Learning the Basics of Sales

Posted by Poppy Behrens on Mar 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM


By Tron Jordheim

Rent It Up! Now that you are ready to get your selling culture moving in the right direction, you will need some specific instruction on the art and science of sales. Some of this may seem like the same old speech on sales that you have heard before, but chances are you need to hear it again. If you are a golfer, you know that you need to always work on your game and review fundamentals. Why should sales be any different?

In this article I hope to bring you some basic selling skills that you can use no matter what you sell, no matter what you do, because you are always selling something—if not just yourself, your ideas, your desires, your products, your services. So Sales 101 should bring you some of the basic sales skills that successful salespeople use every day.

The first rule of selling is this: You can’t sell anyone anything. You can however help people talk themselves into buying just about anything.

Read the first rule of selling again. No, really, go back and read it again.

If this rule is true, then learning to sell is all about helping people talk themselves into buying from you. Okay, read on.

The first thing in sales is the introduction. Now, you hear some sort of an introduction any time when you walk into a store or make a phone call to a business: Hello, how are you? How can I help you? Thanks for calling. My name is Joe. What can I do for you? An introduction is very important, but maybe not for the reason you might think. You might think it is important for branding or for telling the caller or the visitor something about your differentiating factors. No. The reason that the greeting is important is because a good greeting gives you a chance to smile with your prospect. Notice I did not say “smile at your prospect.” Smile with your prospects. The power in a greeting is in a shared smile. You want people to hear you smile and see you smile because they want a friendly exchange with someone. They want to share a smile with someone. Make it happen.

How many times have you gone into a store, and the retail person on the other end of the counter looked at you with a bored or even annoyed look and said, “Hello,” and that was it? How much fun was that? How many times have you made a phone call to a business, and it was clear to you that you interrupted the person from whatever they were doing, and you got a frown, a gruff, or even a grump? How fun was that? No fun at all! What was your buying mood at that point? Close to zero, right? Let’s not do that! Smile. Say hello. Use your name if you want; don’t use your name if you don’t want to. It doesn’t matter. The whole point of the introduction is to share a smile with people immediately during their first seconds of being in your space.

A good smile breaks the ice, releases the tension, and tells your prospects that you are a real person who values their time, their feelings, and their money. Yes, all that happens in just one good smile. I don’t care what you say in your introduction as long as it is not ridiculous or long-winded. You have to say it with a smile and you have to mean the smile when you give it. An insincere smile is worse than none at all.

Now that you have a good greeting that is going to give your prospects a smile and put them in the mood to listen to you, let’s get on with helping them talk themselves into buying from you.

The next thing you need to do in any kind of selling is to ask some good discovery questions. Wait a minute, you say. Why are you asking questions? Shouldn’t you be selling something? No! You can’t sell people something by rattling at them and telling them this and that, and going on and on about stuff that probably doesn’t mean anything to them anyway. That’s not how you sell to people. That is certainly not how you help people talk themselves into buying from you. That’s how you get people to walk out of your store or, even worse, that is how you get them to close off their minds to you.

How you sell to people is to ask them some good qualifying questions. For instance: Why did you pick up this book? What are you looking for in sales training? What techniques do you try that don’t work for you? When have you been frustrated when trying to make a sale? Those are discovery questions.

So what you need to do is to find what questions work well for what you are selling. How many times have you walked into a clothing store and the retail person has asked, “Can I help you today?” That’s not a qualifying question; that’s an invitation for you to say, “No, I’m just looking, thanks” and shut off the whole process. How many times have you walked into a retail shop and the person has said to you, “Hi! Are you shopping for yourself, or are you looking for a gift for someone else today?”

Well, how do you get away from that one? You can’t just go, “Never mind. I’m just looking.” It isn’t that easy. You’re now in a conversation. You have to say, “Well, my mother-in-law has a birthday coming up and I have no idea what to buy for her; and I’d better buy her something because she did something really nice for me a couple of weeks ago.” Oh, my gosh! Now the sales person knows what you want and how to help you. That’s why you ask good discovery questions. There is no other way to know how to help your prospect talk himself into buying. So figure out what discovery questions work well for what you’re selling, and then learn to listen.

Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart. PhoneSmart is a sales solutions provider for self-storage owners, offering call center, secret shopping, sales training, lead follow-up, lead generation, ad tracking, and on-site recording services. Tron is a frequent writer and presenter for the self-storage industry