I used to be a Branch Manager for a college entrepreneurship company. This “college internship” ended up resembling a sales job rather than an opportunity to learn how to run my own business. That said, I did learn a remarkable amount about the sales world. I became good at sales, even though I am not a salesman.
Seriously, working in sales is probably one of the very last things I would like to do. I’m introverted, I’m not charismatic, and the idea of trying to sell a product to someone makes me extremely uncomfortable. My job involved A LOT of door-to-door sales, which I’m pretty sure I have a phobia of. When I played football in high school, we players had to participate in a fundraiser and go door-to-door selling coupon cards. If you didn’t sell your quota, you would be punished with some pretty intense conditioning at practice. I took running-until-feeling-like-you-would-throw-up over going door-to-door. That’s how much I hated it.
Yet here I was, just a couple years out of high school, going door-to-door, and doing well. I did so well, in fact, that in the beginning of my internship, I was in 1st place among all other branch managers in the nation when it came to total sales. How is this possible for someone who is not a salesperson?
During my internship, I learned all the best sales tactics. I learned how to “objection handle.” I learned how to “build rapport.” We were taught a “script” to use anytime a potential customer brought up an objection.
If he said he couldn’t afford it, we were to say that, “You’d be surprised how inexpensive a painting crew of college kids can be. Plus, I’m offering a free estimate. It couldn’t hurt just to know how much it would cost.”
If he said he is a “do-it-your-self-kinda-guy,” we were taught to point out how long it can take to paint an entire house by yourself. If you painted only on weekends, it could take you half the summer by yourself.
If he said he didn’t want inexperienced college kids painting his house, we were to point out how all our painters were trained and certified by Sherwin Williams (this, however, turned out to be a lie).
If he said his house didn’t need painted, we were to point to some paint chipping from the house, or say we noticed the paint looked a little faded if we couldn’t find any chips.
You get the idea. We branch managers were taught every objection a customer could potentially come up with, and how to handle it. Not all of these objection-handling tactics were deceptive or manipulative, but as you have probably gathered, a lot were. I knew all the slick sales moves that salesmen get a bad reputation for. However, these tactics don’t work if you’re looking to run a moral and successful business for the long haul.
Of course, for someone who is a natural salesman, these under-handed strategies may work. After all, they wouldn’t still be in use if they didn’t. But if you want to run a business that is both successful and moral, and you’re not a salesman, we have to abandon the idea of trying to get someone to buy.
Well now what? How can you get someone to buy without trying to get them to buy? Should you just cross your fingers and hope you get lucky? Not all. The answer is simple: seek the good of your customer.
Huh? That’s right. The Golden Rule is the answer. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
1. Truly care about your potential customer; don’t be nice and seem interested in them just to get a sale.
Don’t be fake. People are valuable, and not things to be used. Develop a relationship with them. Really do care. If you do, then you will know if your product truly is the best thing for them. If so, then you can recommend it with confidence, knowing how much it will benefit them. Even if they never make a purchase, you will have made a friend and made a difference in someone’s life. And that is what is truly valuable.
If you have a great product that you really believe will help your potential customer, then let them know about it! Can you think of any products that you love and use every day? Now think if you didn’t have it? Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you about how great it is so you can get it and it can help you?
For example, I love the writing tool Scrivener. It allows me to keep all of my thoughts, drafts, outlines, pictures, research, anything related to my writing project, in one simple organized place. I can easily find anything I need related to my latest article or novel, and also easy sort. It’s a fantastic tool that every writer should have. I’m so glad I found out about it from a friend (who, as it so happens, wasn’t trying to sell it to me).
Be a friend to your customers. No, this doesn’t mean you hang out with them or call them up for a friendly chat on weekends, but like a friend, you look out for their best interest. If your product is great, simply tell them what makes it great and how it can help them, like you would a friend.
Of course, this is contingent on your product. Do you have a great product? If not, you’re not going to have much success selling it. How are you going to be able to convince someone they should buy something that won’t help them? If you don’t have a great product, you should probably get out of your business now and not waste any more time. Instead, find a product you do love, that can help people, and that you can be passionate about. It will sell itself. Not sure if you have a great product?
If someone was living in a house without a roof, you wouldn’t need to be a good salesman to tell them about the value of roofs. You could easily point out how a roof would protect them from the elements, keeps out pests, and grants them privacy from those annoying hang-gliding neighbors. You could go on and on about how great roofs are without knowing anything about sales. Why? Because the product—a roof—is such a must-have with a great many benefits to the owner!
2. Focus on the benefits to them rather than the actual product and its features.
How is it in the best interest of your customer to have your product?
Notice, in the above example I did not simply list the features of a roof. I did not say, “It’s angled and comes to a point at the top which is a very nice feature because it will allow rain to run off.” No, instead, I pointed out how this product would specifically help this particular person. This particular potential customer has been annoyed by the presence of hang-gliding neighbors peering into their roofless home. A roof would definitely help solve this particular problem of theirs.
Do NOT just talk about the FEATURES of your product, but put your main focus on the BENEFITS to your potential customer! Yes, your potential customer may agree that a roof sounds like a great thing, but what everyone wants to know is what that means for THEM. It’s a very subtle but crucial difference. A good rule of thumb is to focus 20% on the features of product, and a whopping 80% on the benefits to the customer.
So for our roofless customer, for example, only 20% of what you say should be things like, “Our company has been in business for 20 years!” or “Our asphalt is the strongest in the industry! or “We offer the lowest prices in the tri-state area!” The majority of what you say should be things like, ” You will stay super warm and dry during downpours!” or “You will save tons of money over the long-run by not having to replace your furnishings every month!” or “You will achieve peace and privacy from the Smiths and their hanglider!”
Likewise, if you want to be good at sales, even if you’re not a salesman, you need to show what makes your must-have product a must-have for your particular customer, and to do that, you have to truly believe in your product, and care about your customers. If you have that kind of product, then you are well on your way being successful.
3. Share your personal testimony about how the product truly helped you.
Share what things were like for you before you found the product, and how things have changed for the better for you now. You can also share testimonials from others if you have the time or are writing copy, but by far the biggest impact will be your own story, as your potential customer knows you and trusts you. They don’t want to know as much about how it’s helped others, as they want to know how it’s actually helped YOU. Then assure them that if your product worked for you, then it will absolutely work for them! And guarantee that if you can, so there is no risk to for them to give it try!
Think about it. Why do companies to get celebrities to advertise their products? Of course one big reason is that people want to be like these people, and believe using the products they use will help them bridge the gap. However, another reason is that people feel like they know these celebrities. They see these people all the time on TV, that rightly or wrongly, they have the sense that they have come to know them, and believe if the product is good enough for these people they know, it must be for them.
And there you have it! Three ways to be successful in sales even if you aren’t a salesman. In a nutshell, this all boils down to legitimately caring about others, and being passionate about how your product helps them. From there, all you have to do is honestly communicate these two things to your potential customers. Let us know how these strategies work for you!
If you want some more tips on how to start your own successful business, then we highly recommend checking out this free 10 day marketing boot camp!