As I write now, I’m wearing a pair of Brooks PureConnect running shoes. They feel snug on my feet, the rubber slightly stiff against my heels and arches, save for the toe ends where there’s just a little space, but well within the one-finger-width maximum allowable limit. The shoes have a thin mesh exterior, veiling a chassis of what looks like Swiss-cheese rubber, the kind one would see on Crocs (which, incidentally, I have never worn, not even at the height of their popularity, nor will I ever wear).
Walking with them, I could feel the weight, shape, and overall ergonomics of the pair coaxing my feet to hit the ground a certain way, with the heel and midfoot landing first, but immediately rolling forward towards the mid-foot, so that it would bear my weight for a longer period of time (which I’ve been given to understand is a healthier way to run). The heel is also rounded, which probably will translate to a smoother side-to-side pivot should the course require it.
Excited at the prospect of running with them; almost definite that I’ll have a better time, both in terms of enjoyment and average pace. While I’m almost certain this will be due to a psychological “placebo effect” the first time, since I’d probably be more motivated to run well with new running shoes (doing a Google search on “motivational placebo effect” turned up this post on Lifehacker), I’m pretty sure these babies will help me do better in the long run (yes, pun intended–what’re YOU going to do about it?).
Overall, really satisfied with this acquisition, save for one minor point: they’re not green. Not a trace of green on them.
It Began with a Sale
Right now, I have just two pairs of running shoes: a black and blue pair of FILA shoes (they kind of look like this, but not exactly) which are too big for my feet (I used to not bother with fit too much, thinking that a size 8 is a size 8 no matter what brand you wear); and a grey and green pair of Nike Fusion Lites (which I bought much more recently and fit much better).
It’s silly, but seeing only two shoes in my portfolio didn’t sit well with me; a proper set that can be rotated should have at least three elements. So I decided to buy a new pair. Not necessarily soon, but just when a good opportunity presents itself. I kept an occasional eye out for shoe sales. Last week, I saw this one, and remembered learning somewhere that Brooks was a good brand. Some friends who are more hardcore runners than I am confirmed this, and recommended that I go for the Pure Project line of shoes.
So it was with this advice that I went to a sporting goods store yesterday. I resolved to fulfill two criteria: 1) buy a new pair of Brooks running shoes; 2) make sure they’re green, or at least partially so. Why green? Because it’s my favorite color. A lot of my running accessories are green, and whenever I could get away with it, I’d get things in green.
Meeting the Shoe Guy
Going in, I made a beeline for the Brooks line of running shoes, which occupied a panel on the left wall of the store, in between the much wider swaths of real estate reserved for Adidas and Nike. I asked the nearest attendant for advice on good running shoes from Brooks. He seemed like a newbie, and pulled in someone who was more qualified to respond to my inquiry.
And boy, was he qualified. You wouldn’t give this guy a second look–not that he’s quiet or closed off or anything; just unremarkable. But when he heard that I was looking for Brooks running shoes, it’s like an internal switch was tripped, and some sort of complex, seamless, well-worked-out sales subroutine was initiated. The Shoe Guy asked whether I needed a neutral or stability shoe, and was helpful enough to explain those terms to me (I had a rough idea, but wanted to make sure I had the right one). He pulled down different shoes from the wall, going on and on about the relative advantages of each.
As I tried different pairs on, he declaimed at length about the different brands: Nike was popular among the general shoe-buying public, but Adidas was better for running because of its Adiprene technology; hardcore runners, though, would consider nothing but Saucony or Brooks, although Saucony, while more lightweight, lost out on durability. It was a good thing I was already set on buying Brooks since they were on sale; I agonize when it comes to decisions, especially when each alternative has pros and cons. He said it was a good choice, gesturing towards the blue and white Brooks shoes on his feet, which he explained had gotten him through three 21-km runs without a hitch.
(I recently learned that there are different kinds of salesmen based on their styles and temperaments. The Shoe Guy was a classic repairman–expert with an aim to help solve a problem. Here’s an explanation of the different types if you want to know where you fall.)
Settling for the Best Fit
The shoes he picked out were great in the aspects that mattered. The fit was good, and he explained how the cushioning, the soles, and the inside of the shoe were engineered to satisfy serious runners with sophisticated, discriminating tastes. The fact that they were on sale, with at least 30% of the price knocked off, was icing on the cake. He even recommended that I run around the store with them, confident that I’d find the perfect pair.
Well, he wasn’t right exactly. After going through the different pairs, I realized that none of them were green. Not a single pair had a hint of it. I asked whether they had any different colors in stock, and he said unfortunately, they didn’t.
I was torn. From the shoes he pulled down, the PureConnect model felt the best. Good fit, good traction, good stride, good response. Across the board, they felt awesome. Why did they have to be not green at all?
I considered leaving and looking for a store where they had what I wanted, but something bothered me, like a little pebble that somehow managed to insinuate itself in between my toes in the middle of a 5-km run. It was this; I didn’t need green shoes. I just wanted them. And I liked the Shoe Guy; he was competent, attentive, not passive but not too forward. If anyone deserved a commission from my shoe money, right at that moment, it was him.
So with a strong exhalation, I let go of the green. I chose the best-fitting pair, and was happy with them as I walked out the store. The 40% discount made me even happier.
And I didn’t just take home a pair of shoes yesterday. I took home a lesson; a desire to help goes a long way in making a customer happy. But when you combine that with expert knowledge and enthusiasm in whatever it is you’re selling (whether it’s a good or a service), it can make the customer ignore preferences he initially had going in. And if there’s one thing that can bring inspire enthusiasm and expertise, it’s when you believe in what you’re selling.
So whether you deliver value to the world through service or through selling, make sure you believe in whatever you bring to the table. Start by selling yourself; then you can sell to others.