I was recently in New York City for business and I stayed in Times Square. If you spend any amount of time there, in addition to other landmarks such as the famous ball that descends on New Year's Eve and, of course, the Naked Cowboy, you will also notice aggressive salesmen roaming the streets selling their goods and services.
They go after almost everyone, especially tourists who easily identify themselves by constantly starring skyward at the tall buildings in the city.
Some may dismiss these modern-day barkers as annoying parasites, but I always stop, from a safe distance, and marvel at the skills these street salesmen have perfected. Although often crude and in your face you can learn a lot from these salesmen who hock everything from umbrellas to theater tickets. So what can you take away from an afternoon watching these guys? Here's what:
The No. 1 rule of thumb is to engage your prospective customer. In Times Square these street merchants will approach anyone, anytime, on any corner. That is how they engage their potential customers. For you it may be picking up your phone to speak with an inbound lead or perhaps it is methodically going through a cold-calling list. Whatever the case you cannot sell if you do not first engage. You must be unashamed and outright about it. That is what you are there to do. Do it.
Perhaps the most underrated skill among salespersons is the ability to get your prospective customer talking. In Times Square, for instance, if you happen to be wearing a Chicago Cubs Jersey they'll say stuff like "Go Chicago" or "How them Cubs doing this year?" All they need is eye contact or any form of response and they have you. "Are you from Chicago?" "Well, welcome to the Big Apple." "So what have you seen thus far?"
They've engaged you and they are getting you talking. In any sales position you must get your prospective customer talking so you can learn what they like, don't like, and need so you can fashion your pitch and your products to fit what they need.
The guys in Times Square are fantastic at listening to what people have to say and using it to get to the next point and the next point until they can get to their pitch. Let's say you offer that you've seen the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square but that you just got into town. Bingo! You said the magic words.
Once they identify the information that they need those Times Square salesmen are masterful pitch men and closers. "You haven't seen the Statue of Liberty?" "Wow, have I got a deal for you." And here comes the pitch...all that from wearing a Chicago Cubs Jersey.