Sell the Shoes to Meet Customer Needs? Insights into Making New Decisions

English: Shoes in a shop
English: Shoes in a shop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every fall I go shopping for new shoes and this year was no different. I went to a local mall and left feeling as if it was more important to sales clerks that they make the sale more so than meet customer needs.  Do you find that too?

What’s good about the incidents described below, is they reminded me to list key pointers for you when making new decisions for innovation and using creative thinking.

Store 1 – I Know What’s Good for You

This small chain is known for its quality shoes and great service.

On this day I was this store’s only customer, it was early in the morning, the mall just opened. The sales clerk approached, asked what I was looking for.

“Flat comfortable shoes I can stand in all day, that have support, that look current. Ones I can look forward to wearing for leading workshops, giving keynotes, or facilitating team building activities,” I said. “I’m looking for your advice and suggestions.”

The clerk immediately pointed me to shoes he insisted ‘would be perfect’:  ballet slippers.  He said these shoes exactly fit my needs. I disagreed, I couldn’t see how they would support my standing all day, they looked uncomfortable too. I restated the criteria and asked what other options he’d recommend.  He said these were the best choices available. “Would you like to try them on?” he asked.

I shook my head no and muscled by him deeper into the store.  As he followed I pointed to other options, expressing tentative interest. He said if I wanted, he could get them from the back so I could try them on. This pair looked promising because they had metatarsal support. They fit okay, felt fine. He brought a pair in black and red because there were none left in black in my size. I said I wanted all black.

“You should get these,” he said, “they are flying off the shelf.  Very hot colours for the fall black and red. They won’t last long. You should get them today.”

“No thanks,” I said. I didn’t like the pressure tactic or his overall approach.

“Call me if you change your mind,” he said and handed me his business card as I left the shop, “remember to ask for me by name. It’s important.”


I walked into the mall sad, wondering, thinking – whose needs are more important in a sales situation, the customer’s or the clerk’s? Wouldn’t it be great if the sales situation resulted in a win-win for all parties?  I’m unlikely to visit that store again.

Store 2 – The Up-Sell Queen

Store 2 offers comfortable shoes, that’s its brand promise.

Curious to see what they had to offer I walked in, feeling quiet and withdrawn from the earlier shoe store experience.  A woman asked “is it raining outside?” rudely interrupting my reverie. She likely saw my small brown umbrella.

“I don’t know, I haven’t been outside in a while.” Which was true, I’d been in mall for a couple of hours by this point. Same mall, same day.

The woman who asked the question looked like she was the store manager, nicely coiffed and dressed as a mid-range 42-year old  professional; bobbed blonde hair, skinny black slacks with a stylish loosely fitted white  over shirt, and comfy grey heals. Her make up was similar to female news readers on network television, her blue eyes twinkled sharp and clear.

The clerk walked me around the store, introduced me to the new shoe collection for fall, asked what I was looking for at the end of her spiel. I repeated the same criteria as before – flat comfortable shoes I can stand in all day, that have support, that look current. One’s I can look forward to wearing when leading workshops, giving keynotes, or facilitating team building activities.

“I know just the pair,” she said and presented a bevy of alternatives, explained how each fit the bill. One pair struck my eye. The sales clerk smiled when I said yes to her offer to try them on: black patent runners.

She pointed to a purse to go with the pair before the shoes were out of the box.  “I don’t use purses,” I said, “only backpacks. They are better for the shoulders and spine.” She agreed and fitted me into the shoes. I walked about the store feeling their stride. “You mustn’t leave the shop without a spray to protect them from rain,’ she said.  “Already have some,” I said.

I liked the shoes well enough I told her, and I didn’t love them.  It’s important for me to feel a wee gasp of delight when I see them. They looked alright on, felt comfy and were practical. They held no spark for me, no gasp. “Thanks for your time,” I said as I slipped them off, picked up my things. I could tell she was disappointed at not making a sale. She wrote the shoe model number on her business card and gave it to me as I walked past the central shoe display out into the mall seeming to know I’d not likely return.

Creative Problem Solving Application

When selecting an idea to develop and carry out, it’s important to remember matching ALL criteria including how you feel about its potential as a solution. Don’t settle for a solution if it doesn’t feel right.

Rather than rely purely upon logical considerations such as,

  • the effort required to develop and start a new idea,
  • the time involved in bringing a new idea to fruition,
  • the costs of producing the desired outcome, and the like

also include emotional reactions – do you love the idea, do you find it exciting, compelling, involving?

Why?  If you like an idea, if it stirs you, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll persevere to make it happen when the going gets a little tough, which it usually does within a week or two of starting.  It’s a tug between the old and the new.

Passion behind new ideas really help a new idea to become reality.

Marci Segal

Post Script:  I did get a new pair of shoes eventually, in actuality, two pairs.  It was at the same chain as store number 1 at one of its downtown Toronto locations.  The entire transaction took 90 minutes and produced great results:  happy customer and happy sales clerk.