The most effective salespeople are friendly, confident and knowledgeable.

One of my pet peeves is that we call our places of business "showrooms" - a term I really think is inappropriate. Aren't they really "selling rooms"? You don't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building displays and environments only to show your products. You invest your money so you can sell the products you display.

Once the big investment in your "selling room" is completed and people are hired to sell, shouldn't you spend a little more to teach your staff how to sell?

In my article in the March Supply House Times, I emphasized the importance of teaching professional selling skills to showroom salespeople. Many seminars, books, audio and videotapes are available on the subject. Regardless of the products and/or services offered, the basics of selling are the same. Some skills are specific to showroom selling, but the basic skills required to be successful are all the same.

Selling from the inside out

Selling is an "inner game." What's going on inside your mind makes all the difference in the world. Is your mind clear and fresh, or is it preoccupied and tired?

There's a direct relationship between a salesperson's self-concept and his sales performance and effectiveness. In other words, you will only close as many sales as you believe you can. You will only earn as much money as you believe you can. The core of self-concept is self-esteem.

The two major obstacles in selling are:

1. The customer's fear of making a mistake, and

2. The salesperson's fear of rejection.

Until salespeople develop self-confidence and the resilience to bounce back from inevitable rejection, they cannot sell successfully. The best salespeople have reached the point where they no longer fear rejection.

Studies show that people buy for two main reasons:

1. Facts: product knowledge, features and benefits, quality, delivery, price, etc., and

2. Emotions: fear, prestige, pride, security, self-image and the five senses (touch, taste, sight, sound and feel).

If you can overcome the fear, present the facts well and appeal to the customers' emotions, you likely will get the order.

The pros and cons of selling

Like other selling jobs, showroom selling has its pros and cons. The pros definitely outweigh the cons (see illustration).

Many sales are based on friendship. Clients want to be convinced you are their friend and are acting in their best interest. The most successful salespeople have the natural ability to make friends easily. If you're not comfortable meeting new people and developing friendly relationships, you might be in the wrong profession.

A key element in selling is enthusiasm. A sale is the transfer of your knowledge and enthusiasm about the product into the mind and heart of the other person. Honest, natural enthusiasm will rub off on clients, co-workers, vendors, friends and relatives.

Too many people fail in sales because they don't stay with it. Learning sales skills will lead to winning experiences and will raise self-confidence and self-esteem. So much in selling depends on your mental attitude.

Winning traits for salespeople

A powerful sales personality is more important than product knowledge, selling skills, and the products and services you're representing. Besides self-confidence and enthusiasm, several other characteristics are demonstrated by successful salespeople, including:

  • The ability to accept full responsibility for results;

  • Above-average ambition and desire to sell;

  • A high level of empathy and concern for customers;

  • An orientation toward setting and achieving goals;

  • Strong willpower;

  • Determination and willingness to work hard;

  • Belief in themselves, their product and their company;

  • Absolute honesty with themselves and other people; and

  • The ability to turn strangers into friends.

Other traits of a good salesperson include: sincerity, professionalism in dress and speech and follow-through. Salespeople should also be pro-active, focused, flexible, positive, well-organized, priority-based, open-minded, good listeners and team players.

As I said before, being intensely goal-oriented is essential for selling success. To achieve that mind frame, set challenging but realistic goals. Define them in terms of what you will have to do to achieve your desired income level. Make a list of the things you want to do that depend on your success.

People buy for their own reasons. Every buying decision is an attempt to be better off as a result of having made that decision. The buyer has three choices: to buy from you, to buy from someone else or not to buy at all. Keep in mind that people don't buy products - they buy benefits. Our job is to find out what benefits the client is willing to pay for. This is done through sales conversation - asking questions and skillfully listening.

Finally, never stop learning! Dedicate 30 minutes a day to improving your selling skills. Read books and articles, listen to audiocassettes, watch videos, attend seminars, and continually work on selling skills, motivation, inspiration, time management and personal development. Success comes only after you have paid the price.