Earlier in life, whilst undergoing training with a large corporate group in the skills required to sell that wholly intangible product Life Assurance, I came fully to appreciate the important differences that distinguish (c) the Customer from (a) the Lead and (b), the Prospect. Classical sales technique would suggest that in normal circumstances, (a) would hopefully lead to (b) and that with diligence and good luck, conversion to (c), the Customer should thereafter follow. In seeking to translate this perfectly logical and reasonable sales model to life in the Antiques Trade, I discovered, to my dismay, that this was a far from straightforward matter. This notwithstanding the fact that the possession of antiques it transpired was considered rather more essential in the eyes of the Collector than was the security afforded by Life Assurance when viewed by the life in question through the prism of the requisite premiums.
Antique shops and fairs are notorious for attracting time-wasters, those who are happy to while away their time airing their knowledge of their chosen collecting habit, all this whilst vaguely encouraging the notion that they have it in mind actually to make a purchase. The seasoned Dealer soon develops a “nose” for such people, whose arrival is all too often heralded by the cheery enquiry, “ Having a busy day?”. Rarely are these persons “Customers” in the properly understood sense of the term and steering them away from your stand at the fair or out of your shop is a skill rapidly to be harnessed.
In practice, it is almost axiomatic that, other than the inevitable haggling over the price, the more the “Prospect” seeks to discuss the pros and cons of the article under consideration, and the longer this goes on, the less likely is it that a sale will be concluded. What stance therefore should the Dealer adopt in these trying circumstances? We would recommend that whilst adopting a friendly attitude of patience and understanding, he or she should employ our threefold catechism to move matters along ~ Do you like it?, Do you want it?, Can you afford it?, after which, this approach proving unsuccessful, the Dealer should, with as much courtesy as the situation permits, dismiss the Prospect and move on to other more pressing matters.