A fantastic lesson in sales (without being smarmy)

There are few things I hate more than a smarmy sales experience. You know the ones — high pressure, hidden costs, and with zero interest in your actual happiness. Basically, your typical car salesperson.

Yet I’m fascinated by sales in general. Knowing how to sell is an amazing and valuable skill. So when I see it done right — with genuine care and attention — I stop, listen and learn.


A week ago, the most mundane thing in our house broke — our window blinds. We weren’t really sure how to fix them, so my wife Julie went to a family-owned small business called Rainey’s to ask for help.

When a sales driven business has been open for 78 years, you listen and learn!

Mark, the owner, was super friendly. It may sound obvious, but when a customer is confused, you’d be amazed at how a friendly voice (or tone, if written) can put that person at ease. Right off the bat the customer feels welcome and is open minded.

After a brief chat explaining some options, Mark soon found what we needed. It was a $5 part, but he didn’t charge us for it. He just gave it to Julie for free so we could fix it ourselves.

Even though $5 isn’t a lot of money, the gesture was meaningful. It signaled something small but important: Mark wasn’t interested in maximizing every dollar or short term sale. He was genuinely interested in helping us. He was thinking of us as long-term customers. We really appreciated that.

Mark is no sales newbie though. He used this as a chance for a soft (but effective) upsell: “When one of the strings goes bad, usually they all start to go.” He told Julie how much it would cost to get the whole thing fixed and his exact availability for the next few days and the turnaround time, in case our operation failed. Sharp, smart, well-timed salesmanship.

Julie was so happy with all the help that it made her think of another house project we’ve been lazy about. She asked a few more questions, and boom, it sounds like Rainey’s is our partner for that project too!

What an amazing series of events. With a tiny investment of ten friendly minutes and a $5 part, Mark landed hundreds of dollars worth of work from us this year alone. And who knows how much lifetime business he’s earned from us.

It’s no wonder that Rainey’s has been in business for 78 years. 😍


At Basecamp we admire businesses like Rainey’s, who’ve figured out how to be successful for a long, long time. We like ’em so much that we created a podcast dedicated to their stories called The Distance. Check it out!

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