One afternoon I stopped at a convenience store to pick up some bubble gum but to my dismay I found none in the candy rack. So I asked the clerk if he had any bubble gum in stock, and he said no, he was completely out.
Now, I usually don’t get upset over such trivial matters but I found this situation so absurd that I lost my cool. “Do you mean to tell me,” I bellowed, “that out of all the convenience stores in the world, yours is actually out of bubble gum?”
“I do apologize, sir,” the clerk replied calmly, “but if it makes you feel any better, I do have mashed potatoes.”
“BUT I DON’T WANT MASHED POTATOES,” I roared. “I WANT BUBBLE GUM!”
“I understand, sir,” the clerk continued in his calm demeanor, “but you see, there was a major mixup in the delivery of my stock and I wound up with a truck full of canned mashed potatoes. I have no room in the stockroom for anything else and I can’t make any room if I don’t sell the mashed potatoes.”
“So why, pray tell, should I buy mashed potatoes instead of bubble gum?” I asked.
“Mashed potatoes don’t give you cavities.”
A few minutes later I left the convenience store with two large boxes containing dozens of canned mashed potatoes I had just purchased, enough mashed potatoes to last me several years. As I drove home, I began to think about what had happened in the convenience store. The clerk managed to sell me something better than what I was expecting without intimidation, pressure or bait and switch tactics.
The next morning I met with my sales team to introduce the “bubble gum and mashed potatoes” strategy to help boost our sales. After they implemented this strategy, our sales skyrocketed and we easily outsold the competition. Our company was finally put on the map.
From time to time I still get people who ask me how we did it, to which I only smile and reply, “Bubble gum and mashed potatoes.” They’ll just have to figure it out from there.