Would you buy from a slob? This was a question recently posted to one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to, and it reminded me of an incident I hadn’t thought about for some time.
It happened 25 years ago when we founded Delaine Consulting. Like many fledgling companies, we initially ran the company from a basement office in our home. This was at a time when fax machines were fast becoming an essential business tool, so we decided we needed one for our business. Back then, fax machines were around $2,500 for a decent one, and office equipment salespeople actually made sales calls on businesses who were interested in them.
I called a few suppliers and arranged appointments with two salespeople. The first salesperson didn’t keep his appointment, so he lost his chance for my business. The day of the appointment with the second salesperson was a cold and rainy day. When he arrived, he politely removed his shoes when he entered the house, which I thought was a nice gesture. We went down to my office, and he proceeded to qualify our requirements. He did a good job, and recommended a machine he felt would suit us. The price was right, so I made a decision on the spot to give him the business.
This was all well and good, except that as the meeting progressed, I became more and more aware of a strong and foul odour emanating from his vicinity. When he moved his chair closer to my desk to fill out the order form, I realized that the smell was coming from his feet. Although he was otherwise very smartly dressed, there was no mistaking it – his socks stank! And the longer he sat with me, the more unbearable the smell became.
I told him I was in a hurry, and urged him to complete the order form as fast as he could. I gave him a deposit, and ushered him out of the door as soon as I could. Smelly socks or not, he got my business, and although he wouldn’t be taking his shoes off in too many of his sales calls, I did wonder if he might be more successful by starting out each day with a clean pair of socks!