Getting ready to head off to do my radio show, it was a typical Sunday afternoon as I ran to answer the incessant ringing doorbell.
Who could this be on such a beautiful day?I peeked out the small window at the top of the door and saw no one. Likely a neighbor’s visitor realized they were at the wrong house. Just about to trudge back upstairs, the doorbell rang again. Hmmm… funny business here. I opened the door and at first saw no one until I looked down and there was this miniature human of about eight years of age with a small box tucked under one arm. He looked up at me with the archetypical big eyes of an eight year-old that wants something. I brace myself for the inevitable cookie, candy or magazine pitch. You know the old, “Good afternoon sir. Would you help me to win a chance to summer camp this year,” and so on.This kid stares me straight in the eye and says: “This your place?” Stunned I blubber, “Yea.””You’ve got nice plants,” he says.”Yea they’re not bad,” I stammer feeling dumb.”They’re kind of like a forest. Did you grow them yourself?” my amateur Botanist asks.”Yes it’s taken several years but we pretty much planted all of them ourselves.””Who keeps them clean?” he inquires.”Well we have a gardener and we keep after it. Are you wanting to do yard work for people, or something?” Now I’m beginning to wonder what this is all about. Next this kid says something that completely blows me away.”Nah, I don’t do manual labor. But I bet you get pretty tired doing all that planting.”I laugh and figure OK, I’ll play along. “Yea, sometimes we do get tired.”Suddenly this kid beams with a huge smile. He thrusts the nearly forgotten box directly in my face. “You need energy then. You need to buy some cookies.”Now I’m rolling on the floor laughing. “OK, you’ve got me kid, give me a box.”I hand him the cash, he turns to go, then stops and turns back around to look at me. “Have you got any friends that need energy?”Naturally I relieve the kid of his entire remaining inventory of cookies and realize I probably just met the next Bill Gates.
After my interaction with the eight year-old genius, I was again reminded that sales is not about jamming your product down somebody’s throat, or laying on a pitch so thick it makes the prospect gag for fresh air. It’s about getting people interested in YOU by being interested in them. Smart entrepreneurs, professionals and technical experts know that the true secret of success lies not in how great your product or service is, but rather, in how skilled YOU are in building genuine relationships with others. Many people view great salesmanship as great showmanship. This is sometimes true. Showmanship is characterized by the development of sophisticated and polished presentation skills that almost unfailingly dazzle (but do not always win the business). Using enthusiasm and showmanship can help us to encourage more interest in our product or service and build greater conviction. But the art of salesmanship is often times the concealment of salesmanship. Some might even say the art of salesmanship is the absence of salesmanship.
The art of salesmanship is the concealment of salesmanship and is often characterized by well-prepared, interactive questions that elicit the “right responses” from the customer. This creates greater interaction with and feedback from the customer. Of course leading questions usually reveal what you think the issues and problems are, not what the customer knows they are.It often takes a lifetime in sales before one has the confidence to say almost nothing and communicate effectively. And that, as the wise old sage said is the “true art of salesmanship, and of life.” When you’re coming at things from their perspective or point of view, you’re selling from legitimacy. The switch is on, and you can solve or understand any problem. When you’re not, it’s off.Reflect on your own growth regarding the art of salesmanship. Pick out a single habit or practice that you know could be improved regarding legitimacy and customer communication. Work on it every day until it’s much better. Then move on to some new weakness.Stand aside from the situation and ask yourself, “If I were this customer, and knew everything that he knows about my competitors, my products and the application of my products in his situation, would I buy from me?”If the answer is yes, welcome to the world of legitimacy. All you need to do is get up to speed on the knowledge and communication skills needed to transfer your understanding and wisdom to the customer.If the answer is no, you’d better start adding value until you can say yes, because the only alternative to legitimacy is the old ‘razzle-dazzle.’