‘Tis the season for buying things, which means someone is trying to sell you those things. Just like you, I’ve been out to my local stores and malls searching for the perfect gifts for my family and friends. I’ve encountered some talented salespeople, but I’ve also experienced those who need better training. It’s inspired me to share my thoughts on what makes a good salesperson.
My entire career has been in sales. I will admit that when I started out, I wasn’t that good. I lacked confidence and some of the basic skills that make the difference between a good salesperson and an exceptional one. Right out of college I was fortunate to land a job as a sales associate for GIANNI VERSACE in Boston. To me, it was the job of a lifetime at 22 years old. However, I found the environment to be totally intimidating. I had gone from selling three pairs of panties for $25.00 at Victoria’s Secret to silk shirts that retailed for $3,000.00. I definitely wasn’t in Kansas anymore!
I was fortunate that the owner of the boutique had recruited some of the best salespeople in the city to run her store. I learned how to sell from the creme de la creme of high-end retail professionals in the city (thank you, Joseph and Lisa, for the tools I still use today!). These people, my friends, could literally sell ice to an Eskimo!
When I became the owner of my own retail store, I used the skillsets I learned working with Joseph and Lisa to train my team. I had a strong sales force for the entirety of my years in business. The aptitude of my salesforce was a massive part of why revenues grew 430% over 13 years!
You may not work in sales, but I believe that at the end of the day we’re all salespeople and we should know the basics of selling. Consider this, when you’re interviewing for that job you really want, or vying for the promotion over a colleague, or trying to get a love interest to go out with you, aren’t you trying to sell yourself so you will be the one chosen? We’re all in sales!
With this in mind, I want to share four basic yet vital skills that successful salespeople practice all the time.
- Research/Qualify. How can you be successful in sales if you don’t know who you’re selling to? Well, you can’t. I believe it’s more important for a salesperson to know more about who their audience is then what it is they’re actually selling. You’ve heard the phrase “fake it til you make it,” right? Selling is about relating. If you can show your subject that you can connect with them in some way and are genuinely interested in fulfilling their need, then you increase your chances of closing the sale. The only way to do this is if you’ve done the proper research on who your subject is. Knowledge of what it is your selling is secondary.
- Listen. I think there is a misperception that great salespeople must have the gift of gab. While I do believe that you have to be able to hold a conversation, I don’t think you have to be a chatterbox. In fact, if you talk too much, you may just talk your way out of the sale. Successful salespeople listen, and they do it exceptionally well. When you let your subject speak, they’re going to feed you all the information you need to sell them what you have. To get them to talk, you need to ask them useful questions. The best ones are always open-ended, which can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.
- Ask. OK, you’ve spent all this time doing your research and precious time listening to your subject. Time is money! You’ve made a connection, and things are flowing nicely. The next, most crucial step, is to ask for the sale. It’s rare you’ll ever be in a situation when your subject says to you “OK, I’m ready to buy. Here’s my wallet”. You have to ask them for their wallet. If you feel like you’ve given your subject all of your attention and have informed them the absolute best on what you’re selling, and they’re still engaged and in tow with you, ASK FOR THE SALE. I have found the ask is the hardest part of the sales process for some people to master. My recommendation is to practice your ask on colleagues, family or friends, and/or in front of a mirror. Literally, practice makes perfect! The more you practice, the easier it will be.
- Follow-up. Whether you’ve closed the sale or not, follow-up is critical. It’s essential for many reasons. First, it shows your subject that you care. Second, it shows the effort and your desire to want to do business with them. Third, it can lead to a referral! When you follow all four steps and don’t close the sale, don’t be discouraged. You may have impressed your subject enough that they will recommend you to someone they know!
To those of you who have a handful more days to sell your hearts out this holiday season, I hope these four basic sales tactics help you close more sales! To everyone else, remember, we’re in positions of selling more than we know, so keep these skills in mind the next time you think you’re in an arena of self-promotion.
With all the love in my heart! XOXO