Everything in life is sales. From inviting your child to do her homework, to deciding where to go for dinner, to encouraging a colleague at work, the situations we encounter daily are filled with the dynamic of sales and persuasion. And, unfortunately, most of what you know about sales is wrong.
What is Sales?
My favorite example of sales comes from a scene from the classic Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street.
In Miracle, the Macy’s department store Santa asks each child who sits on his lap what they want for Christmas. Santa then tells the family where they can purchase that toy at the best price, even if it means at a competing department store. At first, the store manager is outraged that Santa is supporting his competitors – until he sees enthusiastic customers returning to Macy’s because of the excellent customer service. The value to Macy’s of Santa’s recommendations is greater than the sale of a single children’s toy; it’s customer loyalty.
Sales is having a clear solution – a service, opportunity or opinion – that can help to solve somebody’s problem. Like Santa, good sales means aligning yourself with the interests of the person you are talking to, to discover if your solution is a good fit for them. If it is, invite them toward your solution, and if not, move on.
How to Do It Wrong
Sales and persuasion are most often practiced with pressure and urgency.
Think of the reputation of a car salesman – pushy, fast-talking, deceptive. They aren’t considering what is best for the customer. They only want to sell a specific car at the best possible price. The result: nobody enjoys the experience and the customer won’t recommend that product or service in the future.
Pressure and urgency can work, but only in the short-term. They don’t increase trust or loyalty.
How to Do It Right
A Process of Discovery
Done well, sales and persuasion should be a process of discovery. Instead of using force, inquire about what your friend wants to eat for dinner. Get curious about why your colleague doesn’t want to do the work assigned to them.
When you start by asking questions about what someone is looking to solve – for themselves, their business, or their family – you’ll discover if what you are selling is a good fit for the other person.
People relate through the stories that you tell them, so share your experience, too. As I discussed in “Everything is Storytelling,” your story should be brief, personal and relatable.
Useful Beliefs About Sales
Abundance – If the person you are talking to doesn’t want the solution you are offering, somebody else will. There are between 7 and 8 billion people in the world today. If the person you are talking to is not a good fit, move on.
Believe it – Believe in what you are selling. That doesn’t mean that it is valuable to every single prospective buyer, only they can tell you that. But believing that it is valuable in the world makes closing easier, genuine, and fun.
Decrease the stakes – There are very few game changing moments in life, and this specific sale isn’t likely to be one of them. Whether or not you make this sale today isn’t likely to matter over the course of your or your customer’s life.
Autonomy – Foster the belief that everybody knows what’s best for themselves. You aren’t trying to convince anyone, but rather inviting them to entertain if what you’re offering is a good fit for them.
Look for “What I’ve learned” – It is useful to hold that even if you don’t close a sale, you will have learned a lot along the way. This practice of iteration and repeated repetitions will make you better at closing future sales.
Put in the Reps
Improving at sales is a matter of practice and incremental improvement. Many of the most successful salespeople and deal makers in the world have practiced tens of thousands of times. Sales is as much a performance as trying out for a sport or auditioning for a play, and practice makes for consistency.
Your Attitude Closes Deals
Who you are and how you show up with a prospective customer is what will determine whether they buy. Who you are closes deals.
Maintain an attitude of enthusiasm and want what is best for the other person. You’ll have a better chance of having things go your way.
Next time you are debating with your spouse about the dishes, trying to get your child to do their homework, or asking an employee to fill out their hours, think of Santa, sitting in Macy’s department store, referring customers to the competition.
Until next time, Robin