While I was in college, I sold furniture at Cabot House during their annual warehouse sale. On the last day of the sale, an elderly man named Gary came in.
Gary, gave me some strong "guy from the movie "Up" vibes. Only his wife was still alive, and he was really friendly. He had big glasses, suspenders, and brown pants. He was hunched over as he walked around the warehouse sale with a cane.
I came up and asked him if he needed any help. He replied, "I'm here to buy one last couch."
"I'm here to buy one last couch."
"One last couch?" I asked.
Given his age (he was in his 80s at least), I wanted to be careful not to say the wrong thing. I definitely didn't want to be morbid or ageist.
"I've had the same sofa in my living room since 1969. Last night, when my wife blew her birthday candles out, one of the candles fell on the couch and the whole cushion caught on fire."
"Holy smokes literally!" I dadjoked. He laughed back.
"Ok let's look around." I said. He asked me to sit and try them first because it was hard for him to sit down then get back up 100 times.
"Gary, why did you keep that sofa for all these years?"
Keep in mind most people replace their sofas every decade. I was trying to gauge if it was budget, comfort, lack of need etc. His answer surprised me.
"Well I loved that sofa....for 40 years, it's where we sat every Christmas. My 3 kids grew up sitting there with me. Now all their kids were doing the same. So much of my life happened there. Sports, TV, history, Tom Brady, the Red Sox. Good days and bad. Life happened in that one seat."
I was actually moved.
"Gary, I'm not entirely sure we're going to be able to get something as special as that sofa...but let's try and honor its legacy today." He nodded along.
About 7 couches in, I realized that if Gary is having trouble trying couches out, what would be best is a sofa that is more firm so he could get in and out of it easier at home. This helped us narrow down his options. He picked a firm pink 3 seater with butterflies on it. He didn't really care about how it looked. The brand was a bit more premium, but it was known for it's durability and comfort. We closed the slip and scheduled a delivery. I got the sale!
"Now I just need to figure out how to dispose of the old couch." He chuckled.
Maybe it was his story, the excitement from the sale, but I had a crazy idea.
"Gary, what if I get a few buddies and we come over after work and pick it up for you, no charge?" This is not what furniture companies do. This was something I was going to do on my own time.
"You wouldn't want to do that would you?" He said.
After work, with my friend Jon and his pick up, we grabbed the burned up pink couch, exactly as I promised.
We burned his old couch in a bon fire that night, and I told everyone the story of Gary's last couch.
You see...Gary made me realize something.
Sales isn't about selling a place to sit. It's about helping people deal with a change.
Gary probably passed on, but I bet his grandkids are sitting on that same couch today.
Ryan O'Hara is the founder of Pitchfire. Prior to starting Pitchfire, he has been an early employee at several startups helping them with marketing and prospecting tactics including Dyn (Acquired by Oracle 2016) and LeadIQ (first GTM employee-Series B).
He's had prospecting and marketing campaigns featured in Fortune, Mashable, and TheNextWeb. Ryan specializes in go-to-market strategy, branding, business development, prospecting, and sales training. He also mentors two accelerators, The Iron Yard and The Alpha Loft.