Tan, Don't Burn

She arched her eyebrows seductively. “Oooh, you smell so good,” she cooed. She closed her languid eyes and inhaled deeply, the better to savor my manly aroma. It is summer here in Johnson’s World and we are living out scenes from a racy romance novel.

I would like to think that the young lady in question was seduced by my natural pheromones, but alas, it was an artificially applied scent that turned her to putty in my hands.

And what exactly was this elixir of love? Axe? Old Spice? Brut? Nope, just a healthy slathering of good old fashioned Coppertone sunscreen.

This scene is not quite as salacious as I’ve made it appear. The lady in question explained to me that when she was a little girl her family spent summers at the ocean. Each morning before going out to play on the beach, her mother would slather her with suntan lotion. Ever since, that distinctive scent has triggered happy memories of carefree childhood summers spent frolicking in the sun-kissed surf.

It was just my good fortune to have been wearing Coppertone (for no other purpose than to ameliorate the sun’s rays, mind you) while in her presence.


The Other Side of the Copper Penny

I should confess that I’m not always so fortunate.

“Ew, you stink like chemicals! I hate that smell! Don’t touch me. I don’t want to get any of that stuff on my skin.” She added, “I think it causes skin cancer.” With a contemptuous shake of her head she turned away.

Same sunblock, same scent, a different woman, and a very different reaction.

The above examples needn’t necessarily have been romantic encounters. I could have elicited either the positive or negative reaction from a policewoman during a traffic stop or a doctor performing a routine physical examination. More importantly, it could have come from a prospective client company’s receptionist or primary contact.


What the Nose Knows

Certainly, in a professional setting, the reaction would have been more subtle. Perhaps so much so that I would not have realized that my sunblock was instrumental to success or failure.

When my sales call was finished I would have replayed the incident in my head. I would have examined my materials, my presentation script, my impromptu remarks, my responses to the customer’s questions. A vain exercise it would be, for the prospect’s reaction wasn’t based on any of those. In a business environment, the prospect herself might not even be conscious of how much scent influenced her reaction.

I’ll bet you’ve had an experience with an inept salesman who you nonetheless tolerated because his stupid jokes reminded you of your favorite uncle. He, of course, thinks that you continue to buy from him because of his great skill, expertise, and smooth style.

How about that suave and debonair fellow who charms the socks off everyone and always gets the appointment, even though nobody wants what he is selling?

Or the loudmouth political devotee who never has been able to figure out that half his prospective customer base doesn’t share his extremist political views and won’t ever buy from him, even when they do need his product or service?



The moral of our story? There is always a moral in Johnson’s World. Sometimes there are several.

People are sensitive; some more than others. If you are in sales, your prospects are probably more sensitive than you. Your tone, your attitude, your appearance, yes, your scent may all have more of an effect than you think on someone highly sensitive to the world around them.

Show a little respect. Don’t pander, but do respect those around you. I don’t wear cologne, but I do wear a suit to work almost every day. My customers deserve to see me at my professional best and so do my employees.

Oh, and don’t forget your sunblock.


Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL; a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at MyPRINTResource.com/10111496, or send direct feedback about this column via www.copresco.com/forms/contact.htm.