Last Friday, a wet, cold day, I fulfilled a long standing item on my bucket list by taking a turn ringing the Salvation Army Bell in front of Bass Pro Headquarters in Springfield, Mo. Notwithstanding the Army’s foray into the woke arena, they have always been a favorite charity of ours and the deal to help them out was cut some time before they entered the political field. I gained immeasurable insight into marketing, human relations and the mood of the people in SW Missouri.
Truly successful salesmen, like Lee Iacocca, rely on a proven sales technique to transfer their product to you in exchange for your money to them. I have read his book and many of the things he espouses seemed appropriate in gaining a financial contribution in this endeavor. Here we go.
I felt that eye contact with each patron was critical. Several folks simply avoid your eyes and head for the door furtherest from your location. My subliminal message was that I am wringing the bell just for you. I also noted a hearty “Merry Christmas” was also effective, as I was now in a conversation with the customer. Next up, the compliment. I tried to compliment the customer, or his/her gloves, Christmas hat, warm boots, anything positive which established an open dialogue. A comment about their kids was very effective in gaining their trust and commitment. The fact that an occasional person would avoid these overtures, seemed to create additional incentive for the following customer to increase their contribution. My technique was twice removed from the guys who stand silently with a look of utter boredom wringing the bell with contempt. I also made it fun!
I made an attempt to typecast folks based on their appearances. To this end, I made several observations. Folks who were, based solely on appearance, somewhat disadvantaged as opposed to those who were dropped at the curb courtesy of a new Escalade, were the most prolific contributors. It was the middle American folks who carefully doled out a contribution to each of their children to drop into the kettle. Children loved this experience, and when thanked with a smile, seemed to encourage the adults behind them to dig a little deeper into their wallet or purse. As I have already mentioned, kids were a key element in my success. Kneeling down and acknowledging the children was very effective, which explains the politician’s kissing of babies. Without question, ladies were more likely to contribute as were solo men. Men need to step up their game here, likely because they are less inclined to respond to flattery. There are many more things about ladies to compliment than men………..just gotta be careful!
I also moved our kettle closer to the mainstream of pedestrian traffic. This placed me in a position to greet the avoiders who were seeking the far doors, which in turn alerted the other avoiders they were going to be engaged and resulted in a uptick in their contributive effort, thus avoiding the appearances of Scrooge. I did note that really competent avoiders were adept at strategies such as opening an umbrella in my direction, thus spoiling my ability to engage them on some level. These are the same folks who can pass the plate in church with a flourish, creating an illusion of offering when they did not.
So, was I successful? I think so, but was not privilege to the final tally. People displayed a lot of Christmas spirit and were very upbeat. My efforts were enhanced by Tazzy, wearing an apron that read “I Ate Santa’s Cookies”, sitting by the kettle, and a smiling Sharon on the Bear Bench behind my duty post, throwing out a final Merry Christmas to the folks we met. A confession is in order. I am absolutely confident that whatever money we raised broke along two lines. I may have accounted for 30% of the take, Tazzy earned the rest. Bring a cute dog to your next fund raising effort. They are money in the bank. Too bad Lee Iacocca never thought of this…..thank you Tazzy, and to the Salvation Army for the opportunity to make a difference.
Have a great weekend, and a very Merry Christmas!