The Art of Selling
Nobody Is a Natural
However much you might or might not think of yourself as a sales person, you engage in selling every day. Most people don't think of themselves in that light, but it's true. Selling is simply the process of motivating a person to make a decision or take action according to what is good for you.
Child-raising involves selling, romance involves selling, getting your department budget proposal approved involves selling. The child staying up beyond its bedtime is selling its parents on letting it stay up: if the kid knows what its doing, the parents give in, and a sale is made. Sometimes the reward of the sale comes with the exchange of money, others it's just getting your way.
Now you are embarking on a business venture. Your intent is to create a successful and profitable business. There is one essential element to any successful business: sales! Without sales, the business does not exist, cannot survive. Even where no product exists, if people don't buy the services, the business has no revenues, therefore no profits.
The good news is, nobody is a natural-born sales person. Sure, some people have a certain enthusiastic, gregarious personal magnetism, but if they can't close a deal, they can't sell, and closing a deal is a matter of technique. Technique can be learned.
Indeed, selling is a learned skill. Anyone can learn to sell by learning the fundamental principles that underlie the techniques. The following principles represent how we have distilled these techniques down to an understandable theory. If you will learn the theory and apply it in practice, then you, too, can sell!
The Philosophical Orientation of Successful Selling
They are oriented toward the concept that people buy in order to solve a problem or to fill a need (and an unmet need is a problem). These needs exist in the eye of the beholder, but if a person genuinely feels a need, it is real, even if nobody else would feel that need.
How does that relate to us in our salesperson role? We must know what need the other person feels. If we know that, we can then fulfill the need, which solves the problem, and we have a sale!
On the other hand, if we don't mutually discover the need, any solution we offer will lack validity in the mind of the other person. A salesperson who tries to push a solution on a person without having discussed the person's needs loses credibility.
So how do we discover these needs? The following principles all aim in that direction. These principles are universal. They are general enough that they universally apply in any sales situation.
The Fundamental Principles of Selling
We see a few basic principles that inform any sales presentation or action:
To illustrate how to do this, consider this example, which we refer to as a F.A.B. outline. This is named in honor of Fab laundry detergent, but it fits nicely to show some of the essential elements of a sales presentation.
F.A.B. Outline for Discount Mortgages
When Fab laundry detergent was introduced back before most of us were born, it had a particular new feature that set it apart from all other laundry detergents: a blue crystal. Since the crystal contained bleach, it naturally whitened and brightened the clothing being washed.
The advertising campaign for Fab provides a nice example of how to explain features and benefits. We can create a F.A.B. outline to see how it is done. The initials, F.A.B. stand for "features," "advantages," and "benefits." Here is a F.A.B. outline for Fab laundry detergent, as the advertising campaign was seen by the target market, i.e., the housewives in dresses and high heels, à la June Cleaver:
A blue bleach crystal right in the package
It makes the laundry whiter and brighter
Your husband and your children will love you more
This benefit, of course, was only implied by the drama of the TV commercial, not explicitly stated. Even in Eisenhowerian America that wouldn't have flown. But the point is the benefit strikes a very emotional chord with the target market. If the advertisements had mentioned only the feature, the response could have been, "oh, that's interesting. Hmmmmmm." The advantage would have elicited "that would be good to have whiter, brighter clothes. Hmmmmm." The benefit had millions of housewives shouting, "I gotta have that soap!"
A person with a real property to sell can deal in two kinds of markets: retail and wholesale. A retail sale would involve the end user, Jim and Susie that plan to live there. The wholesale deal goes to a person who will use the property for business purposes, which may include building on it for resale or rental, or flipping or renting an existing structure.
What you would say to a business person, such as a builder or a property investor, will be different from what you say to Jim and Susie. They have very different needs Therefore, some of the features and advantages below will apply to one target, some to the other, some to both. But in the last analysis, it's the benefits that really matter. People don't buy features, they buy benefits.
An Unimproved Land Parcel
Features, Advantages & Benefits
Feature: The lot is a medium sized building lot in a medium-income and established neighborhood.
Advantage: A finished house will fit well into an area where people already live.
- You can get this lot well below normal market price for that neighborhood.
- Your cost of acquisition will allow you to make a substantial profit upon sale of the new house.
- Because you pay such a low price for the lot, you can sell the house for well below market value for a quick turn-around at normal profits
Feature: The lot is located in a planned recreational community with woods, hills and multiple lakes.
Advantage: The property will be excellent for a vacation house and for weekend get-aways.
- You can create a family tradition and benefit with a place to relax and have fun together.
- This property gives you a wide variety of fun activities, from boating and fishing to swimming, hiking, tennis, and bird-watching.
- The low cost of this lot gives you a vacation retreat at an affordable price.
Feature: This is a three-bedroom house in an established low-to-medium income neighborhood.
Advantage: This property lends itself to a solid income property situation.
- Property purchase prices are very low in low-income neighborhoods so you enjoy a great annualized return on investment.
- Low-income neighborhoods allow you the great benefits of Section 8 subsidized rents including a long waiting list of potential tenants (you have no vacancy problems) and well-behaved pre-screened tenants.
- You have a double-digit return on investment.
- You have solid, steady income without having as many tenant problems.
A final word on features and benefits:
A feature is about a thing or an idea. A benefit is about the person listening to the presentation. That's why the benefit statements all use the word "you."
The features create the framework for the presentation of information; the benefits provide the filler. A good way to tie up a series of benefit statements is a "yes-no" question that allows the customer to confirm the benefit: "do you see how if you were to work with HUD and a Section 8 subsidy, you never have long-term vacancies because of high demand, plus a steady income?"
Your biggest strength in selling is your ability to explain things orally, especially if you can listen closely to the potential buyer; this means the buyer feels good about you and you are hearing the hints and clues the buyer tells you about to fulfill his or her needs. But this structure applies equally as well to the written ad or presentation. In a written medium the probe must be done without interaction between the salesperson and the customer, but as long as the customer senses that feeling of need, the probe can be effective.