Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Selling as an art form

Starting with the facts and adding your personal talents

Too often there is something that appears as a result of people that have recently been to a class which trains them how to sell. What appears is some form of a script that they have been taught and they decide to use it.

The situation is somewhat like a person that has never been around tools before. You show that person a slotted screwdriver and they think the screwdriver is to be used to fix everything; one end is a hammer and the other can be a chisel, pry bar, and anything else necessary to fix something.

You see this salesperson using the script they have been taught in every situation they are in. Some folks have memorized the script so well you would think they have a teleprompter nearby. However, what is missing is true sales skills.

To begin with, you do not train people how to sell. Cats, dogs, and people in fast food restaurants are trained. Good sales people are educated in utilizing verbal and visual tools to help them in conversing with their customer. These good sales people then use the information they have learned and adapt it to each of the sales situations they find themselves in.

Selling is not about learning a script, but is instead about learning the science of how people respond to certain prompts. Selling is learning how people give information when they talk; how their body movements convey messages and how to engage that customer so they will tell more about what their interests truly are.

Some may think this is true only in a sales situation in which the customer is in a jewelry or clothing store; a situation in which the customer has wandered in looking for something and is open to a suggestion of a different or additional product. Let’s look at a customer that is ‘need shopping’ using a lumber yard as an example.

Think about a customer that is on the sales floor and sees a display of tape measures. The tape measure has something about it that is different than other tape measures; the case is a different color; the belt clip is different or some other feature that allows the lumber yard to put a sign that says this product warrants being looked at. The customer decides to buy one of the tape measures just because the sales person points it out.

What about the customer that has sent in an order? The salesperson calls the customer to confirm receipt of the order and to ask a question to clarify something. The salesperson then asks the customer what they are going to use for part of the job. From that brief interaction, the customer then adds to the order. That’s selling.

Think there is little or no need for selling? Just visit the job site of one of the contractor customers to see all the materials being used on the job. How much of all that material came from the lumber yard of the person making the visit to the site? If the customer is asked about where they get certain materials, the answer may be, “I always get my windows from (competitor A). I always get my trusses from (competitor B).”

The salesperson can take these answers as information and move on from there. Or the salesperson can ask additional questions to learn why his lumber yard is not getting additional parts of the order. Answers from the customer can provide insight as to what the yard needs to do to gain additional business from the contractor and push a competitor out of the picture.

Yes, there is the possibility the answer from the contractor could be price difference. A lesser salesperson will take that answer and attempt to find a way to lower his price. Working with a group in another part of the country, this writer listened to a group of outside sales people state how a better price would help them get more business.

The question was asked, “How much of a price drop do you need to have so that you get all the business you want?”

The answer was, “5% would do”.

The suggestion for a solution given, but not well received, was simple and proved the need for sales skills. “Since you sales people work on an 8% commission, we could fire all of you, drop prices by the 5% you have suggested and the business will make an additional 3%”.

This was not the answer the salespeople wanted to hear. The point was to say that if a business has the lowest price on everything, there is little need for salespeople because the reputation of having the cheapest price will draw customers. The better salespeople find that price is not a lead factor for many customers.

Speaking with a group of contractors, the question was asked about checking prices. Not surprising, the contractors said they are checking prices less than 10% of the time; even when they are renting heavy construction equipment that rents for thousands of dollars per day. The answer from the contractors was, “There isn’t that much of a price difference from vendor to vendor. What matters most to us is time. Can you get me the materials when I need them? If I have a problem, will the vendor take care of it for me so that I can get the job completed?”

The better salesperson has asked the customer what is most important. The better salesperson has made suggestions of products to customers. The better salesperson knows that better selling is a science that has been taken to an art form; applying their personal style and technique in different formats in varying sales situations because selling cannot be scripted if it is to be successful.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179