Let me tell you how two salespeople that I ran into recently at Nordstrom add value to their sale. SalesLinksMentor Associates sales training and consulting services recommend this sitefaqdedicationsite map
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SalesLinks Bulletin
Observations and tips for business to business salespeople

July 1999

Adding Value at Nordstrom

jack carrollby Jack Carroll

One of my favorite topics is how to add value to your sale. Those of you who have been reading this column for even a short time know that I talk about it a great deal. I do so because differentiating yourself from your competition is essential, and there is no better way to differentiate than by adding customer value to your sale.

There are hundreds of ways of adding value. Here is a first hand example of how two young ladies I ran into at Nordstrom recently do it. It's called the old "warming your heart" sales technique. You probably won't find it in any of your sales training manuals, so print this out and insert it on Page 1.

I'll try to make a long story short. I'm out of town, in Scottsdale, AZ, running to an airport as usual. I'm at least two weeks late buying my niece's new baby girl a "welcome to our world" present. I call my wife in Southern California and ask for suggestions. She tells me to find the nearest Nordstrom, go into their baby department, and ask for help.

I do as I'm told. Linda responds with a smiling welcome that makes me believe that she is genuinely happy to see me stop by. I tell her my mission.

"How much money do you want to spend?" she asks.

"About $100," I volunteer, worrying that she will scowl at me and provide directions to the closest Walmart.

But she replies "You can get something very nice for $100," making me feel like a big spender. "Did you have anything in mind?"

I try an old restaurant trick. "What would you get for your niece's new baby if you were the one spending $100?"

"I know exactly what I'd do. I'd get one special present and two smaller ones. This is the main present I'd buy..." She glides from one counter display to the next in a total of about 60 seconds, gathering up a hand-embroidered blanket ($52); a pink jumpsuit for a six month old child ($30); and a soft, cuddly little doll ($12). She explains each item's strong points and why it makes sense as an element in the total gift package.

I am dumbfounded by the depth of expertise and counseling and ask her to gift wrap everything (a bilateral assumptive close). She slides behind the counter, joining her co-worker, Nicole. Linda is already pensive over how she'll package it all up.

I need to reassert some semblance of control. "Nicole, can I trust Linda to do a good job gift wrapping these for me?"

"Well, she's exceptional when it comes to ribbons and bows," advises Nicole. "But she's not nearly as strong in my area of expertise: basic packaging design. Linda, why don't you try the [insider lingo for a special type of gift package]?"

Linda considers for a moment, smiles, nods in approval, and goes to work on the packaging. Before my eyes, I see unfolding the most incredibly beautiful small gift package I have ever purchased in my life. I think how pleased my niece will be to receive such a loving gift from her uncle, with the cute little doll tied to the center bow on the outside of the package.

SIDEBAR: Sales Tip and Practice
When talking to customers are you a real person talking to a real person? Or an automaton, quoting language out of a bad book? Do your own reality check. Better yet, ask someone you respect to do one for you.

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The three of us banter back and forth during the five minutes it takes Linda to put it all together. I learn a little about them (including the fact that each is very happy to be working for Nordstrom), and they find out a little about me, including the fact that I am some kind of sales and marketing consultant and trainer. ("We don't have sales training at Nordstrom. They just tell us to take care of the customer.")

I am thoroughly warmed as we say good bye, the way that new friends do. As I travel down the escalator on my way out, I am feeling so good that I stop at the men's department on the first floor and buy $150 worth of Reyn Spooner Hawaiian shirts, which I have wanted for the last 10 years but never allowed myself the luxury of buying.

As I leave the store and enter the parking lot, I begin to wonder how I will communicate all of this to you. How will I ever be able to put in words the warm glow that I feel in my whole being because of these two excellent salespeople and the value that they added to their sale?


Reader Response
  • posted by Alan Coates, 16-Jul-1999,  alan.coates@pncbank.com
    Thank you for the SalesLinks Bulletin. I do have one question though.

    You mention in the article that Nordstrom does not provide sales training, but rather instruct its employees to "take care of the customer."  Does that downplay the importance of sales training? I am currently working on a course on Consultaive Selling and many of the people that I have spoken with say they "just help the customer." I was just wondering what you think since sales training is your business.
    • posted by Jack Carroll, 18-Jul-1999, jcarroll@saleslinks.com
      Excellent question. I will answer this in my next column at the end of July.
  • posted by Mary Froehlich, 17-Jul-1999, mfroehlich@bozzuto.com
    Great Story! Thanks! I agree that there is Retail and then there is Nordstrom. We give our salepeople (Luxury Apartment Business) Nordstrom gift certificates because we believe in Nordstom's quality and people and we like our salespeople to visit Nordstrom area stores often. We have our sales luncheons at the Ritz so our salespeople can also see another quality service organization.
    • posted by Jack Carroll, 17-Jul-1999, jcarroll@saleslinks.com
      You sound like a first class lady working for a first class organization. Congratulations. Be grateful for your blessings as you are, and they will multiply.
  • posted by Thomas Jenkins, 19-Jul-1999,  tom@mpls.net
    I too have become very frustrated (and very seldom treated as you were at Nordstrom) in the retail world. It is so nice to hear about companies like Nordstrom that empower their people and enable them to "take care of the customer." It is unfortunate that today consumers retail experiences are often to feel like a burden to the employee that is "burdened."

    As small business owners, my wife and I often discuss retail experiences with our friends. One company that often comes up in our conversations is Home Depot. We have a new house and have found ourself many weekends with a full shopping cart at Home Depot; we have yet to have a bad experience while shopping there. In numerous conversations with friends it appears that Home Depot is a favorite.

    The recipe seems so simple! Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.

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