This is a story of self-development. It is also a story of intrigue, dragons, and (shudder) sex so please remove the kiddies from the room before we continue lest they be influenced by the self-development part.
For quite some time, I’ve been on a quest to convince pretty much everyone in the world that they need to know how to sell.
When I started this mission I was surprised to learn that the concept of selling is not highly regarded by – well, pretty much everyone in the world other than those who call themselves salespeople. And, frankly, even some of them had their doubts.
Picture a guy in a plaid jacket, a bad comb-over, reeking of cheap cologne and wearing a fake diamond pinkie ring and that’s pretty much who most people thought of when I mentioned the word salesperson to them.
But, they were wrong. Well, sort of wrong. That guy exists but I wasn’t trying to convince him that he needed to know how to sell. He was too far gone for anyone to help. However, I knew that we all sell, whether we know it or not. And, we all need to know how to sell if we want to be successful in not only business but LIFE.
If you’d like an example of this just take a look at Adam and Eve.
Adam was a lousy salesperson. I mean think about it for a minute. If the only other human in the world was a sexy, good looking, naked woman (I’ve seen Eve’s photos on Facebook) don’t you think he might have been able to sell her on the idea of forgetting about eating apples and, instead doing something else, like having sex?
History is replete with examples of people who have sold for good and for evil. When a teenager says, “But, all the other kids parents let them fight dragons. Why can’t I?” you need to know how to sell. Simply saying “Because, I say so.” is not selling and will more often than not will end badly with the teen getting their ass burned by a fire breathing dragon.
There are all kinds of dragons in the world and selling people on learning how to stay away from or live with them is a daily job for many of us.
Speaking of jobs, unless you are a hermit living alone off the grid and subsisting on nuts, berries and the occasional squirrel (squirrel reference is for Brownson) then you engage in selling unless you are the one person on the planet whose every wish and thought comes true simply by using something Yoda taught you in a galaxy far, far away.
We sell our ideas, wants, needs, and desires to our family, friends, co-workers, bosses, employees, neighbors, lovers, haters, customers, and the IRS.
Since we all sell, doesn’t it make sense to learn how to do it with some degree of proficiency? Why run from the one of the most important things we can do in your lives to help ourselves and to help others?
So, assuming you’re still with me and are now saying, “Okay smarty pants, where do I start?” lets start with something simple that is near and dear to my heart.
Remember these four words. They are the key to being able to sell anything to anyone.
Listen First – Sell Later
Before you ever begin telling or selling anything to anyone you must understand they don’t care how much you know, who you know, how you can help them, why they should listen to you, how much money you have, and especially why they should buy what you’re selling – UNTIL – they know that you are listening to them and that you understand what they are saying to you.
Listening to and telling someone you understand what they said is probably the highest compliment you can pay someone which is pretty damn fine on its own. But, it is the entire foundation for successfully selling. Without it you are only play show-and-tell.
Learning to listen isn’t hard. Keeping your mouth shut is the hard part. You can learn how to do both by asking questions. Begin the communication process by asking the person you want to sell (this works equally well with the entire list of people above including your kids) open-ended questions so that they will begin to talk to you.
Kipling taught us about how to do this in his poem at the beginning of the tale, “The Elephants Child.”
I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
In a business situation, for example, you want to ask questions which will develop and draw out the business case, determine needs and wants, identify problems, and focus on outcomes, expectations, experiences, biases, principles and beliefs. By asking questions, listening, and waiting to speak only after you have a comprehensive understanding of the “big picture” have you earned the right to talk about what you want to sell.
Another benefit of asking the right questions is that it increases the level of trust it allows the other person to feel like they are “buying” rather than feeling like you are “selling”.
Here is another good reason to learn to ask questions and listen. It is a fact that people are more likely to buy from you if they think it is their idea rather than your idea. Asking good questions let people recognize that you care about them and what they have to say. Instead of you selling them…they buy from you.
So, maybe you don’t really know how to sell after all. But, it might be a fine idea to learn how to be a buying facilitator. It might very well help you keep the dragons from the door, temptation at bay, and a smile on your face and those around you.
Bob Poole lives his life following a path with heart. He is an author, father, husband, teacher and student. He writes about Sales, Marketing, Creativity and Leadership at www.PoolesWaterCooler.com. His podcast site is http://bobpoole.libsyn.com/.
He also coaches and consults with individuals and companies who are following their own path and need someone to accompany them for a while. Unlike many consultants who talk a good game, Bob’s many years of experience have taken him taken him from selling door-to-door to Wall Street.
He’s also a heck of a nice guy, sincerely warm-hearted, and fun to work with. He lives in Perkasie, PA with his wife Joann, two dogs, and three cats, and more friendly good nature than you can shake a stick at!
Tims Note: Bobs book ‘Listen First – Sell Later’ was highly recommended by Seth Godin and is a storming introduction to selling ourselves as well as our services or products.