A maxim, broken down to its simplest meaning, is a statement of general truth that purports to be truism. The fact that the word maxim is a derivation of the Latin neuter superlative form, maximum, meaning the greatest, ought to put its users on guard against its too often implied infallibility. Every maxim has a long history of having served as a facile and quick way to hold itself up as an unarguable bastion of reliability. Maxims tend to fall short when they pose as reliable principles of ethically and otherwise principles of behavior. Every maxim is wed to give credence to the centuries old saying; “Thus spoke Zarathustra.” Meanwhile, that Zarathustra has long been fond of adopting other names that have joined in heralding themselves as infallible principles of conduct.
In my printed, but unpublished work, The Modern Aesop, a novice approaches a rabbi with the words: “Rabbi, a wise man learns from his mistakes. The Latin maxim, ‘Errando discimus’ (We learn from our mistakes) bears witness to that.” The rabbi was quick to add: “An even wiser man learns from the mistakes of others.”
Even animals are short- changed by commonplaces. The ass is stupid, although it is well known the ass is smarter than the horse. The wolf is greedy. When I shared that fact with one individual, he replied: “You mean the donkey is a smart ass.” His stress on the word, smart, was precious.
Maxims: A Common Trap for Salespeople
I have known salespeople blinded by the strangest topics: Pipe smokers never buy. Those who fail to buy are tire-kickers. Don’t waste time learning the nuts and bolts of mattresses. All the customer wants is a comfortable mattress. The faster you make the sale the better. Forget about buying signals. The only good buying signal is, “I’ll take it.”
“Look, mam, don’t waste your time stroking the surface of the mattress. You gotta lay on it.” “Don’t use the word, welcome, to greet a customer. It’s corny. Instead greet all customers with the words, “Hi, folks” “Throw a lot of features at ‘em.” “Don’t waste time with customers who don’t want to buy. Just give ‘em your card.” “Don’t waste a genuine smile on customers.
They’ll interpret that smile as a sign you’re constipated.” “Don’t worry about hurting customers. Most of them are used to that.” “Product knowledge is not important. Heck, the guy didn’t walk into your store to learn how to build a grandfather clock or any of the other items on your floor. “You always get what you paid for.”
Perhaps the readers are aware of many more of these maxims. If so, they are encouraged to email commonplaces of their own to Furniture World’s editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to do with the maxim, “You always get what you pay for”? Replace it with a saying that holds true like the Rock of Gibraltar: “When you buy quality, you cry only once.” The poor, the not so poor, and the well to do customers tend to buy into that saying without hesitation. Why so? Because the poor and the not so poor have to be discerning buyers. The rich continue to be discerning buyers because that’s how they became rich. Thrift and miserliness are not synonyms. The former is a virtue; the latter, a vice.
Test every maxim you hear. One wit wrote that in the Middle Ages it was common sense that was used to prove the world was flat. Don’t let your untested maxims end up making your sales just as flat.
Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Scores of his articles are posted to the "Sales Skill Index" on furninfo.com. He is available for in-store training, and speaking. He can be reached care of email@example.com.
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