Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.


When Nordstrom came to Charlotte, merchants were shaking in their boots. Big mistake.

America’s best “known for service” retailer, Nordstrom started as a shoe store in Seattle and grew into a retail giant. They have become known for great service and their wide selection of shoes. But hey, lots of department stores have shoes. What’s the difference if you have 25,000 pairs or 30,000 pairs? Lots. The difference is the way the shoes are sold and especially in the way that the customer is served.

When you buy a pair of shoes, they take your payment right where you’re sitting. The clerk takes your credit card and pays so you don’t have to stand on line and so you can look around and buy more.

Here’s the Nordstrom difference: Who goes home from shopping and says, “I had to wait in line to pay for my shoes at the department store”? No one unless the line was long. Who goes home and says, “I was finished buying a pair of shoes at Nordstrom and a nice, polite young man asked for my credit card, took my purchase up to the counter and brought me back a bag and a receipt that’s the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE THAT’S EVER HAPPENED.” Everyone. Nordstrom gives you something to talk about after you leave the store.

Nordstrom has discovered the biggest secret of memorable service: People talk after a transaction. They will say one of three things: something good, nothing, or something bad and you control it by your words, actions and deeds.

Nordstrom watchwords: NO PROBLEM. Alter it? No problem. Need it in an hour? No problem. Need something they don’t have? No problem. Need it shipped to Timbuktu? No problem. Want to return it? No problem.

Nordstrom creates positive after-talk: Their (unstated) goal is to create something good to talk about at end of every transaction. All customers talk. And their talk creates YOUR REPUTATION.

How Nordstrom earned Gitomer’s loyalty: My daughter Erika was going to be married in two weeks. A big wedding. I wanted to look good. My friend Richard Brodie said, “You have no choice – get a Jhane Barnes Tuxedo.” I was in Houston, went to a Neiman Marcus figuring I’ll try on a few, select one and leave. They had none. And none anywhere in Dallas. Panic. I was flying to Portland (OR) in two days and then 5 days until the wedding. Teresa, my mate, said, “Call Nordstrom, they’ll get one for you.” So I did.

Pamela Staats, an extra pleasant woman answered the phone. I told her about the wedding and that I wanted a size 42 long Jhane Barnes tuxedo with a regular suit-type collar. “No problem, let me see what I can do,” she said with a confidence that was contagious.

Two days later I get to Portland (actually Washington Square in Tigard, OR) and Nordstrom. I meet Pam, and she escorts Teresa and me to a private room. There was ONE tuxedo on a hanger. A Jhane Barnes 42 long with a suit-type collar. I tried it on. It fit like a glove. Price? Didn’t matter it’s Erika’s wedding, baby.

Then I noticed that in the room was also a bunch of other clothing. Turns out, Pam Staats had called Teresa and asked my sizes for everything (shirts, shoes, sweaters). In front of me was a mini clothing store of stuff all in my size, all looking GREAT. I didn’t like the tuxedo shoes but I bought EVERYTHING else. I had to. Mind you there was no pressure. We were in a private room, being waited on hand and foot, everything fit like a glove, food and drink was served by friendly people in a relaxed, festive atmosphere and I was in a mood to BUY.

Nordstrom had the pants hemmed in a day and FedEx’d the tux to my home in Charlotte where I would pick it up in three days. Everything went smooth as silk. Something to talk about.

I got a card of thanks and a call a week later asking how the wedding went and got another card a couple  months later asking when the next time I’d be back in town. You get the idea – something to talk about.

The story behind the story: On my way out of the store, I casually asked Pam if it was hard to find the tuxedo. “Kind of,” she said. “We called the manufacturer and found out there was only one tux in your style and size in the country. It was on a truck going to New York. We had them stop the truck, grab the tuxedo, and fly it here.” WOW! Now remember, I had to ask her for the story. She could have started the entire meeting with the guilt laden, “You know we had to fly this tuxedo in from New York, I hope you take it, or there will be a freight restocking fee.” No, no she would have NEVER told the story if I didn’t ask. That’s professional. Ultra professional. Something to REALLY talk about.

Back to the point: When Nordstrom came to Charlotte, mall merchants (especially department stores) were whining and panicked. Above you can see why. Below you can see what they (and you) should do.

And the winner is: You, if you want it bad enough. The opportunity to equal or beat Nordstrom’s is real. Every retailer in Charlotte had TWO YEARS to get ready. Two years to adjust, change, reinvent, train, and prepare for the arrival of a new rival. Most didn’t. Most were willing to “wait and see what happens.” Nordstrom’s was praying for that. It gave them an opportunity to put one of their best known competitive services into practice: Clock cleaning.

FREE GitBit… Want the BEAT NORDSTROM’S training blueprint? I have developed a 10.5 step formula that will neutralize the giant and put you on a level customer service playing field. A get-real game plan that will work if you take action. Want it? Just go to www.gitomer.com click Access GitBit, register and enter the word, NORDSTROM in the search box.