Let’s say for now that trust is not an issue. You’ve established a pretty good foundation and rapport with your potential customer, and they seem more at ease with you. The next part of the process is assessing their needs. There are really two parts to this step. Understanding what they’re into in terms of your particular art, and also learning what their real motivations are. This stage of the process is the first place where a professional salesperson begins to separate from everyone else. The professionals use a secret tactic during this phase that gives them an advantage over most others. This is the true key to sales, so pay close attention. They listen.
My former manager, mentor, and friend Tim, the person who taught me most of what I know about sales, is fond of saying, “God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason.” I know he didn’t coin that phrase, but because of how much he taught me about this stage, I needed to give him some credit. If you want to become good at selling people your product, listen closely to what they tell you, and remember what they tell you. This is how you convince them that your art, your music, your book is going to be the right fit for them. Let me make an aside for just a moment. Your work ultimately may not be right for them. They may end up hating your book, but how will they ever know if they don’t read it to find out, and how will they ever read it if you don’t convince them to try it? When you are trying to sell a customer, your job is not to please them. That’s customer service. Your job in sales is to get them to try the product. Even if they hate your book personally, there’s a good chance that they’ll give it to a friend or family member who likes it, so in the long run, they haven’t wasted their money. As long as you are selling a legitimate product for a reasonable price and the customer buys it willingly, you shouldn’t feel guilty if they end up not liking it.
Now, back to need. The first question I ask people when they walk up to my table at a convention is, “Do you like good action-adventure?” If they say, “No” or “I don’t like to read” or anything other than yes, I wish them a good day and do not waste any more time on them. I’m rarely ever rude, but those people are not potential customers because they do not need my book. It’s simply not for them, and I’m not going to waste my time and energy chasing someone who isn’t a reader or doesn’t enjoy my genre. It goes back to square peg, round hole.
If they do say, “Yes, doesn’t everyone?” then I will proceed to assess their needs. I try to gauge their learning style next. If they are clearly a visual learner, I let them pick up the book and look at the cover, the back cover, the title page. These people will also often look at my table quite a bit, my signs, my electric candles, my swag. They are visually absorbing the stimuli and processing whether or not it’s for them. For these people, I usually keep my mouth shut and let them absorb first.
Then, there are the active learners, those who learn by doing. They usually pick up the book, flip it over and read the back. Some like to flip open the book and skim a few paragraphs. For these people, I like to hand them a copy of my reviews fairly quickly so that they can read them and add that information to their processing. At first, I don’t talk a lot with these folks either. Both visual and active learners wouldn’t really hear me anyway. That’s not how their brain processes up front.
The audial learners are the ones who will ask, “So what’s the book about?” They need to hear the explanation to process it. For them, I have about a thirty second synopsis of my first book memorized to give them an overview of the story. It’s short, to the point, and gives them just enough to make them want to know what’s next. If they don’t seem interested once I’m done, I thank them for their time and wait for the next person. Again, I’m rarely rude, but if the synopsis doesn’t grab them, they probably won’t like the book.
Notice something important here, regardless of which type of learner they are, I let each one show interest and move at their own pace. That’s a big key to assessing need. Rushing here comes across as desperate, and desperate people are the worst salespeople in the world. I always try to lean back away from the customer, let them show me what kind of learner they are, and let them make the first move before I begin selling.
I’ll continue with the first half of assessing need next entry, and later on, I’ll provide some keys to look for when analyzing learning styles.