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Sunday, 5 December 2010

How NOT to sell carpets - plus advice from a great writer

The carpets in our flat which were there when we arrived are beginning to look as tired as I feel after a night on the booze, so the great search has begun.

At one point it looked like it might end at a shop in Holloway, which seemed to have more or less what we wanted. However a stupid, gabby salesman lost his chances by making a couple of stupid mistakes.

She Who Does All Her Research In Advance asked a series of pertinent questions about price and what they had in stock, whilst He Who Has Cloth Ears And Not A Clue resolutely avoided answering them.

When she asked about what they had in stock rather than answer he kept on suggesting she come and have a look - "Just pop round to the shop".

Now why do you suppose she rang? As she pointed out with only slight exaggeration "I can fly to Italy from here in less time than it takes to go to Holloway." And let's face it if you had to list the spots in London you least want to go to on a whim Holloway, chiefly famous for its prison, is almost up there with New Cross and Peckham.

His problem was that he wanted to sell hardwood flooring, which is not what we wanted to buy, which was carpets, as anyone without cloth ears would have gathered. The conversation pretty much ended when he said "You don't want to have carpets in Chelsea." What an idiot.

My old partner Glenmore used to quote a piece of advice his father gave him, which applied in this case; "If you're talking, you're not listening, and if you're not listening you're not learning."

A few months ago I went to considerable trouble, at their request, to interview a guy who won an Ogilvy contest to find the world's greatest salesman. They did a video of the whole thing, which I have yet to see. Maybe they're too busy having meetings.

Meanwhile I hope to interview another man who sells one of the most difficult things you can sell- and won a contest for his firm's best sales performance nine years running. I understand his son is following in his footsteps, so I guess he must be a good teacher.

I'll keep you posted.


Someone the other day asked me what I read, and I gave a list. The writer I consider the best of his kind is Elmore Leonard, all of whose books I have devoured. They've tried to film them - Foxy Brown and Get Shorty are good examples - but nothing quite catches the laconic brilliance of the originals.

He began as a copywriter, and I found a list of his ten rules for writing the other day. For years I have been telling people to read their copy out loud - and make sure it sounds like someone talking.

So I was thrilled to read this:

"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

All the half-wits who write corporate tripe should be dragged out of bed at 3 a. m. every morning and have that boomed out to them over powerful megaphones.

P. S. I don't know why the wretched machine that sticks this up keeps changing the size of type or the typeface. Sorry. I would like it to be Georgia, a handsome serif face, in normal size, which is what I keep stipulating to no effect.

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