We've all heard of a mysterious creature known as a "born salesman," but I personally have never seen one in the wild. I've met hundreds of good salespeople in my time, and more than a few who would qualify as great, but a guy or gal who popped out of the womb pitching vacuums and tupperware to their obstetrician? Nada.
I'm speaking partly in jest, of course, but only partly. I can sell anybody anything, but I didn't begin that way. When I first started courting potential customers, I had butterflies in my stomach and frogs in my throat. Mastering those nerves took a lot of time and a lot of practice.
If you're like I was, you want to be the next Og Mandino but are unsure of how to proceed. Following these four sales tactics will give you an immediate leg up:
1. Get comfortable with human beings in general.
Successful salespeople are confident, outgoing, charming, knowledgeable, and patient. These are skills as much as inborn traits, and can be practiced anywhere and on anyone.
The beauty of practicing your moves at a party or during a chance encounter with an acquaintance at a grocery store is that there's no pressure. You can blush or stammer or mix up your words without fear of losing your audience.
If there was ever a "fake it till you make it" situation, this is it. At your next Christmas party, introduce yourself to a stranger. Look them in the eye and shake their hand. When in doubt, remember that asking folks questions about themselves will hold their attention.
2. Be a problem solver.
I used to cold call possible clients and offer my services for half the rate of my nearest competitor. It was an incredible deal, but it didn't stop me from doubting myself in the beginning.
Looking back, I'm amazed that I was so timid. Customers should have been beating my door down to get equal quality work for only a fraction of the price.
Whatever product you're selling, remember that your primary goal should be improving the lives of others. If you can honestly claim to do that, customers are lucky to have you. Knowing this will boost your courage and justify your persistence.
3. Learn to really listen.
Feeling awkward or uncertain can tempt you to talk, talk, talk. It can make you overeager to prove yourself and show that you're crammed with knowledge about your industry.
Resist the temptation. An exchange with a customer is like an exchange with a friend--they want to sense that you're interested in them above all else, and that you're free of ulterior motives.
This might seem silly in a discussion about sales tactics, but don't be fooled. Human nature is human nature. Your relationship with your customer is transactional, but then again so is every relationship.
Treat your customer with the courtesy you would show any other person you care about. They'll remember your deference and return for more of the same awesome treatment.
4. Share stories, not just data.
Pretend I'm trying to sell you a new acne treatment. I rattle off a list of statistics:
"Ninety percent of people who tried it said they'd try it again. Over 200 studies have proven conclusively that it opens clogged pores and dramatically reduces pimples after a single month."
And so on. Contrast that with the following:
"One of my customers, John, could hardly look me in the eye at our first appointment--he was that embarrassed about his appearance. I saw him again a few days ago, and he's practically a different person. All his self-consciousness had disappeared, replaced by self-assurance. He told me that this product literally changed his life."
Which approach speaks to you more? Data by itself might impress on a superficial level, but ultimately it's forgettable. Combine it with a real story about a real person, however, and you'll speak to the heart as well as the mind of your listener. That's a winning combination.
5. Be authentic.
At the end of the day, you have to be yourself. If you're not--if you try to be someone else instead--you'll eventually get sniffed out as an imposter.
Dress how you dress. Talk how you talk. Killer salesman ship involves no wizardry except the magic of genuine communication. Try it, even if you don't particularly like yourself. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
If the thought of selling scares you, rest assured that you're not alone. That smooth, articulate salesperson who so impressed you at the store the other morning was once in your shoes.
Do what they did. Practice the tactics listed above until they cease being tactics. Your game will get stronger exponentially, and before you know it you'll have others believing you were simply born for the job.