For most people, the word “sales” brings up an image of either a dodgy, greasy looking type with a gold watch and an inability to understand the word “no” or a voice on the end of the phone when you are sitting down for dinner with the family, insistently insinuating that your life won’t be worth living if you don’t take advantage of the latest phone deal or insurance package. Ask people for adjectives that spring to mind when they think about salespeople and you won’t hear a lot of complimentary ones!

But here’s the rub! Pretty much all of us are selling something a lot of the time… a consultant in their first meeting with a new client is selling; it might not feel like it but the person you meet will continue to use your services based on how well you sell yourself and your offering. A lawyer trying to snag a new client will get the business based not on their knowledge, but their ability to show that knowledge and how they can apply it to the client’s needs.

No matter how much the idea of “selling” horrifies you, you are going to need to know how to do it, because at some point in your professional life you will be put into a situation where you need to sell something

I recently bought double glazing – a horrible process with an incredibly aggressive and horrible sales technique, however it did give me a great platform for giving a few useful hints and tips for anyone that is selling anything (or not as the case may be!):

Decisions, decisions?

Our window salesman, when booking the appointment, insisted that both myself and my wife were present and when he turned up spent nearly the whole time addressing me. If he’d had an ounce of sense, he would have worked out very early on that my wife was going to be the decision maker. The signs were all there for him, but he failed to pick up on them. In any situation when you are dealing with more than one person, odds are that one will have a greater say in the final decision – and it’s not always obvious which one that will be. You are not always going to be able to work it out, so make sure you give equal time to everyone in the room, rather than concentrating on the most receptive person and sticking with them.

Shut up and Listen!

The salesman spent nearly an hour and a half telling me about the finer points of window construction, including a 10 minute monologue about the gap between panes (which I’d love to say I listened to) believing that the more features he told me about, the more excited I would become. About five minutes in I distinctly remember saying that I didn’t care about how the windows were made I simply wanted to know how much they cost. If he’d paid any attention he would have been in and out in twenty minutes. Simply put, telling isn’t selling! People think much faster than they speak, so the longer you talk, the more likely your client is to start thinking about dinner, or the weekend, or anything else that pops into their head! Ask the right questions and let your client speak – let them tell you what you can help with rather than the other way round!

Talk about outcomes

Have In mentioned how little I care about the finer points of window construction? What I do care about is that my house is a bit warmer and I have doors that open without needing to be wrenched! Something our salesman could have worked out if he’d listened and then talked about the possible outcomes of buying double glazing. The minutiae of your service is usually lost on your client, they are not really interested in how you are going to solve their problem – they want to know that you are going to solve their problem. If you have asked the right questions and let them tell you what they need, you can concentrate on the outcome of working with you – because that is really all they are interested in.

Price, Value and Integrity

The absolute worst part of the double glazing process!! At one point I was seriously considering slamming the salesman’s head in one of the sample windows until he came up with an actual price. It was incredibly frustrating, he called his boss (the speaking clock) spoke to the factory (his mum) and managed to “help us out” by turning an astronomical figure into a significantly smaller one.

A lot of sales training is based on a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between price and value – it’s absolutely true that price is what you pay and value is what you get – but this is underpinned by the fact that the starting price makes sense for what you get. By starting at a ludicrously high figure and quartering it, our salesman put doubt in our mind about his integrity – if we’d said yes to his first price we would have been horribly ripped off and who wants to deal with the person that is happy to do that? If you have a good service that solves the clients problem at a price that they feel reflects the value they are getting, they will probably engage your services.

In the end we did buy the double glazing, not because of the salesman but in spite of him – given my way I’d have stuck with the sticking doors and leaky windows. We bought from this particular company because we couldn’t face talking to another double glazing company.