What is Sales?
So, what exactly is sales? In short, sales is about convincing people to go along with your idea, plan, or product.
There are two types of sales. The first is the kind that comes from the sales industry, which involves persuading people to spend money on goods, products, or services.
The second type can be referred to “non-sales selling,” and can be done by anybody at anytime, anywhere. According to Daniel H. Pink’s book, “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,” 40% of the time that people spend at work is spent on “non-sales selling,” regardless of their profession. This time may be spent convincing their boss to let them tackle a new project, “selling” their team on a new vision for the company, or just informing a customer of the benefits of a product.
How to Make a Sale
Have you ever persuaded a group of friends to meet at a movie theater to see your film of choice? Or have you ever tried to get a family member to go along with your winning piece of life advice? If either of these (and an infinite amount of alternative scenarios) are true, then congratulations! You have made a sale.
Now that you know that you are capable of selling an idea to your friends and family, how do you go about selling a product to a stranger? “Non-sales selling” isn’t exactly comparable to selling for profit, is it?
Let’s go back to the “non-sales sale” that you may have made to your family and/or friends. In our example scenario, this “sale” might have started with you explaining the benefits of this family member listening to your advice, or your friends watching your movie of preference. You may have identified a need within the group–be it your friends or your family–that seeing the movie or listening to your advice might have filled. And you may have applied just the right amounts of charm, logic, and emotional-intelligence to seal the deal.
You may not think that you know how to make a sale, but these are all practices that will lead you to success in the sales industry.
Regardless of whether you have yet to make a sale or are already one hundred sales deep in the industry, our following selling techniques will give you some insight on how to awaken the salesperson within you and effectively sell to a customer.
1. See a Need, Fill the Need
When it comes to effective sales, it is extremely important that you are focused in on your customers’ needs. This means listening to what it is that they need, empathizing with their needs, and using your knowledge of your company’s products and services to fill those needs. Don’t try and sell your customers something irrelevant, or something that will not be useful to them. Customers are smart, and can pick up on and become irritated by suggestions for useless add-ons and products that do not fit what they are looking for.
Websites like Amazon are effective at recognizing a customer’s needs, and using that recognition to nudge the customer towards a follow-up purchase. On Amazon, once a customer adds an item to their cart, they are immediately shown related options that they might also be interested in buying, based on items that other customers have previously bought together.
Target has also been known for having the ability for foresee its customers’ needs so well, that it can figure out the probability that its customers are pregnant and even what trimester they are in based on their previous purchases. This mega corporation has used this information to send its customers timely coupons advertising baby products to secure their loyalty, and generate sales. The company has been so accurate with their predictions, that it even figured out a teenage girl was pregnant before her father did, something that some consumers found “creepy” and invasive.
The way that companies like Amazon and Target see and fulfill needs is based on algorithms, done via machine learning. As humans, we can’t exactly whip up suggestions with the same speed and ease as a computer, but with a little bit of practice, intuition, and sensitivity, we can do it better.
Every customer has wants—the things that they say that they are after. Then they have needs which underlie these wants. Two different customers might share the same wants, but that doesn’t mean that the exact same product can fulfill their needs. For example, two customers might both want tomatoes. However, if one customer is seeking extra-ripe tomatoes to mash up into a tomato sauce, then they actually need tomatoes that are totally different than someone who is seeking crisp young tomatoes to toss into a salad. Unlike wants, needs are rarely verbally stated, so you may need to use some effective questioning to help uncover them. By figuring out what our customers need, we can shed a lot of light on the specifics of their wants, and better serve them.
If your customer has a need that is going unmet, fill that need with a sale or upsell offer. If you can anticipate a future need, even better. More often than not, anticipating a customer’s needs is an excellent hack for exceeding customer expectations, while at the same time generating revenue. When you correctly anticipate and act on a customer’s needs, your sale will come across as a friendly, helpful suggestion, rather than a sale at all.