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By Alberto Aleo and Alice Alessandri

This is the start of the series on Nightmare salespeople – it deals with mistakes all salespeople should avoid and is based on our own experiences, as well as tales from readers and friends.  In this first article, we want to discuss how you receive your customers. This is a crucial stage because we have clearly seen that if you get off on the right foot you are half way to building a good relationship. If, on the other hand, you commence badly for whichever of the reasons we will clarify later, it is almost impossible (or extremely difficult) to make up lost ground. We feel we are received badly both when we are ignored or snubbed (the receptionist doesn’t spare us a glance, the waiter appears deaf, sales staff are busy chatting and fail to greet us) and in any situation where we feel oppressed or forced to interact. You will have been through some of these experiences as customers, while as salespeople these examples will be helpful for you to take stock of your own errors and improve your ability to receive your customers.

Beware of the dogs

beware of the dogs

Not long ago, a friend of ours told us a story that sounds incredible, but which many others have subsequently confirmed. Around 2010, (when the car market in Italy was victim to the crisis) he went to a car dealer. On arrival at the semi-deserted showroom, he found the door locked. Although rather bewildered, he looked around and noticed an intercom. When he rang, the door opened and he was able to enter. On the other side, however, he was immediately approached by two Alsatians that looked decidedly scary. He carefully backed out and rang the intercom again to ask for help. The voice on the intercom sounded slightly annoyed, ‘Come in,’ it said ‘they don’t bite!’ This may be an extreme case, but how often have you found it tricky just to enter a building? Fancy doors that are difficult to open, entrances that are hidden away and obstacles of all kinds! Customers should be aided and encouraged to enter an environment that appears welcoming: the big international chain stores, for example, keep the doors of their shops wide open whatever the season.

Something to chew over

chew over
A short time ago Alice needed to buy a clotheshorse and, wanting some extra advice, decided to go to a small hardware store where the vendor-customer relationship is generally more direct. On entering, she was greeted by the owner who was eating a ripe peach, with the foreseeable consequences of dirty hands, a sticky counter and difficulty of interaction. But in addition to greeting Alice with a full mouth, the owner laced her conversation with complaints and eye-rolling, commenting that ‘it’s not like working in the old days’, ‘customers ask such impossible questions’, ‘you can’t even eat a peach in peace’.  Alice was made to feel a nuisance and her impression was that she was “blamed” for belonging to a troublesome category: customers! We should never forget that:

The customer is not interrupting our work, but the reason we are working!

Early closing time

Given that we would shortly need to change our car, we decided to try a newly launched model. The radio was advertising a test drive for this new car, so we visited our local dealer. We arrived at 6 pm and waited while the salesman finished his phone conversation with a friend (chatting about football) before turning to us.  Without even getting up from his chair, he beckoned us to join him at his desk and brusquely asked, ‘What are you looking for?’ We were rather disconcerted by both his tone and the banality of the question, but answered ‘Well, a car! Actually, we would like to try that one out’. ‘Oh I’m sorry, but it’s nearly closing time’ he replied. We then pointed out that the showroom was not due to close for another hour, but the salesman was determined not to give us a test drive and offered no further explanation or any other options. Apart from this episode, that clearly shows a lack of willingness to either help or indeed work, what should you do when customers arrive as you are about to close? There are only two options: accept the situation with a smile and give them time to choose, or, with an extra dose of courtesy, invite them to return another time and politely specify your opening hours.

In the opening moments of your meeting, customers will form a first impression that will be very difficult to alter. The way you receive your customers, as also mentioned in the article dedicated to the Circle of Trust, serves precisely to overcome your customers’ scepticism and lay the foundations for a positive relationship.

receiving customers

Think of your customer as a guest of honour who is slightly intimidated and rather insecure. Your task is toput them at their ease with delicacy and care. You will subtly make them feel that they are of central importance and that you are there to ensure your time spent together is enjoyable and useful.

If, as in the examples above, you see your potential customer as just another “annoyance” to be dealt with as swiftly as possible, now is the time to reconsider the way you receive your customers.  Have you come across any Nightmare Salespeople? Share your experience with us at

| partem claram semper aspice |

The photos used - where not owned by the editorial team or our guests - are purchased on Adobe Stock and IStockPhoto or downloaded from platforms such as UnSplash or Pexels.

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Passodue research on issues related to salesmarketing, ethics and the centrality of human beings within the market logic, officially started in 2012. The results derived from our work are described in the publications and in the books you can find in this section.

Click below to find out Passodue's books.

Passodue is a consulting and training firm founded in 2011 by Alice Alessandri and Alberto Aleo, who decided to combine their experience and make a change in their personal and professional lives. The aim of their project is to change the mindset of the market with regards to the concepts of “sale”, “marketing” and “leadership”, and to prove that doing business ethically is possible and totally effective.

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