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Advice on simple rules when selling

Imagine if people understood that they are actually sellers. Forget the vacuum- and car salesman for a moment and think about this for a while:

• Do you sometimes persuade others to see something from your perspective or try to get them to do something specific?
• Do you sometimes get people to follow your recommendations?
• Do you sometimes benefit from convincing other people to do something?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you are also a seller (although it doesn't say so on your business card).

With all due respect to sellers of used cars (they have a hard job), they have become the stereotype of what a seller is. You can see him (it's usually a man) in front of you - a sycophantic character that polish up a car wreck and lure people out of money. But there's also another seller and you've hopefully met him/her several times. It's the person who will help you and who cares about you when to buy something. It's he/she who calls you up and asks if everything went well. That's also a part of what it means to be a seller even if you don't think about it, but that's the way you should start thinking about selling now.

So let's wake up the kind of seller inside of you that I'm sure you want to be - and equally sure that your customer and your colleagues want to meet.

What real sellers have in common is this:

1. They listen more than they talk
How can a seller know what you want if they don't listen properly to what you say? Ignorant sellers have already decided what you need and it instantly creates problems. You're talking about a square and they are absolutely fixated on selling a triangle to you. The funny thing here is that if they just listened first, maybe they would find out that their triangle actually could be perfect for you, you just don't know it yet. It's about something as simple as recognizing the customer as a human being, not just as a walking wallet.

2. They ask better questions
The best salespeople are those who gather information about our needs before they expose us to something we should consider. They use questions to understand us better and to strengthen relations between us. It's quite natural to relax more as a customer if the person opposite me seems really interested in the problem I want to solve by leading me towards a certain point by asking smart questions. It means that I also get a chance to think the problem through and nuance the problem myself. Smart questions also reduce the risk of future misunderstandings. This is actually all about attitude. You can tell if you are a person who wants to help others - if you really have the ability to put yourself in their place.

3. They think long term
The ignorant seller wants to fill the budget now - it's one of the big problems with commission wages. You have to make enough money this month now and there's no room to think about the future. It's easy to start thinking in those term even if you have no incentive pays, but it's a huge mistake. It's often said that the best sellers are not selling themselves for a project for today, they sell themselves for your 10 next projects and the beauty of this is that it also removes the pressure from you. You can start treating your customers as partners instead of mayflies. Nice, huh?

4. They build relationships with customers
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of building relationships in business. There is a lot of talk about it because it's true. That is how you and I both work. We’d rather deal with people we already know. One of the best ways to lose business, is to ignore building relationships. The word may sound a bit clinical, but you know what I mean. It's about being available, not just be a business man (or woman), to do things together, perhaps be the clients' primary resource and expert in a field. Someone they can contact and say: “Go ahead.”

5. They follow up on what happens and what has happened
Have you ever been called by someone you bought something from just because they want to check out the situation and make sure you are happy with everything?  Have you as a businessman/woman ever called a customer for that reason? How much would you rate such an action even though you have already paid for your purchase? Wouldn't that make you feel a bit special? I would be touched because it never happens - and more importantly - I would never even think of doing business anywhere else!

6. They don't care about sales techniques
There are techniques for how to sell (more on that later on) and they are effective for controlling calls, but if they're used wrong, they just become ridiculous. Everyone is looking for a magic formula that direct customers to where you want them to be, but it's not that easy if you don't pour your personality into the process and allow the techniques to be tools rather than instruments. There is a difference between using the “technique” of active listening and actually actively listening. When you focus on the result you become more relaxed and use the techniques more as a support to reach a target where the customer truly is the one who is the king.

7. They help customers to buy
You don't want someone to just sell you anything, you want to make a decision yourself and then buy. A good salesperson helps their customers see the value of what they are considering purchasing. They help them to ”own” the decision themselves. As soon as we feel that someone is trying to sell us something, the alarm inside goes off, the gates are pulled down and we get that actively disinterested gaze. Feel familiar? However, if we are facing a person who helps and guides us to a smart decision, well - then the doors will open wide again.

Finally a little surprise:
There are many other areas of life where you can benefit from these points. Think of your work life, but also your role as a parent and maybe even as a partner in a marriage. Think about it, anyway.

The next time you meet with a client, a colleague or boss, first listen and then ask questions before you come present your solution. It does wonders.  

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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