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The Only Thing You Need to Sell

Updated on April 24, 2013

How to Sell

There is a secret that all good salespeople know and it’s this. You don’t ‘sell’ the product you’re selling, at least not at the start. It doesn’t matter what it is, you only sell that after you have already ‘sold’ the most important product of all.

The art of selling can be viewed as a game of poker, or as a theatrical act. In poker you bluff and in theatre you act. The character is whoever the customer expects you to be, or not, depending on the play, as in poker where you sometimes play a double bluff.

For example, there are countless tales of double-glazing salesmen and the ‘hard sell’ methods they use, which appear in most direct selling environments. It is a well-practiced process. The customer doesn’t need it - create the need. The customer doesn’t want it - create the desire. The customer can’t afford it – sell it on tick. But you only launch into this process after you have sold the most important product of all.

A similar requirement applies to business selling, but this is Shakespeare to the pantomime of direct selling. You play a different role and hard sell tactics never work. But still you sell the most important product of all and if you do it well enough, maybe that is all that’s needed. The rest is just paperwork.

The one single product that you must sell if you are going to sell anything else is you. Learn this rule if nothing else.

People buy from people they like.

The opposite also applies.

People don’t buy from people they don’t like.

I have an allergy to budgies and most cage birds. They give me asthma and I end up wheezing for days. Yet when working in direct selling, if the customer had a budgie I’d be up to its cage going, ‘hello pretty boy,’ because if they like budgies, I like budgies and I know that if they see I like what they like, they will start to like me.

The same applies to cats. I’m not fond of cats, but I have sat fir hours stroking one on my lap while it digs its damn claws into my leg because if the customer’s mangy moggie likes me then I must be a nice guy. And because I’m a nice guy I wouldn’t dream of selling them something they don’t need, don’t want and probably can’t afford.

Cynical maybe, but if you are paid on commission and your wife and child will go hungry if you don’t sell, then you do what you do. The caveat is, buyer beware. So the next time a direct salesperson knocks on your door, I’ll do a hub expanding on this, a confessional if you like, just to show how the odds are stacked against you.

Business selling is much cleaner, but only because the customer knows exactly what you are doing. Larger companies employ dedicated ‘buyers’ often someone that worked in sales so knows all the tricks. Which is why you must sell yourself as someone who also knows all the tricks, and knows they know all the tricks, so knows you won’t pull any, apart from those considered professional or within the rules of the game. It is the difference between playing amateur and professional poker, the difference between pantomime and Shakespeare.

The first thing you do when dealing with a professional company, is make an appointment. Phone, don’t email. You could be speaking with a receptionist, a secretary or in a small company, the person you will have to see, so know what you are going to say. Expressions such as, Um, Ere, Ah are what are called, word whiskers. Using them sends a message and that message is that this person doesn’t know what they are going to say. It is a neon sign in bright letters saying, AMATEUR.

If you have ever wondered why a salesperson seems to have an answer to every objection you make, it is because all salespeople have a script. Some scripts allow for more ad-libs than others, but even these ad-libs are scripted. These scripts include a rebuttal for every objection the customer can make, usually a whole list of rebuttals in case one doesn’t work.

You phone knowing what you are going to say. ‘Good morning/afternoon.’ Smile because if you are smiling you speak with a smile in your voice. Told you it was acting. ‘My name is:’ Give your Christian name and surname. Not Mr, Miss or Mrs ? And especially not Ms. Remember, you are selling yourself, but you don’t know who to, or what they like and dislike and Ms infers feminist tendencies. The message you are sending is one of neutral friendliness. I’m a nice guy, gal and I’m giving my Christian name because I want to be friends.

As well as being an act, selling involves understanding basic human psychology.

‘I would like to make an appointment with the person responsible for buying … … That would be…?’ That is what is called a leading question and they usually work. You want a name. Have a pen handy and write it down. Get the appointment, all well and good. If you don’t get the appointment, wait a week then phone again. Same introduction but now: ‘I would like to make an appointment with Mr, Mrs …..’ It’s a process. Professional salespeople are persistent. Some buyers will feign annoyance at this persistency but in truth it is within the rules of the game.

You can also walk in cold, off the street, but this needs doing properly. Larger companies will have a reception. A good many will have a sign listing who does what. Look for the buyer or relevant individual. Go to reception. This time they can see you smile when you introduce yourself. Other than that it is the same process. You ask to make an appointment. You can give the excuse that you were in the area if you want, but you don’t ask to see the person you want to see. You ask to make an appointment.

The reason is that it is unprofessional. As a professional, you should expect someone who is at work to be busy, to already have appointments and other duties to attend and at this level, you are selling yourself as a professional. You may be seen, which in truth is what you wanted all along, but if so, you offer effusive gratitude acknowledging that you know they must be busy and in general acting as if you genuinely only wanted an appointment. But do not overdo this act and also expect them to be fully aware that it is an act. They are also playing a role, a game, one in which they have just ‘given’ to you and so will expect you to give to them, probably when it comes to negotiating the price. But that infers a sale. Ping pong, the ball goes back and forth.

The same applies to a small business, even a one-man operation. Despite that they may not be so ofay with the game, they will know what they want and still only buy from people they like.

You sell yourself and this includes presentation. You dress the part, suit, tie, a proper case suitable for carrying your display items and please ensure you have all the relevant paperwork you will need.

The advent of self-publishing has led to more and more writers setting out to sell their own books. Yet I know of more than one who has turned up to ask a shop to stock their book, only to discover they haven’t thought to bring an order form. In doing this they have sold themselves as not knowing what they are doing.

Selling is a game of poker involving psychology in which success comes from acting the part the customer expects. You have an advantage because most people expect to like those they meet, or are at least open to liking them, and surely you’d rather be likable than not. Forget the product. Selling yourself is the first and most important step. How to do the rest will follow shortly.


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