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“Let’s Talk Business” with Richard Coles Early selling lessons

June 13, 2017 Headline News, Training No Comments Email Email

When I was at high school in UK I had a Saturday job at an expensive and famous store called Simpsons of Piccadilly, which was a large retail shop which traded at 203-206 Piccadilly in central London, and was built as a quality clothing store for men.

I was assigned the Men’s shirt department. It was a good beginning to my understanding of customer service and sales. Although my paper route in Chicago at 12 years old, as they had in those days, was also a glimpse of taking care of customers!

I was briefly trained and began my Saturday – only, part time job. I did fine and was selling shirts to all sorts of people – some great and famous. One day my supervisor asked to see me. “How are you doing”? I replied proudly I had sold some very expensive shirts. He replied, “What else did you sell”?

I was somewhat confused as I was more or less only in the shirt section of Simpson’s men’s wear section. I replied that I thought that selling shirts was my main function. “It is he said, but what else does the buyer need to go with the shirts”? My mind filled with all sort of irrelevant things as he was a rather serious and demanding Supervisor. Then I looked across the immediate store area hoping I would find an answer and my eyes saw the ties. “Yes its ties” I said. Lesson learnt – almost every buyer needs some accessory purchase and ties were the obvious.

“So ask your customer if he would like to see some ties to match his new shirt”.  “Yes sir” I replied and began to move back to my position in shirts to tidy them up a bit. “There’s more” he said, “what about asking the customer if he would like to buy cuff links?” Most of our shirts require cufflinks”. I was beginning to feel a bit short on product knowledge! But no, I was learning. So we have the shirt as main purchase, ties and cuff links as accessories.

“There is something else” he said, knowing by now that he would need to help me realize what all the extras are! “What about offering your customers a handkerchief to go with the shirts tie”? “Yes Sir, of course, I was going to suggest that”, I offered hoping that was all! He told me yet again “there’s still more”! I couldn’t imagine what so just asked him, “What is it Sir”. He said, “What does a customer use with the tie?” Catching on to his selling lesson I said triumphantly, “A tie clip”! “Yes” he said “and still more, show him the cravat section as many Englishman wear cravats with our shirts”.

From that day on my sales went up and I really began to enjoy selling all the extra items that some customers were just waiting for me to suggest. So more lessons: Show your customers value, make suggestions of add- ons, the customer can only say no, but will appreciate your creativity and care. Anticipate your customer’s needs, ask for the sale – you have a 50% chance of getting it! Get to know your customers and help them get what they actually need! I never forgot the lessons from that day during my entire sales career.

Many of our customers returned to Simpsons of Piccadilly because the customer care and help we all gave. The store became known as one of the best in the city of London. I was privileged to be part of it. Still don’t know how I got in there though. I think my Dad must have spoken to them!

Happy selling!

Richard Coles, Owner of Coles International Training & Consulting researches, develops and delivers real world learning and organizational solutions to clients’ needs and problems around the world. One area of specialization is Customer Service and leadership initiatives. Richard was in the airline business for over 30 years in prominent roles and worked for the best, KLM, Qantas and Emirates, so understands the travel industry well. To discuss your training needs, challenges, goals and strategy, visit and email Richard on:

Corporate Consulting

We now offer a new arm of our business called Coles Corporate Consulting. This can involve introducing new customer service initiatives in your business, projects in strategy, helping with any team issues, communication gaps, and sales needs. Typically, this consulting intervention involves discussions to assess way forward to reach your goals, followed by recommendations on how we proceed.

As an example, I have experience in helping organizations reach their peak in customer service – the “great differentiator.” It is largely devoted to helping organizations improve their customer service therefore their viability, revenue and brand.

The consultancy and training has a strategy that helps spread the customer service message throughout the organizations. I learnt a long time ago that unless customer service is active throughout the company it will not happen. I call this a ‘seamless’ customer service involving everyone!

I can implement this customer service initiative or campaign in a company over a period of 3-12 months. I introduce the changes and then monitor in stages over time. It has a timeline and many ingredients to ensure the customer service aspects introduced stick, spread and last.

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