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STRATEGY

Get the Most Out of Sales: 3 Smart Ways
 

Sales is not about you or your pitch. It's about listening and responding to what your customer is asking for. Here's how.

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Lots of entrepreneurs have great ideas and are passionate about them. Unfortunately, thinking big and talking loud does not always mean success in selling them. Whether you have to do the selling yourself or need to train someone else to do it for you, try these three tips to get the most out of every selling situation. 

Dialogue, don't monologue.

Too often, sales people come into a selling situation with a preconceived idea of what they are going to sell, and how they are going to sell it. They start the conversation with a long-winded monologue about their product and all of its benefits, and are then surprised when the answer is no. Selling is not about delivering a pitch—it's about guiding a dialogue. If you want to get to a "yes," think about what that "yes" implies.  A "yes" means matching the right person with the right product. And finding out if your product is right for a customer cannot be done as a monologue.

When you dive into any selling situation, you should be asking questions, not reading from a script. I spoke to one of our wholesale customers a few weeks ago and asked if he had tried a new product we had recently brought in.  He said no and told me he was not interested.  Instead of giving up, I asked him if he had clients who had trouble with another type of product typical of our industry.  It turned out he did. When I then re-suggested the product I had first mentioned as a solution to his clients' problem with the standard product, he decided it was worth trying.  By asking questions, you can learn about your customer's business, and then offer your product as a part of his business strategy, rather than a random stand-alone item you are trying to pitch.

Tell the customer the truth.

The most detrimental thing you can do when selling is lie. Whether it is a "small" lie like telling the customer a product he is interested in sells well when it does not, or a mammoth lie, like making false claims about the benefits of your offer, lying will turn your sale sour every time. In every selling situation, keep in mind that you are not trying to take someone's money, but rather to gain his trust. Looking at the sale from this angle will help you to build your business in both short-term dollars and long-term growth. 

At a company I once worked for, we were given certain items to push weekly.  Sometimes, I thought the item was terrible, and I did not feel I could truthfully tell customers to buy it, but my boss was insistent that the item be talked up.  I kept my integrity while meeting his demand by telling my customers that we had a new product, but also giving the customers the real scoop on the item—including the fact that I personally thought it was ugly or useless. That way, if my customers still thought it might be right for one of their clients, they had the information they needed to make a buying decision. Sometimes the customers bought the product and sometimes they didn't—but they always knew they could trust my judgment.  Gaining their confidence allowed me to ask them to try new things when I knew they really needed to, and it also got me great referral business. 

Sell the customer what she wants.

Flexibility in sales is crucial. A customer will always tell you what she wants—and it may not be exactly what you originally had in mind to sell her.  Altering your offer to meet the customer's need usually just requires tweaking your proposal slightly. The ability to do so can help both you and your customer win big.

Last week, I went to a high-end chocolatier to buy a gift. I randomly picked a medium-size box to fill, and started selecting the chocolates I wanted. When I got to the end of the selection process, I requested three pieces of the last flavor, but the saleswoman said three would not fit neatly in the box.  I told her I didn't mind if she had to turn the last one sideways (noting there was clearly space to do so), but she refused.  Instead of seizing the opportunity to upgrade me to a bigger box, she prioritized her presentation aesthetics over my buying needs.  In the end, she sold three less pieces because I decided to skip the last flavor.  Then, because I was unhappy about the situation, I told several people about my bad experience with the store, probably costing the proprietor more customers.  Changing her offer slightly would have given me a better experience and would have cost her nothing.  Her inflexibility closed the window of opportunity, rather than the higher value sale.

Like the old adage we're taught in school about how to successfully cross the street: all you need to do is stop, look, and listen. Stop thinking the sale is about you and your pitch. Look at the selling benefit through the eyes of your customer. Listen and respond to what she is asking for. Doing so will get you the most out of every selling situation. 

Last updated: Apr 13, 2012

In 2004, VANESSA MERIT NORNBERG opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009.
@vanessanornberg




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