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The one and only sales secret – business advice for difficult economic times

Do you need more sales; are you looking for ideas on how to operate in a post-COVID world? COLEBY NICHOLSON met a retailer, who knew a guy, whose good friend said he had the one and only sales secret. Better still, it’s all true!

The story goes like this: a business was struggling to survive during the last recession. The business had traded very well during better times but was under pressure since customers had tightened their belts and were being cautious with their spending.

Concerned his staff team were dwelling on the negative, and worried they were going about their day-to-day activities as they always had – prior to the recession – the owner decided to review the business before drastic action was needed.

First, he spoke to the sales and marketing staff. They assured him they were doing their jobs just as well as they always had: there was no reduction in customer service levels and the owner knew his products were still the best.

However, sales were still falling. What was the problem?

Still worried, the owner decided to contact a sales and motivational guru; one who specialised in training staff to deal with harsh economic conditions. He announced that everyone was required to attend a two-hour sales training course on the following Friday morning.

The staff were given a leaflet that outlined the sales guru’s training session:

“Thrive and prosper when times are tough.”

The leaflet included details about his history and expertise and concluded with this promise: ‘While other industry experts will lecture you about ways to improve your sales in difficult economic conditions, I promise you that by the end of my two-hour session you’ll know the one and only secret to making money in tough times.’

The staff thought, “Wow, this is going to be amazing. Our problems are solved. Not only will I keep my job; I might start earning commissions again.”

Friday arrived and everyone filed into the boardroom. The chairs were organised in neat rows and everyone sat patiently. When the motivational guru entered the room he handed-out course notes and began his well-rehearsed session.

He was rousing and inspirational. Covering everything from sales and service to marketing, promotions, and customer psyche, everyone in the room became upbeat. The owner smiled and was pleased with his decision to have an external expert to motivate his staff.

The guru could not have done better.

The session ended with question time. There were many queries about how to better close sales, handling objections, improving product presentations and sales forecasting.

The session was a hit. Even the owner was excited.

Just as the session was about to conclude one of the staff, Bill, spoke up. Bill was known for being shrewd and astute.

He didn’t speak often but when he did everyone listened. The room fell silent.

“On behalf of all the staff, I’d like to thank you for your wonderful session. You are certainly inspiring and you have given us some great advice,” Bill said. However, knowing their teammate well, Bill’s colleagues could see a ‘but’ coming along, a ‘Bill’s But’ they called it.

Sure enough, Bill added, “But … you spoke for two hours and your leaflet said you’ll show us the one and only secret to making money in tough times. You haven’t done that! What is this so-called sales secret?”

You could see everyone in the room think about the comment and agree that Bill was right. As good as the session was, the motivational speaker had never once spoken about selling more in difficult times. The room was silent again.

The guru stood and said loudly, “You know, you are absolutely correct and I apologise! If anyone wants to know the secret to making money in tough times, please stand up and step behind your chair.”

At first, there was confusion but slowly everyone stood and moved behind their chair as the speaker said, “Now turn your chair upside down." 

Somewhat bewildered, the staff upturned their chairs only to see an envelope, with the word "Secret" written in red ink, taped to the seat bottom.

The sales and motivational expert told everyone to open their envelope. Inside was a crisp, new $20 note attached to a sheet, which read:

There are no secrets in this world BUT … you just earned $20 by getting off your arse!

When times are tough, do it more often. 


And, therein lies the 'secret' to business success; do something!

Nothing can be more true for jewellers and other retailers today, while battling through the affects of the COVID pandemic.

* This article was first published by Jeweller in 2011, and has been updated.

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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