Have you ever thought of excelling in your job to the point that you know more than what you are supposed to? To the good side, I mean…


Lynette Koh


Knowledge is power - and this is particularly true when a salesperson is attempting to convince me to part with hundreds of hard-earned dollars.

More than once, I found myself buying a certain product because a salesperson was able to detail and demonstrate the innumerable ways in which it would improve my life.

This was how I recently ended up carting home a top-of-the-line garment steamer from an electronics store, even though my original intention had been to stand around looking bored while waiting for the boyfriend to buy yet another Wii game.

It started when a salesman called out to me as I strolled past a collection of clothes steamers.

I had long harboured a secret fascination for these appliances, but had never seriously considered buying one. But well, I thought, why not learn more about them while my companion was busy emptying the video game shelves?

Heartened by my show of interest, the salesman embarked on his spiel. Using his ready collection of shirts, ties and assorted swaths of fabrics, he demonstrated how easy it was to use a steamer to smoothen out wrinkles, which he created beforehand with vigorous scrunching.

He had an answer for each of my questions: Could I use it for all kinds of materials? (Yes, he said, demonstrating his point using a ruffled silk shirt.) How long could I leave the water in the tank? (One week.) What were the differences between the different models? (There were several, which he proceeded to list.)

At this point, we had been joined by my boyfriend - as well as an inquisitive family of tourists - who joined us in interrogating the salesman. As I watched him steam a shirt collar into smooth submission, I decided that a steamer was exactly what I needed.

Later, as the boyfriend puffed along beside me, carrying my new purchase, I mused about how important it is for salespeople to know their stuff.

Having a firm grasp of what one is selling applies not only to the retail industry, but the service industry as well.

Recently, I accompanied my friend to a mobile phone retail and service outlet. My perennially broke pal was toying with the idea of changing her service plan because she felt that her phone bill was too high.

If I had been manning the service counter, I told her, my proposed solution would have been: "Talk less."

Thankfully for my friend, the sales representative was able to offer much more constructive advice.

Retrieving her records from their database, he broke down the specifics of her monthly phone usage, noting that the bulk of her expenses came from making calls to the Netherlands.

He explained that her calls to the United States were charged at a much lower rate, as the country was covered under the company's International Direct Dialling (IDD) scheme.

Mulling over this, my friend asked if she would be able to reduce the size of her phone bill if she downgraded her service plan.

Smiling, the salesperson whipped out a calculator, tapping out various figures. After a couple of minutes, he explained why it made sense for my friend to stay on the same service plan, considering her current phone usage.

If she downgraded her service plan - which would mean substantially less free talk time and SMSes - she would simply ended up paying the same, or more, each month.

While he was able to answer all her service - related questions with confidence and a smile, he was slightly stumped when she asked about new mobile phone models.

This was understandable, however, because the outlet had different team members specialising in specific customer concerns.

Nonetheless, we were pleased that the salesperson made it a point to go to his colleague to get a few answers for my friend - rather than telling us to join another service queue.

Eventually, my friend decided to keep her plan, and to get a new phone from the store when her contract ended in two months.

Sure, she would still be paying quite a bit for her phone bills - but at least she would now know why.

From TODAY, Voices - Monday, 14-Sep-2009

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