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What’s a “Natural” Worth?

  
  
  

The 1984 movie, “The Natural”, starring Robert Redford – adapted from Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel – tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a star-crossed player whose talents made everything he did on a baseball field seem effortless. What’s a “natural” worth? In the movie, Roy Hobbs overcomes his demons and injuries to hit the pennant winning home run. 

“The Natural” has become an iconic movie and Roy Hobbs a mythological figure, but back in the real world, what’s a natural really worth? I had a conversation recently with a client that might give you an idea. 

We were discussing his struggles pulling himself away from the salesfloor long enough to work on some of the things we’d identified needed to be done to move his business forward to the next level – the proverbial working on his business rather than merely working in his business. He told me he felt most comfortable greeting every customer before passing them on to a team member for them to complete the sale. He told me he didn’t feel most of his team was able to really engage customers fully to identify all of their needs and maximize the sales opportunity. I asked him if everybody on the team was like that, and he said yes – except Todd. Todd, he told me, was a natural. 

I asked him to tell me more about Todd. Todd, he told me, was just able to connect with customers in a way that the others in the store simply couldn’t. He had a way of engaging customers, starting a conversation and establishing immediate rapport that enabled him to win their trust, and their business. He told me that Todd had a way of working with customers that he’d rarely seen before. 

I’ve long believed that the very best sales people are born rather than made. They bring a passion and enthusiasm to the products they sell, and an ability to connect with others in a relaxed and genuine way that seems to naturally draw customers to them, earn their trust and build enduring relationships. I’ve experienced many sales training programs, but to me the most skilled trainee walking out the door after the program is over will still pale in comparison (and productivity) to a natural just walking in. 

I’ve also long believed in hiring only the very best, and not settling for less. So I asked my client if he could recall when he first interviewed Todd, and what his first impressions were. He told me he remembered that the first interview was nothing special – Todd was young and nervous – but that he had really lit up the room during the second interview. I asked my client if he’d ever had that happen before and he said, well… no. 

It was his answer to my next question, however, that really resonated with me. My client employs a half dozen full-time team members and several part-timers. I asked him what the impact would be on his sales if he had one more Todd. He told me it might represent another 5% in sales volume. And what if everybody was a natural? “Oh my, I don’t know, it would be at least 25% or 30%.” 

A 25% or 30% bump in retail business! Wow! 

What would be the value of a natural to your business? How much would your business pop if you had a Todd or two on your team? Beyond that, what’s the value of the time you’re spending with your team because , like my client, you feel you need to compensate for their deficiencies? 

There aren’t any easy increases in the world of retail these days. There are no magic bullets. But don’t underestimate the power of a natural. They don’t walk through the door every day, and you may need to be continually seeking them out, but don’t settle for less. Hire only the very best!

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