Category Archives: Success in Sales for Creative People

This blog is intended to help other creative people learn the techniques to successful sales.

Need – Part Four

Let me try to give an example of how understanding need works.  When I worked in timeshare, one of my biggest sales was to a family who on the surface had absolutely no need for a week of ownership in the Smokey Mountains.  First, the family lived an hour up the road.  Second, they already owned one cabin and two condos in the area, and third, they owned a vacation home in Myrtle Beach.  They had more vacation space than they could ever possibly use.  The odds of me convincing them to buy more vacation space were zero to none.  But during my need phase of the process, I listened very closely to both of them.

The wife had made the husband take the afternoon away from his very successful, very busy business to come to the resort to see it.  She had already done her research and came in the door wanting it.  She told me several times how beautiful the resort was and how many times she had driven by and looked at it.  Those of you who have been taking notes will pick up on the fact that she was a visual person.  She needed to see the views from the top and the interior of the unit.  That’s all it took for her to seal it.

The husband, however, was a business person and very practical.  Owning one week at the resort, no matter how nice, made no practical sense to him.  He would never see a return on his investment if he thought about it in terms of staying on our property.  He was also a fourth kind of learner, the analytical, the kind I purposefully left out earlier because analyticals are the toughest sells.  I plan to devote at least one or two entire sections on just analyticals later.  For this particular person, I had to find out what he really needed.

While we talked, he mentioned to me a few times that he had reached a point in his life where he was ready to relax more.  He had worked hard building his business, and he had earned the right to relax more.  He owed it to his wife for the hard work she had done raising their children.  Her dream was to see Hawaii.  Now, he may have owned a cabin, two condos, and a vacation home, but none of them were on the islands, and none of them offered an exchange program that would allow him to travel to Hawaii for very little additional expense.  The resort where I worked just happened to have one of the strongest exchange values in the industry because of high demand and limited supply, and mathematically with just three trips to Hawaii, the unit would break even, and he would still own it.

To a practical business person, this made sense.  He needed the time with his wife.  She needed the trip to Hawaii.  There was a lot more to closing the deal than just that, but that was the basis I started with, and it worked.  I know for a fact that many of my colleagues at the resort wouldn’t have listened to them closely enough to figure out the end, and they would have “spun” the tour to try for a better shot.  But because Tim had taught me to use my ears more than my mouth, I paid attention to them, and when we were at the end, the gentleman pulled out his checkbook and stroked a check for $26,084 without blinking an eye.

That’s how need works.  You ask people the right questions to get them to tell you what they really need to satisfy a desire or fill an empty space, and then, you show them how your product works for them.  If you’re trying to sell a painting that costs more than $500, you should really use this step every single time you’re talking to a potential customer.

In the next post, we’ll start talking about Assistance.

Need – Part Three

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.

Need – Part Two

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.