Regardless of whether or not a person is visual, audial, or kinetic, after they’ve had a moment to absorb the initial introduction to the books, I then ask what kind of stuff they like to read. The answers are going to vary widely, depending on the person, the time of day, and the crowd. Some people will rattle off a list of names. Others will give an abstract overview of the style they like. A few will say anything in print. Still maintaining eye contact, I listen to the answers and try to pick up a few clues as to what kind of reading interests them. If I recognize some of the authors they mention or pick up on a theme they like that’s prominent in my books, I file that away and save it for a few moments.
At this stage, all I’m trying to achieve is a general understanding of what makes a book appeal to them. I let them do most of the talking. Most professional salespeople understand this basic tenet of human behavior, pioneered by Carl Rogers: people are more likely to be persuaded by you if they feel like you understand them. It’s why good cop/bad cop is such an effective interrogation tactic. The best way to understand someone is to let them talk about their likes and dislikes, and the real key here is to file away and remember what they tell you. These are your bullets, and you’re gonna fire them in a little bit.
When the customer is talking about the kinds of art they like, listen to the ways they describe it. If they talk about the memories it stirs, they really like things that remind them of the past. If they talk about how it makes them feel, they enjoy having an emotional connection to the piece. Your job as the salesperson is to figure out how to relate your product to their particular needs. We’ll talk a lot more about that when we get to Assistance, but the more you can get them to open up about what you like, the more bullets you’ll have to fire when you’re ready.
I want to make sure I make a couple of things clear; when I talk about getting people to tell me their likes and dislikes and then using this as a bullet later, I’m not talking about tricking them. That’s what bad salespeople do, and they ruin their own reputation and have to jump from job to job to job to stay ahead of their bad name. If at any point I realize that my book is not going to fit for that person because they like the polar opposite of what I write, I tell them. My goal is not to force people into making a purchase they’ll regret. My goal is to catch as many of my legitimate readers as I can, and that’s how I look at it. They are my readers if they like fantasy, strong character development, or well crafted narratives, and because they are my reader, it’s my responsibility to get my book in their hands.
That’s the first part of need, and for a small item like a book, which usually costs less than $30, that may be all you need, but if you are an artist trying to sell a higher dollar item that requires much more of a commitment and investment, you will need to learn more about this person. That’s the second half of need, and it’s a lot more detailed and difficult to master, but if you can get good at this, you can improve your total number of sales and become a much more effective salesperson for your own art.