They had their biggest attendance ever, I was told on the first day, and with that display of nursery stock and their generous hospitality it was no surprise. Theirs was a soft sell and, from the plants being loaded and ordered, a pretty successful one.
Times change, however, and the old politeness operated when I was on the road as technical representative for Bord na Móna is sadly disappearing. It was accepted that if another competing salesman was ahead of you on a client visit then you never interrupted but left them to it and went back later.
Unless you were selling to the likes of Selfridges in the West End, with a booked appointment to see the buyer, then you waited patiently in the queue of sales people — even if your mini bale sample was weighing a bit heavy.
Once with a potential buyer the prepared presentation was about quality, service and value for money. Mention of competing brands was avoided at all costs. Indeed, the thought was we only had followers, not competitors.
These days on television, for example, you see presenters pointing out the weaknesses of competing brands and holding up evidence to confirm their criticisms. Have they never heard the advice "all publicity is good as long as the name is spelt correctly"? Why draw the attention of a potential customer to a competitor?
We need to remember some customers are better informed than us, stick to what you know is correct and if you do not know or are unsure then admit the fact. Then set about finding out, to help both yourself and the potential customer. This is the way to build trust and good long-term clients.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster