The Failed Salesman

Two weeks ago I was at a mall rushing to the store that I wanted to go to in the last 7 minutes before the mall shuts down. While zooming past those stalls that are laid like little lego bricks between the two parallel rows of stores that usually sell smaller priced accessories like cell phone cases, purses, no name brand sun glasses etc…I heard a call from one of those vendors. I don’t remember what the man said, but it caught my attention.

He begun his above average, metering towards impressive sales act which I am sure he had rehearsed many times before, but one that hardly seemed like a script. It seemed more like a natural or a well crafted script that seemed to be a pretty good recipe of passion for the product and an understanding of a fairly good enough technique of persuasion.

He was selling a portable wireless speaker small enough to fit in one’s pocket and one that used bluetooth to pair with a device like a phone or an IPod to stream live music.

wireless speaker

He demonstrated the features and sound quality in the next 2 to 3 minutes. He then said, “since it’s closing time, I’m going to give you a great deal. This usually sells for $80, but I’m going to make this a final sale for tonight and because I really want you to have this great product, I’m going to make it $40 just for you!”


That’s fine, right? We have all heard something like this at some point in our lives. In my mind I started searching for ways in which I could use this product. I told him “Okay, I’ll buy it”

He started to pack the speaker that he was holding in his hand. I stopped and asked him if there were any other colors. I could see a yellow one and a black one behind the glass of his merchandise cart. He said “Yes” and then moved on to show me different colors, but I happened to like the color of the one that he used to do the little demonstration for me. He started packing it again. I asked him to give me a new pack, I then asked him about the “store’s” return policy, which turned out to be “No Refunds – Exchange only”, which is still fair, right?

But I thought, if that is the case, I want to make sure the speaker is working properly. That is when things started going downhill. He’s attitude changed from a person who was passionate about the product(or passionate about selling that product) to an attitude of someone who was being overly defensive.

He said, “Oh I cannot open the box for you. It is company policy”. My obvious argument was, “What if the speaker is defective”, to which he replied “But I can’t open it for you”.

When he saw that I had started to put my wallet back into my pocket, he said, “Okay, I’ll open it on for you”. But being a reasonably smart shopper I persuaded him to turn it on.

He hesitantly hooked up the speaker to the power source and a red light appeared on the speaker.

“See, it’s working”, he said with an expression on his face which I could only describe as “relieved”.

At this point, I had already gone from “hmmm…Interesting ..” to “hmm… something’s fishy”.


I then asked him to play some music on that speaker. He refused!

“It is working! You see this red light. It means it is working”

“It’s a speaker, not a lamp. How can I tell if the speaker is working properly without listening to the sound it produces”

He did not budge, and insisted that I buy the product, and started to scan the item. I stopped him, and said, “In that case, I don’t want to buy this” and I started walking away while thinking I probably need to check this brand online to see what kind of reviews it has and if there were any other alternatives.

From behind me, I heard the man say, “Wow… what a waste of time!”

What did you say?
What did you say?

I turned around and said, “What did you say?”

What happened next can only be described as a knock-out combo move of words in angry ninja style.


I told him what he did was wrong. I tried to explain to him, this what he did there was not good salesmanship. I could have easily gone home and come back the next day and bought that very product from him. But do you think I did that? No!

That person seemed like this guy:

Business Handshake

And when the sale didn’t go through, turned into this guy:


Which just led me to conclude that he was this guy all along:



A truly remarkable salesman is not necessarily one who closes the most deals – that viewpoint can only get you to a B+, or maybe an A if they’re lucky, but never A+. I suggest you try this: If you are planning on buying a product or service that requires you to have a long term relationship with the person selling that product or service, test them. Ask the hard questions, get close to a deal, then back off, and tell them you need some time to think about it. Watch their reaction, because there is nothing worse for a salesperson then when the customer walks away just before closing the deal. Doing this will test their patience and their commitment towards you.

I'm back

I have had clients get so close to a deal and then walk away only to return after weeks or even months to start the project with a bang! The most memorable case was one in which the hiring manager of a company phoned me asking for another meeting to finally start a project that they were planning for a very long time. The strange thing was, I had forgotten all about this project. The client had come back to me after a year and a half! They were just not ready to take on the project when we had our first discussion. That client is still with my company and has even brought in numerous others!