I remember starting a sales job about 30 years ago when I had no idea about selling. The business I worked for sold fine crystal glassware, mostly to Americans visitors. The boss gave me some literature to read about the product and that was it, I was in sales without a clue about how to do the job.
It turned out to be a disaster, I probably prevented more customers buying than the reverse. My technique was to try and impress them by showing off with my extensive knowledge of fine crystal glassware. 10 days later, I was fired.
Looking back on it I cringe to think how incompetent I was at the time. So for anyone in their first sales job, here are the basics for you to focus on:
1) When a customer appears, open a dialogue with a few friendly words, such as, ‘Good morning, my name is Jim / Jane, if there is something you are looking for or if you have any questions, please ask and I’ll be glad to help you’.
(Your objective here is to present yourself as approachable so that if the customer does have a degree of interest in an item, you can develop the dialogue further and move towards a sale).
2) If the conversation progresses with a question from the customer, reply with a helpful answer and add on your own ‘open’ question.
For example, The customer asks, ‘Is this computer WiFi enabled?’ You can reply, ‘Yes it is. How are you planning to use it? In WiFi hotspots such as coffee houses or airports?’
(The reason for asking an ‘open’ question is that you want the dialogue to continue so that you learn more about what matters to the customer. When you know that, you can make good suggestions about which item will be most suitable for them. And at a later stage, this will help you ‘close’ the sale.
3) When you are showing or describing to the customer an item which does what they have told you they want, make sure that you talk about ‘benefits’ rather than just listing ‘features’.
(A feature is a technical characteristic of an item. For example a laptop computer might have 1 Gig of RAM. Many potential customers won’t know the significance of this. They may become confused rather than excited about buying, if you give them such information in this short form.
Instead, you can say that (for this example) ‘With 1 Gig of RAM, your computer will run faster when you are doing the more demanding tasks, such as editing photos’. When you describe an aspect of the product like that you are explaining how a feature will help the user – that is a ‘benefit’.
4) When you have finished describing the item, ask for the order in a polite and friendly way. A simple phrase is fine, ‘Would you like to take this one?’
(Many sales are lost when the customer is not asked if they would like to buy. So always ask. )
That’s it, work on these basic points and you will be on the way to becoming a skilled sales person. Your employer will recognise that you are doing well and before long you’ll be in line for a pay rise.
If you found this interesting, try my free sales training course to build your skills further.
Robert Seviour is an experienced salesperson, he presents sales training seminars in the UK and internationally.
Essential reading for anyone with a sales role in a technical company: The Selling for Engineers manual