If you’re anything like me, you probably hate selling.
Most of us get our hate for selling from early childhood experiences like selling Christmas cards door to door or worse, having to sell Girl Scout cookies outside of a store to total strangers.
Then of course we deal with salespeople as adults which can put us off even more. The car salesperson who we just know is dishonest and wants to screw us over. The cold caller who pesters us to switch from Dish Network to DirectTV.
As someone who actually has to sell in order to get more clients, I’ve seen both extremes in the world of sales. On one hand, there is the salesperson at the booth at a trade show who is too afraid to look at your when you walk by, instead peering intently into their smartphone. Then there is the other extreme.
On a recent vacation to Cancun, Mexico I walked into the crowded flea market next to the Senor Frog’s to buy some souvenirs for family and friends. I was about 10 feet from the entrance when I was immediately swarmed by vendors selling anything from t-shirts to plaster skeletons to spoon holders with Our Lady of Guadalupe on them.
“Where are you from?” they asked.
“Tennessee” I replied.
“Ah Tennessee Titans” (they pronounced it “Thennessee Thitans”) and proceeded to show me a plaster skull wearing a Titans football helmet. They offered me a beer, probably to relax me and intoxicate me enough to suddenly develop an obsession for turtles sculpted out of abalone shells. As it happens, I walked out of that market with a lot of stuff I really didn’t need nor intended to buy. At least I was able to negotiate with them which meant I was only a little ripped off buying Mexican stuff that was probably made in China.
But it taught me a sales lesson: There is a balanced approach to selling something to someone.
And just to be clear, all of us are salespeople. We may not all sell products or services but all of us have to sell our ideas or opinions, or even ourselves to a hiring manager. What is the best way?
- Build a genuine rapport. One of the T-shirt vendors in Cancun asked me where I was from originally which of course was California. He said he was from there and lived there 6 months out of the year. He referenced places only a Californian would know so we hit it off. After buying stuff from him, I asked which vendor he trusted to give me the best deal on some plaster jewelry boxes. He walked me over a couple of booths and introduced me to a guy who I then bought from. When we went back for more t-shirts a couple days later, I went right back to his booth and we bought from him. Rapport builds trust. We buy from people we trust.
- Be Assertive, but Not Aggressive. Assertive means asking for the sale. Aggressive means insisting on the sale. I recently purchased a new Mazda CX-7 in Clarksville, TN. The salesman spent about an hour demonstrating the features and benefits of the car. At no point did he pressure me. Finally though he asked, “What will it take for you to purchase this car from me today?” Assertive? Yes. Aggressive? No. Had he asked me that in the first 10 minutes it would have caused me to walk away. But after an hour of conversation, it was an appropriate question. After some haggling, I bought the car from him.
- Ask for the Sale. That’s the point of selling isn’t it? Don’t expect the customer to just open up their wallets to you and ask you to reach inside. This means you have to do the hard work to build rapport and explain the features and benefits of your product, service, proposal, or SELF. Then, when it’s time, ask for the sale.
Selling is difficult and scary but by practicing the techniques and then putting yourself into that assertive mindset, you’ll be able to do it. Trust me, I do a whole lot of selling in my business and even though it doesn’t come naturally to me, I’m getting better all the time.
All of us need to sell. The question is: How well will you sell?