We all love stories and experiences, so I thought you would be interested in this one sent in to me by Mike Dennehy from Vision Software, in response to last week's column, They could have had the sale then.

Mike makes two great points.

'A few years ago when we were looking at replacing our similarly-tired washing machine, my wife wondered aloud whether we should look at a front-loader this time, as she heard they use less energy and water.

After 24 years of marriage I've learned to spot the odd hint, so shortly after I went into Harvey Norman, wandered around the washing machines and looked interested. A salesman duly approached and asked how he could help. I asked him what were the key differences between a top-loader and a front-loader. Well, he said, without a trace of irony, you see with the top-loader you put the washing in the top here (lifting the lid); whereas with your front loader...you get the picture.


I left and wandered into an adjacent Noel Leeming, and this time I had a (much younger) salesperson approach me. This time when I asked he explained to me very clearly what the difference was between the two - essentially the front-loader used less energy and water, but took a lot longer. He asked the key question - are you OK with waiting an hour and a half for a load to complete. For various reasons that doesn't work for us, so with the field narrowed down to top-loaders, he steered me towards the best make, model and price combination, and after explaining the key points he then came out with what I still believe is one of the best trial closes I've ever had.

"Shall I see if we've got one in stock?" he enquired, innocently enough. Being a sales professional, I complimented him on his training, product knowledge and skills. I explained I had to check with the War Office, and the following weekend, we went and bought the washing machine from him. This was a young man not more than a few years in the workforce (at most) but he knew his product, he knew what questions to ask, and he knew how to close the deal. So often in New Zealand so-called sales staff are afraid to ask for the sale - as per your experience with Kitchen Things. '

Debbie here. Summary? Product knowledge and asking for it gets the sale. I'd like to add a little P.S. to Mike's story about the importance of sales teams with product knowledge. So many of us shop online now. The problem with this is you don't know what you don't know and haven't found on Google.

We too needed a new washing machine. I knew that front loaders used less water, so decided to switch to this kind. I shopped online for price, telephoned a company with the largest capacity and lowest price.

I didn't know to ask about timing and hadn't found that fact online. Now we suffer through those two hour and forty minute loads, with a smaller capacity than our old top loader!!!! Tough for a family of eight. We shouldn't forget with the convenience of online shopping that the human element is still so very important.