she feel?”

“Well, she looks scared… and annoyed.”

“Scared because she’s confused on her home search. And annoyed because people don’t seem to really care about who she is and what she is going through.” The stranger’s voice became eerily serious. “Bob, did you really care?”

“Of course I cared! I asked her questions, didn’t I?”

“What questions did you ask?”

“I asked her about bedroom count, price point, time frame, square footage… you know, the things we’re supposed to ask.”

“Bob, can I point out that you can get everything you just asked for on a registration card. Is that what you are, Bob? A glorified registration card?”

There was silence as Bob pondered the futility of asking the same traditional questions over and over again.

“So what should I have asked?”

“Well, that all depends on what you want to know. And what you want to know depends upon who you are.”

“I don’t get it. I’m just a salesperson.”

“Really, Bob? Just a salesperson? Fine, if you’re ‘just a salesperson’ then go ahead and keep asking the same questions that you’re asking. And you’ll continue to sound just like a salesperson. But let me ask you this. Do you think this woman needs ‘just a salesperson’? I mean, she’s moving from Minnesota, she knows no one, she’s scared, and she has not gotten the help she has sought out in any other sales office visit. Does she need just another salesperson?”

“No. I suppose not.”

“So, what does she need, Bob?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yeah, Bob. You do. You’ve just forgotten. What does she need? C’mon, Bob. Step into her shoes for just a moment. What does she need more than anything else in the world?”

Bob thought long and hard. There was an answer out there somewhere but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

The stranger broke the silence. “Bob, if you were in her shoes what would you need?”

“I’d need an advisor – someone I could trust.”

Bob had answered instinctively, but the light bulb came on in a blaze.

“I would need a TRUSTED ADVISOR! That’s it, isn’t it? I’m supposed to be a trusted advisor!”

“That’s right, Bob. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with being a salesperson – you should be proud. Just understand that the core of being a great salesperson is to be a trusted advisor. In fact, let me rewind the tape here and show you what this conversation could have looked like.”

The tape showed reverse motion back to where the lady was walking towards the door. This time Bob was rising from his chair with a smile on his face.

“Hello. I’m Bob. How are you?”

“Fine, thanks. I’m Judy.”

“Hi, Judy. Thanks for coming out. How’s your day going?”

“Ummm, okay I guess.”

“Talk to me, Judy. Sounds like you’re a bit frustrated.”

“There’s just so much to see and it all just looks the same after a while.”

“I got it. House hunting can be confusing and tiring. I’ll try to help clear things up as much as possible. I see you have a license plate from Arizona on your car. Are you moving into the area?”

“Well, actually that’s a rental car. But yes, my husband is being transferred here and I’m out doing the home shopping. We’re moving from Minnesota.”

“And how are you feeling about the move. Are you excited?”

“I’m excited for him, and I don’t hate the idea of getting away from the cold. But I don’t know anyone here and it’s all confusing.”

“Thanks for sharing that with me. It sounds like this is both scary and exciting at the same time. I’ll try to help as much as I can. And if you have any questions about the area during your visit please let me know.”

At that point the tape froze and the stranger looked at Bob. “What do you see now?”

“I see a trusted advisor.”

“So do I. What made the difference? What is the one thing that changed everything in this conversation?”

Bob thought for a moment. “I guess I stopped thinking the sales presentation was all about me and focused in on the customer’s experience.”

“Exactly. So Bob, I have just one more question. Who are you and what are you doing here?

Bob smiled, knowing the answer with certainty. “I am a trusted advisor, and I change people’s world.”

“Go do just that, my friend.”


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About the Author: Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore is the Founder and President of Shore Consulting, Inc. a company specializing in field-tested and proven consumer psychology-based sales training programs.

Jeff is a top-selling author, host of the popular sales podcast, The Buyer’s Mind, and an award-winning keynote speaker. He holds the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association and is a member of the NSA’s exclusive Million Dollar Speaker’s Group.

With over 30 years of real-world, frontline experience, Jeff’s advanced sales strategies spring from extensive research into the psychology of buying and selling. He teaches salespeople how to climb inside the mind of their customers to sell the way their buyers want to buy. Using these modern, game-changing techniques, Jeff Shore’s clients generated over $30 billion in sales last year.