What You Can Learn From an Orange Salesman

by Andy Wood on April 9, 2008

in Executing Your Plan, Five LV Laws, LV Cycle, LV Stories, Principle of Increase

OrangesSunday afternoon we had a big group of couples at our house.  I was hanging out with the men when Robin walks in and says, “There’s somebody at the door you need to talk to.”

Translation:  Somebody’s going to ask for our money, and you’re going to make that decision.

Optional Further Translation:  I don’t want to make that decision, but I reserve the right not to like it!  (She knows I’m a sucker for Girl Scouts, local bands, or anybody else raising money by selling something.)

This was no Girl Scout.  Boy Scout either.  It was a guy about my age.  And he was selling oranges.

That’s right, oranges.  Grapefruit, too.  And I bought them.  Half a case of them, in a household of two, for $39.50.

I live half a block from a major supermarket.  We don’t eat oranges that much.  Grapefruit?  Never.

But I bought.  And I’d like to tell you why.  (Yes, there are reasons beyond being a sucker.)

1.  He knocked on my door.  He brought the product to my doorstep and had the audacity to show it to me.  Didn’t he know that people sell oranges at supermarkets?  Didn’t he know that door-to-door anything is a relic of another age?  Hasn’t he heard of the Internet, and how I can buy great citrus there?  Probably.  But he knocked anyway.

2.  He offered me a sample.  This guy did something profound.  The minute I got to the threshold, he took a sharp knife and cut the top off a grapefruit – offering it to me and ruining it for anybody else but me (FDA rules, he said).  He offered me the opportunity to “taste and see that the grapefruit is good.”  And it was.  Now I was already full from dinner, and wasn’t particularly craving anything.  But this was good-tasting stuff.  Really sweet, juicy.  And he knew I liked it.  As I was gnawing off the grapefruit, he did the same thing to an orange.  He whacked off the top of the orange.  “Now try this,” he said. 

3.  He asked for a big order.  NOW was when the surprise hit.  He’s not selling these things by the bag, but by the case.  “I can give you a case – half and half – for $80.00.”  I choked on that.  But for a minute, he didn’t back down.  “You can share them with your friends or family,” he said when I told him there were only two of us at home.  He seemed to understand that no matter how impressed I was with the product, I would never buy a case of it unless he actually asked me to.

4.  He met me where I was.  I pushed back and asked how much a half case would be.  “It’s $39.50,” he said, still pushing the full case.  I told him that we didn’t eat that much grapefruit.  “No problem,” says he.  “I’ll just give you more oranges and less grapefruit.”  You sales types will recognize this as the assumptive close.  I went for the checkbook; he went for his car.

5.  He kept moving.  When I said yes, he prepared the order, but his partner delivered it.  I didn’t even know he had a partner.  But they emerged from the back of his vehicle; she was heading for me with the product, and he was headed off to the neighbor across the street.  His last word to me (in a loud voice, with the neighbor standing at the door):  “Enjoy those oranges, sir!”  Thirty seconds talking to the partner let me know that they had figured out who the best spokesman was, and who the best delivery person was.

I wonder if we can learn anything from this about the products, services, or relationships we “sell.”  What does this say to you about your church, your club, your Gospel, your product?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry Richardson April 9, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Hopefully, my wife knows by now, if it’s a kid at the door, I’m likely to buy something. Or, at least, make a donation to the cause. I relate fully to this story.

Daddy April 9, 2008 at 1:08 pm

A good salesperson is the most gullable one when a good sales pitch is sent their way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the Puritan Hitman April 10, 2008 at 8:29 am

“Kyle Burgers” and the citrus to top it all off… maybe I’ll just go ahead and add that to the “secret” marinade so you don’t have to pick up a case afterwards…

Andy Wood April 10, 2008 at 9:11 am

Okay, so here’s a follow-up. Last night I taught these lessons, along with some great ministry principles from Paul (see below). I gave everybody an orange (from the supermarket – they weren’t gettin’ mine!), and a Sharpie, and made them take notes on their orange. It was lots of fun.

Here are the ministry principles that were reflected in the five ideas above:

1. He knocked on my door – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 – “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”

2. He offered me a sample – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 – “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

3. He asked for a big order – 2 Corinthians 5:20 – “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

4. He met me where I was – 1 Corinthians 16:5-9 (note all the flexibility in these verses) – “But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

5. He kept on moving – 1 Thessalonians 3:1 (Paul had left, and couldn’t be in two places at one time) – “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith.”

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