“What would you like to eat it with?” I was thinking - by itself. Lots of it, all by itself. We talked and I left with the best tasting chocolate bar I’ve had in my life.
I’ve never felt as served or understood by a store associate until that day. We were in Southern Season, a seemingly magical gourmet marketplace. We had ventured over to a wall of incredibly packaged chocolate bars, which is what I dream heaven will be like. However, I don’t drop $8+ on a chocolate bar on the reg, so I felt instantly overwhelmed and like I should walk away from the wall before our budget got hurt. Then came Chris (let’s call him that for now). He started with a standard greeting as I remember it. Something like “Anything I can help you with?” We then talked about chocolate for thirty minutes. He asked me all kinds of questions to understand what types of chocolate I like, what I’d like to eat it with and what flavors or textures I like. He gave me samples and informed me of the best value bars. I left with the Patric Chocolate bar to the right. I tried it for the first time after I left the store. My world hasn’t been the same since.
Chris probably gets paid minimum wage or close to it. I don’t think he gets commission for selling chocolate bars, though I hope he does. He didn’t need to serve me like he did. He didn’t need to care about my personal preferences and what I was actually looking for. He didn’t need to spend thirty minutes with me. Yet he did. For him, chocolate was deeply personal - it was his passion. We talked so long about it because he was so passionate about it and because he truly wanted to find the perfect bar for me. He was the best salesman I’ve ever been served by - simply because his only goal was to use his resources to serve me. He wasn’t pushing his agenda to make more money. He wasn’t pushing something on me I didn’t want. He simply wanted to offer any help he could for my benefit.
Not only was chocolate personal for Chris, he served me personally. He asked what I liked. He got to know me on a personal level and acknowledged that people aren’t one-size-fits-all. I can get a decent chocolate bar from many stores. But I can’t get the one Chris led me to. And more importantly, I can’t get the service I got from Chris. Many other businesses can knock off your product and recreate your service model - but they can’t copy you. Your passion is personal. Your business relationships are personal. People will come back to you before someone else (or after being burned by someone else) if they are served on a personal level. Continue to embrace the personal nature of great business. Your sales will see the benefit.
The next time I went to Southern Season, I rushed my Mom through the hot sauce and popcorn isles to get to the chocolate wall. To my disappointment, no Chris. I hope it’s because he was poached by a high-end restaurateur that needed a chocolate sommelier.