We’ve covered the first half of need, which is determining their personal tastes in your artistic medium, and for many of you, that will suffice. For some, however, you will be selling higher dollar items that require a greater financial commitment and, therefore, a greater psychological commitment. For you, the second part of need is imperative to learn. Everyone is motivated in life by certain factors. Some take pride in their social status. Some take pride in their parenthood. Everyone is different, but these motivators are really what make a person tick. If you want to really excel at selling your product, you need to learn how to discover these motivators and, when we get to Assistance, illustrate for your customer how your product will fulfill the motivations in their life.
Like before, the key is listening. Most people love to talk about themselves, whether they are aware of it or not. If you know how to ask the right questions, you can get people to tell you everything you need to know about how to sell them. Some sales training manuals refer to these questions as FORM: Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Motivation. In the sales process, this needs to come early, before you ever try to sell them anything. Like one of my mentors used to say, “Sequence is the key.”
Ask people questions about their family. Listen to their answers. If their eyes light up and they can’t stop talking, you’ve found a hot button. Ask about their job, if they groan and complain, stay away from that subject, other than to compliment them on their contribution. Find out what kinds of hobbies they pursue, and make mental notes to yourself about what makes them tick. When you are assessing their needs, remember this important fact: your tastes, your preferences, your styles do not matter. Remove yourself from the equation completely. Many salespeople lose good potential customers because they allow their personality to interfere with the process. Just because you personally may not like someone else’s taste or lifestyle doesn’t mean that person may not love your art.
Think back to the example of my grandfather during trust. On the surface, he had all the markings of an ignorant hick. He had been an avid NASCAR fan from the days when the Daytona race was still on the beach. He had very little knowledge of art and had virtually no “classical” education. But he was an avid reader. He read just about any book he could get his hands on, and he had a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity about the world that was a major influence on my life. If he had ever attended a book fair or convention, any decent salesperson could have sold him just about any book, if they took the time to listen and learn a little about him. But the people who turned their noses up to him and passed him off as someone not worth their time couldn’t have given him a book, for he was a proud Scotsman who took snubbing personally.
If you can get yourself out of the process and let someone open up about themselves, you will also strengthen trust. People will see you as someone who cares about them and is interested in their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In addition, you will learn how to sell them on your product. Listening is the key, but you have to know how to ask the right questions. In my experience, the biggest flaw salespeople have in this area is stopping at surface level questions. They’ll ask, “Do you have kids?” and stop there. The answer they’re going to get is yes or no, but that tells them virtually nothing about the individual. The next question should be something like, “Are they still in school?” followed by “What’s their favorite subject?” These questions get the person talking about the children, and you can learn a lot about a person by listening to what they say and how they say it.
For a person’s career, I like to start with, “What kind of work do you do?” and follow with, “How long have you been doing it?” I love to get people talking about their jobs. Most of us define ourselves in terms of what we do for a living, and you can learn a lot about a person by listening to how they talk about their profession. The things they say are rarely as important as how they say them. Body language is also important. If you’re not good at reading body language, I strongly encourage you to study up on that subject.
I wish I could go into great detail about what specific answers to listen for when people talk about themselves, but that’s such a complex and detailed list that it would take dozens of posts just to scratch the surface. I will, however, discuss more about assessing need because it really is one of the most important steps in the entire process.