Lalit is a 55+ year old gentleman, the sole in charge of Parkview - there were no other assistants around the premises. When we told him of our intention to buy something special, his first question was "what is your budget." Now that's not a typical question you would expect from a shopkeeper. Contrarily, they try to avoid knowing your budget so that they get a chance to tempt you with all the high-priced goodies. With this kind of unfounded warning (in this case) in my mind, I hesitantly told him Rs.300 - 400. Lalit was matter of fact in his reply: "OK, here are the things you can buy in that money.... this, this, this and that..." I was not impressed with this, this, this and that. It must have showed on my face. His next question was "who is this for? neighbour's kid?" "No, our own!" shot out my husband. "Ha! sir! You should have told me. Why are u trying to stick to 300-400 then?"
In the next twenty minutes or so, out came Mr.Sales executive extraordinaire. He also seemed to be the very incarnation of patience, most tolerant of our indecision and changing choices every other minute. When I made him take a heavy weight rocking horse from the top shelf, with the least intention to buy it but just to see it from close quarters, he didn't seem to mind at all. He was full of advices - mentioning both merits and demerits of everything he showed us. We finally narrowed down the entire shop to three items - a car like cycle, a tent house, and a swing seat. But I wanted to get just two of them though the hubby was loudly tending towards all three. Ha, surely Mr.Sales executive extraordinaire will cease the opportunity to press all the three things on us? No! Instead, do you know what he did?
He rode the cycle for us!! Yes! A 55+ aged man, sitting on a low cycle car, steering the vehicle around the shop, demonstrating the value the piece would bring to us - an utter joy to watch indeed! We were embarrassed just watching him - he was the exact opposite. In fact, he insisted my husband to try it for himself. "You might riding this cycle more than your kid, I tell you" he grinned. Need I tell you if we brought it?
When it came to the time of billing, being the plastic people, I asked him breezily - "you do accept cards?" "Yes, but you will be charged the 2% extra charges... is it debit or credit?" he questioned. "Oh, debit but that's OK... i don't mind the charges!" Lalit was aghast! "If it is debit card, why do you want to waste that money? there is an ATM nearby, go on... you can save 40 rs with which you can buy a big chocolate for your daughter! Meanwhile, I will have your cycle and tent ready all wrapped and ready to carry home"
We took us a good ten minutes to the nearby ATM. But we were impressed. With the salesman that Mr.Lalit is, with his patience, with his honesty, with his amazing sales skills.
Naturally, when we came back, I was curious to know more about him and his business. He was delighted to share his story. He had always been a business man - a BA, LLB graduate from the 1960's - dealing mainly with wholesales consumer items but had more recently opened a retail kid's store because of his love for children. When I asked him what he would advice young businessmen who are just staring out, he was very emphatic on three points.
- Never take credit - never ever give them either
- Do not employ people to work if you don't really need the extra hands
- Treat your business as you would your body - take utmost care of it, give it enough attention, and do it all yourself - the dirty as well as not-so-dirty tasks. Your business will definitely reward you with a healthy living.
The last point stuck me as very true, especially if you are in a startup stage. You got to get your hands dirty. What do you think?