This is a story about a lady who works at The Container Store. I have no idea what her name was, but she was either A) well trained or B) had a knack for getting to the root of the problem.

We made our first visit ever to The Container Store the other day. We had something in mind we were looking for but no idea where to find it. And as we browsed around the same isle a few times, a store employee stepped in to see if she could help. She asked what we were after and we told her what we thought we were looking for. After showing us around to a few “maybe this is it” items, she restarted with us.

And this is the point where I tell you what makes a good salesperson and what doesn’t. This is the difference between being helpful and being useless.

She restarted our conversation by saying, “Okay, we can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, but what are you trying achieve exactly? We can start there and figure out what we can come up with that will work.”

Ding! Ding! Ding!

The root of the problem is always the place to start. Whether it’s building a website or marketing a service or selling some shelving, the root is always the place to start. But all too often we put patches on things or start with the symptoms of the problem and have the same issues over and over.

In this case, she could have easily said, “Sorry, we don’t have what you’re looking for.” The sale would be lost and we would be without a solution until someone else decided to help or another store solved our problem.

In the case of my web projects, I always start with the goal of the website. Mostly everyone knows they “need” a website. Most have no idea why or what purpose it would serve. When we start at the root of the problem, we’ll always get much better end results. You can take that to the bank.

So there you have it. Thoughts for the day and a big thumbs up for The Container Store employee. If they don’t train all their employees this way, they should. As a matter of fact, all service industries should train this way. It should never be just about selling the product. It’s always about how it fits into the story the customer has going on in their head.