The Art of Selling – Part 1

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Previously we’ve looked at what’s important in setting up a new business. We covered naming and branding, building a website and then ways you can drive potential customers to your site and convert them into opportunities.

Today, this is useful for anyone selling something in person, rather than online. Even if you don’t have your own business or work in sales, you will find tips here you could apply when selling yourself to a prospective employer in your next job interview. The same rules apply.

Here’s my quick guide to ways you can make an immediate difference to your sales results overnight.

You are the product.

The first thing to remember is the adage “people buy from people”. Everyone is different and in business, generally speaking, people are far less likely to buy a product or service from someone they do not like or believe. You represent what you are selling so if you don’t believe in what you are selling, why should anyone else? When you are pitching for business, make sure you tick all of the following boxes. The more you get right, the more you will sell.

  • Be confident and likeable.You need to be confident in yourself, not just in your product. Confidence is attractive. If you find you lack confidence, it will kill your sales pitch quicker than anything else. You should invest time and effort in things that will boost your personal confidence. The number one way to boost your confidence is by having more knowledge. The rest comes with time and simply by working at your weaknesses. Your goal is to get your customer to like you.
  • Demonstrate knowledge.You must show that you are highly knowledgeable; not just about what you are selling but your industry and your market to the fullest extent. This means being aware of your competitors and what makes them good or bad from your customer’s perspective, trends in the industry and anything that could be useful to you as coming across an expert.
  • Be your best self.Who impresses you and who do you remember buying from? The sales people that routinely do best are those who present themselves well and who come across successful; if you seem successful your product must be good, right? Believe it or not, personal presentation is a major factor. You should always look smart, happy and healthy – present yourself in the very best way you can. Nobody likes buying from someone who seems miserable or someone recovering from a heavy weekend!
  • Belief and passion are infectious.You want your potential customer to warm to you from the moment you shake hands and to be as interested in your product as you are. Make conscious efforts to communicate what makes your product great with energy. Drab, boring, drawn-out pitches switch customers off so concentrate on how they are reacting and keep them engaged in what you’re saying. Keep it to the point, deliver your points with passion and show you love your product – chances are the customer will love it too.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

You will live or die by the early stages of your sales journey with a customer and it is very easy to get this part wrong. You need to win your customer over in small steps and every moment of contact you have with them is a moment where they will form a judgment about you; good or bad. Golden rule: Work as hard as you can, at all times, to read how your customer feels.

Another example of this that I see far too frequently is when people simply turn up at a company and ask to see someone without an appointment. It may not seem so, but this can come across rude and result in your first impression being a very negative one. Your contact is almost certainly busy at the time you call and you’re essentially demanding their time at your convenience, not theirs. Never do this.

Sales is a journey not a transaction.

A big mistake people make when selling is to try and close the deal way too soon. Depending on what it is you’re selling, the sales process can take anything from an hour to a year or longer. The sales process will not be dictated by you. It’s dictated by your customer and what they feel comfortable with. Let me give you an example, I’ve had sales people come and see me, sell me a great product with passion, then hand me a 4-page contract to sign at our very first meeting. That, for me, is an immediate red card. Nobody should feel pressured to buy; it’s unnecessary and it doesn’t work.

Listen, learn and know your audience first.

Knowledge is power in sales. Your aim is to build rapport and mutual respect and the best way to do this is to LISTEN. What you receive is far more valuable than what you have to say. If you learn about your customer first, you have the advantage of tailoring your pitch in a way they will be most responsive to.

It’s all about timing. And people’s time.

A crucial tip when speaking to people is to listen to how they first greet you. You’ll be able to tell if they sound like they are having a good day or a bad day. Let’s say you have made a phone call and they sound as though they’re having a bad day. You should always ask “Is now a good time?”. It demonstrates your skills of perception, your consideration for them as a person and shows respect. It’s far better to call back on a good day than take up any of their them on a bad day – even if you turned up for a meeting. Your prime window for success is a happy customer on a good day that isn’t knee-deep in other things.

Be respectful of people’s feelings and people’s time. It will be remembered positively that you appreciated the importance of their time and will go in your favour. Emails are much harder but try to read between the lines in the same way and look at the words someone uses. Never be too pushy, over-bearing or intrusive and know when to take a step back: Proactive and keen is good and it will be respected. Be pushy and over-persistent to your detriment as you will end up with the customer dreading hearing from you, avoiding you then writing you off.

Position and focus your pitch around the customer.

It’s absolutely natural to form a bit of a sales “patter” over time. You will notice the things you say that people tend to react to best and keep using them. An easy trap to fall into is to say the same things in the same way so always personalise things for your audience, never work to a script or a standard pitch. As mentioned earlier, at the start of a conversation you should encourage your customer to speak first and tell you about them, their business and what they are looking for. Listen and learn. This is the most valuable part of the process. They will give you lots of clues in the things they say, and what they focus on, that you can then respond to directly – so take notes. Selling to them is then a fairly simple process; repeat back to your customer the things you believe are important to them and explain how your product addresses those things and will be good for them. Simple!

That’s the first half of my crash guide to better selling, for more help – one to one, we have a team of marketing consultants that can offer their services, get in touch and click here.

Next month we’ll get into how you can increase the effectiveness of your pitch times ten – by building rapport. Until next month.

Read Part 2 of The Art of Selling

Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine