If You’re Trying to Sell, You’re Not Doing Your Job

The most effective way to get anything from anyone is to figure out what that person needs and how to be useful in helping them get it.

When I took the Dale Carnegie class many moons ago, I remember the instructor saying that the worst thing a door-to-door salesperson could do is show up at a prospect’s house and launch into a speech like this:

“I want to sell you a new vacuum cleaner. I saw this thing pick up dirt off my floor, and it had the best suction I’ve ever seen. I can give you a great deal on this baby.”

I, I, I. This salesperson would be lucky if she didn’t have the door slammed in her face.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again

Here’s a cardinal rule of human nature: people don’t care what you want, they want to know what’s in it for them. If the salesperson wanted to sell a vacuum cleaner, she had to first find out why the prospect desperately needed one (e.g. he was feeling frustrated and inferior because his home was unkempt, and it was unkempt because he could never get his carpets completely clean). She had to first help him identify a problem. Then and only then could she present a solution (e.g. a vacuum cleaner with more powerful suction).

Bestselling author John Jantsch has long been teaching how to be effective on a shoestring budget, reminding us of common sense that’s uncommonly used. In his new book, Duct Tape Selling, he agrees with one of my favorite mantras that we’re all salespeople. And John suggests that in trying to get people to do anything for you – whether it’s supporting a pet project or buying a vacuum cleaner – you have to be useful.

The pitch transformed

According to John, the traditional sales pitch is no more. Instead, listening carefully is the new prospecting. With so many online tools available, we have no excuse for approaching people with little or no knowledge about them. So if you want something from a colleague, manager, or client, find out where her head is at first. And think through a message that will directly align with that state of mind.

How can you educate others?

John’s second idea is the reason I have any clients at all. You see, I hate selling. I have never in my life given a successful “pitch” presentation. People engage with me because they’ve been reading my advice for years. It resonates with them and they want all of their constituents to hear it. Indeed, John says that teaching is the new pitching. When you seek to educate others instead of selling to them, you will come across as more authentic and much more essential.

Create impactful stories

John also says that now that prospects have access to so much data, information doesn’t carry the premium it used to. For this reason, a seller has to come up with ways to help the prospect make sense of that data, and identify problems arising from the data that the prospect may not have even thought of yet.

John cautions us not to forget about storytelling. In today’s world, people crave experiences. Instead of simply making a request, tap into your target’s passion and make her feel something. Entice her to go on a journey with you.

Finally, it’s not about the closing or getting what you want. If you follow John’s advice, you will connect meaningfully with other human beings on a daily basis. Each interaction in and of itself will be worthwhile to you – if not now, then later.













Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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