The Art of Selling

Nobody Is a Naturalwithin You
Two kinds of questions:
  • Open-ended these are like the essay questions you had in school. You ask open-ended questions with question words (like "what," "how," "when," "who," "why," "where") and invite the person you are talking with to open up and explain his or her feelings. Use open-ended questions to probe and gain the valuable information that will reveal your client's needs to you while causing the client to recognize those needs.
  • Close-ended these are like the short answer or multiple choice or true-false questions in school. These help you guide the progress of the discussion, moving things in the direction you want to go. Most often these will be answered "yes" or "no," although the answer may also be factual information.
  • You control the conversation by asking questions. Imagine you meet an old acquaintance on the street, and this person asks you, "so what do you think of this weather?" What do you suppose the two of you will be talking about, at least for a moment? The weather, right? Why? Because you respond to the question.

    Furthermore, how do people respond to a show of genuine interest in their feelings and opinions? Most people do not feel enough appreciation in life Can you see how they might respond favorably to your sincere interest in their opinions and feelings as manifested in your questioning?

  • Your client needs only a limited amount of information to make a decision to buy; you should know clearly what this information is and outline it so that you can present individual points in a logical sequence.

    Having the material broken down into separate bullet points (or factoids or essential concepts) limits the content and the scope of your discussion Without limitations, you may find yourself off the path floundering in the swamp of irrelevant information where you may get in over your head, which is embarrassing, or overwhelm the client, which is frightening for the client nervous people don't buy stuff.

    The number of essential concepts you should present depends both on the product or service and the needs of the client. Obviously you would never begin presenting the concepts before you have probed and discovered the client's needs.

  • Every time you present or discuss one of the essential concepts, give related statements of benefit. Professional sales people will tell you, "people don't buy features, they buy benefits." Consequently, a successful car salesman doesn't just say, "this model has ABS brakes," he or she adds, "and of course, that means that you and you family members are much safer because you have much more control in the case of an emergency." It is important that the customer feel the benefit, not just understand the concept.

    If people were moved only by concepts, nobody would smoke, everybody would be kind to their neighbors, and we would have no wars. But we are moved by our feelings, and the two major feelings are the avoidance of pain and the anticipation of pleasure. Stating benefits allows the client to anticipate pleasure.

    To nail down the benefit, it is good to follow with a simple yes-or-no question that allows the client to affirm the benefit, such as "do you see how the ABS brakes will help you take better care of your family and make driving this car a lot more relaxing for you?" If the client says, "yes," which he or she probably will, it is much the same as though the client says, "ABS helps me take better care of my family." If the client says it, it must be true - at least in the client's mind!

  • When you want the client to commit to something, or to take action, or to make a decision, anticipate in your mind and in your statements the desired result. What do you want to see happen? Act accordingly. Act as though it is a foregone conclusion that the client will buy, or that the person will accept your proposal. People respond to confident leadership. They don't respond well to wishy-washy waffling.

    One good way to elicit positive responses is to provide two options to choose from, either one of which is a yes for you. An example might be,"this widget comes in either a blue model or a red model. Which color do you want to order?" Whether it's blue or red, you have a deal. That doesn't mean you will never hear a no, but at least you didn't invite it by making "no" an option.

    Think about what you are presenting when you use a "yes-or-no" question to close a deal. Even if you are only asking a business owner for an appointment to come in and discuss what you are offering, offering two ways of saying yes works better.

    Consider these two forms of asking:

    • "Would it be OK if I came in Thursday to show you how this works and see if I can be of service for you?"
    • "I'd like to come in Thursday to show you how this works and see if I can be of service for you. I could do that either late morning or sometime in the middle of the afternoon. What works better for you?"

    Obviously, the business owner could reply, "I don't really want to talk to you at all." But at least you didn't provide him the "No" as an option.

These principles do not cover the entire art of selling, but they summarize the basics. You may wish to engage in graduate studies by obtaining books or tape programs from such trainers as Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins or Zig Zigler in order to advance your abilities.
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.
Benefits: Multiple
  • 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.
You can get everything in life you want as long as you help enough other people get what they need.

Zig Ziglar