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Salesman Stumpe

Published February 12, 2009

Old pal and industry stalwart Paul Stumpe is on his last legs (PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW). Paul was part of our early-'80s Bicycle Outfitter crew in Los Altos, CA (which also included owners Dick and Marilyn Powell, Ellen Johnson, Blair Clark, Robert Wilkins, Kathleen Koenig and Preston Freeman). Stumpe later ran Garner's in Redwood City for several years.

Cancer has a firm grip on our friend. He's at Sequoia Hospital, 170 Alameda de las Pulgas in Redwood City, CA 94062, room 389. He's too sick to talk. So send him a card or email me and I'll send him your regards and give you updates on his condition.

Paul could sell some bicycles. We'd Z out the register on a busy Saturday, Paul would have sold a dozen bikes, the rest of us would sell three or four each. We pretty much just took that for granted. One day, feeling a bit competitive, I asked him, "Paul, why are you selling so many more bikes than me?"

His answer was a stunner. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. "If they don't buy a bike in 15 minutes, it's because they're not ready yet. You guys are just getting started prattling on about tubing and gruppos and such. After 15 minutes, I'm either walking them to the register or giving them my card and finding a new prospect."

We weren't sure whether this was brilliant or sleazy. Yes, we were there to sell bikes, and yes, he was doing it a lot better than we were. On the other hand, how could you do a proper job of selling a bike unless you educated the consumer about strength-to-weight ratio and modulus of elasticity?

"They don't care about that shit," Stumpe sniffed. "You may think it's important, but most of them would rather be out riding or home with their families than listening to your tech seminar. I save them time now, and they come back to me when they want to know more or buy a better bike."

The more I thought about it, the more sure I became: Stumpe was right. So I adopted his methods and my sales went up. His, "Tell them only what they need to know and no more" concept was both inspiration and content for the Selling Cycling program (which came over a decade later).

I still think of Paul when I walk into a shop and hear a sales guy or gal "prattling on" to a hybrid buyer about carbon fiber and head tube angles. If only they had Stumpe to kick their ass sales-wise and tell them why. Hang in there old friend. We're all thinking about you and hoping for the best.

UPDATE: Paul passed away at 6:05 yesterday with his family by his side.

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