Respect Your Professional Seller

Close up of smiling businessman giving his approval

Let's be honest.  None of us creatives want to work for nothing.  We get annoyed when a prospect spends a lot of time learning from us, and then gives the business to some dork who will do the job a little cheaper and with a lot less skill.  Now consider who and where you get your photo and video gear from.

When you go into a store to look for something and a seller genuinely helps you by offering guidance, information and personal support are you inclined to buy from that person?  If no, then i sincerely hope that that you get undercut and lose your next several commissions.

As creatives we understand that the business is competitive.  When one sells gear, that business is also competitive because they are competing with other brick and mortar retailers, web sellers, e-tailers and maybe their own company's web presence.  they might even be competing with their coworkers in the same store..  Fun? Wow!

if someone helps you out, and I mean really helps you out, not just quoting a price or pointing you to where to go serve yourself, do you ask if that person is on commission?  Do you ask if their performance is monitored in some other way?  If not, why not?  Don't you want to support the person who supports you?

Margins on name brand gear suck.  Figure 20% max and you'll be close and out of that 20% all the costs have to be paid.  There are other things like MAP pricing that basically fixes prices across stores, so sellers need to find other ways to earn their keep.  This may come from add-on sales, vendor promotions and higher margin house brand kit.  Just because someone offers you an extended warranty does not mean that the person is trying to pick your pocket.  Be prepared and you will come out ok.  

Many buyers today purchase in stages,  They gather information prior to shopping.  They visit a couple of stores, either based on prior knowledge or some type of advertising call to action.  They seek guidance and coaching from sellers and in the case of professional focused stores, they can actually get some useful information, more than that found on that great bastion of truth and facts called the internet.  Then they will check prices and barring something really wonky, like the product being grey market, or a repack, or a white box offering separated into components, the prices are going to be very darn close.  Many big retailers offer a "we won't be beat" price guarantee.  Personally, I think they're stupid because they are designed to cater to the lowest form of belly crawling shopper, but that's a different story.  Then the buyer will finally make the purchase decision.  What motivates where to buy?  Price obviously, also apparent value, convenience, availability, and somewhere in there is quality of service.

Sometimes this means that the buyer actually comes back to the seller who invested all the time in building a guided plan.  Sometimes it means that they go back to the same store.  What should happen is that the person who greets you should ask if you have already spoken to someone else.  Most don't.  Whether this makes them scum-sucking mud pigs is indeterminate, but stealing another's deal is pretty lousy work ethic.  Kind of like the incompetent moron undercutting you on your wedding practice, who has no talent, no practical experience and no aptitude but is a few bucks less.  Prevent this from happening.  Tell the person who greets you that you were dealing with Bob or Susan and as they are not visible, you want to make the purchase now and be sure that Bob or Susan who helped you gets the credit.  For commissioned folks, this is how they pay their bills.  Don't be a dick.  Don't expect anyone else to protect the person who helped you when you needed it.  People do really stupid stuff for a deal.

I witness seller disrespect all the time as I teach part-time for a large photo chain here in Canada.  Sometimes it happens in the store amongst the staff  Often the professional seller is treated poorly by the buyer. 

I see people walk into stores and say that they want to buy something, and the seller asks no questions of the buyer, and just writes up the deal taking full credit.  Cameras are complicated critters and very few folks can make a purchase decision without some level of seller integration.  I also see a seller spend 45 minutes going through a potential purchase, only to have the buyer say that they saw it cheaper at XYZ big box store and will go there, even though if they can even find a seller who can spell Nikon or Sony, that person was selling dishwashers this morning and wouldn't know which end was up, let alone that the camera will not do much without a memory card.  These buyers are known as asshats.  Moreso, because when something goes wrong, they will go back to the person who delivered all the information, not the person now selling entertainment boxes.  Don't be an asshat.

I've also seen buyers suck up hours during the busy holiday period only to say that they can get the product for twenty bucks less at another store.  I know that they are correct.  I also know it's going to take them 45 minutes one way to get to that store, that their car runs on gasoline and that they will have to pay for parking when they get to the place with "the better deal"  This is not a smart buyer, this is a douche.  Don't be one.

Sure there are sellers who don't care about you.  They'll pile all manner of crap on the counter.  Guess what?  Caveat Emptor.  If you don't think you need the $50 craptastic "protection" filter for your $2000 NANO coated Nikon lens (you don't), then don't buy it.  Also understand that some sellers are under enormous pressure to sell high profit offerings.  The most common of these is the extended warranty.  If the program sounds good and makes sense to you, great.  If it doesn't just be upfront that you aren't interested and if the seller pushes too hard, one more warning and then walk.  The store manager likely doesn't care about the size of the transaction you just made, but definitely cares if the seller added that super high margin extended warranty.  That's their job and it's how they get paid.  Don't be offended, be prepared.  

But you know what?  Most professional sellers are decent folks.  They aren't out to rip you off or load you up with crap that you don't need.  They may actually know more about the subject than you do, so every recommendation is not necessarily an attempt to separate you from your money.  If something doesn't make sense say so and ask for more information on why the push is on.

People buy from people.  With enormous respect to their efficiency, Amazon is not a person, it's an incredible machine.  Some chain senior management actually think that it's the chain that creates customer confidence.  They're nuts.  The chain brand may encourage new folks to come in, but a bad buying experience will drive a prospective customer right out the door, that buyer will tell at least ten people about their crappy experience and all the advertising, and sloganeering and other politically correct cat dung won't change a thing.  It's about the great sellers.  

I miss the old days of more easily finding a seller that I could trust.  Those folks are really few and far between so when I find one, be it for creative gear, motorcycle parts and riding gear, guitar stuff or something for one of my other stupidly expensive pastimes, I am very grateful and I choose to go out of my way to reward those folks with the sale when I do buy.  I also make a point never to go back to a place where I've had a bad experience, and I make a point to write reviews both positive and negative about my buying experiences so other people who choose to read, and choose to believe me, may be informed.

Cream rises to the top.  It irks me when I am better prepared and have more knowledge about the product or service that I am asking about than the seller in front of me.  Yet I am grateful when a seller says "I don't know, are you ok with letting me find out?"  That person wants my business, and I want to do my part to see that the person gets it, should all things work out.

If we don't respect the sellers that care about us, they will vanish and we will be left with no help or having to deal with some sullen, entitled dingbat who has no interest in our success.  

It's the holiday shopping season as I write this.  Smarten the F up please and thank you.