Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Kip Tindell has been at the helm of The Container Store since it first opened its doors in Dallas, Texas, in 1978.  Now, the "storage solutions" company has over 39[…]

Every retail salesperson in America dreams of the same thing, says Kip Tindell: “to get through life without ever being accused of being a pushy salesperson.” Tindell, who has been CEO of the Container Store for over 25 years, understands that integrity doesn’t always perfectly align with the sales psyche. In this video, Tindell explains the importance of maintaining honor in your dealings by placing a pointed focus on helping the customer. Selling, he says, is really the same thing as service. The ideal salesperson thinks about the customer’s needs and seeks to fill them without also taking advantage. If your sales philosophy has a firm moral foundation, you open the door to customer loyalty and lasting, rewarding success for the company.

Tindell’s latest book is titled “Uncontainable.”

Kip Tindell: Every retail salesperson in America just secretly wants to get through life without ever being accused of being a pushy salesperson. And so man in the desert story, it's the silliest story in the world. I mean you can tell I made it up because it's so silly, but there's a guy that lives on an oasis in the desert and he looks out one day and there's a man that's been obviously stranded in the desert for days, kind of approaching death or something. And so what happens in the retail industry is people rush up to him and gives him a glass of water. And then he drinks the water and they pat themselves on the back and the man in the desert wonders off some more; they're feeling great about themselves; they got the guy a glass of water. And so there's so much more that you can do for him. You need to intuit his needs; so, let’s see, he needs more than water; he's been out there for days; he needs food. He might need electrolytes, not just water, so let's give him some Gatorade. He needs to call his family and let them know that he's okay, and not to mention all aloe vera and all of that, so you're really, the man in the desert you're fulfilling his needs, intuiting his needs and filling them through conversation. It's hard work but you're doing all of that. Then you can feel good about yourself.

Man in the desert puts the moral imperative if you will on selling rather than not selling. Somebody that really understands the man in the desert story will understand that selling and service are the same thing. We're not training people to sell up so there's more, just help them in the true sense of the word. Just help the customer in the true sense of the word. And you can only help the customer and help the company, or you can hurt the customer and hurt the company if you wimp out and give them a glass of water, then you're just kind of wimping out because you're afraid of being seen as a pushy salesperson; you're hurting the customer and you're hurting the company. So if there's a woman in The Container Store closet section and she's got a tie rack in one hand and a shoe rack in the other hand, I mean she obviously has a closet somewhere that's driving her crazy. And you can conclude that fairly safely. And if you let her get out of there with those two items she's still going to have a closet that's driving her crazy, but the ties and the shoes will be a little bit better off.

What you can do is cause the interaction with her to find and take a complete closet approach to really kind of redoing her whole closet. And what that will usually lead up to is a customer that's vastly happier because she got her problem solved. And she's dancing in the closet because it's so perfect. That's what we're trying to get. We're trying to get what we call the customer dance. Then you have a really delighted customer who's coming back quickly; who’s so delighted with her closet that she's showing her sister-in-law and her next-door neighbor that closet. And then they're coming in because they want that feeling too. And they're like emotionally thrilled with this closet or pantry or toy storage solution or whatever and that's how we build our business in an old market or in a new market.

And ultimately what people want is they want to feel emotional about the brands and the product. They take this stuff home and they live with it for a very long time and they either cuss you every time they see it or they smile and they're very, very happy about it. So, we talk about that you can get people to be emotional even about something as pedestrian as a trashcan. I think we have the world's best selection of trashcans. Even a trashcan can make you smile. If you have this man in the desert interaction between customer and salesperson she's going to like her trashcan so much; it fits in that corner perfectly; you love the way the pedal opens and closes. You're actually kind of proud of your trashcan. You've considered showing it off to houseguests that you have over and stuff and proudly saying that's my trashcan, what do you think about my trashcan? That's man in the desert selling. You're just trying to help her figure out what she needs to feel that way. And people want emotion.